Saturday, October 8, 2011

May our discipline be consistent

A letter in the Press this morning refers to the news item I commented on below and raises the prospect of the jailed priest being defrocked. That is a fair point to raise inasmuch as our church has disciplinary canons and these, following due and fair process, could lead to such an outcome for any of us who offends in such a serious manner. I hope our bishops (obviously, particularly the bishops of the diocese concerned) take up this possibility carefully and work through judiciously how they might or might not proceed.

My reason for expressing this hope is that if our church eventually finds itself in a situation akin to that unfolding in TEC and Canada (i.e. a situation in which priests, even bishops are feeling pressed into becoming dissidents in order to remain orthodox in faith and in practice) someone is sure to raise the matter of disciplining any dissident priests and bishops here in our lovely and peaceful islands.

At that point it would be very important that we were a church which was consistently rigorous in the application of its own rules and regulations.

For myself I lean towards mercy and hope that whether a priest is fraudulent or dissident our church can be merciful.

I will only publish comments on this matter which are general in the character of their discussion of the discipline canons of our church, or which particularly discuss the hypothetical situation of future dissidence in our church, or which refer to dissidence elsewhere in the Communion. I will not publish any comment which in part or in full discusses the particular case referred to below.


Janice said...

For myself I lean towards mercy and hope that whether a priest is fraudulent or dissident our church can be merciful.

Merciful to whom? And in what does mercy consist?

In the case of priests who sexually abused children it is notorious that many were treated with a "mercy" that offered no mercy to those abused.

May it not be the case that it can be more merciful to allow offenders to suffer the full consequences of their offence? Isn't it the failure of courts to appropriately punish wrongdoers that leads many to continue in wrongdoing since they have learned that the risk of punishment is slight?

Surely, those who have demonstrated that they lack the character attributes required of a priest are not shown mercy by being told that, nevertheless, they can remain one, and neither are the persons with whom such a priest may subsequently come into contact.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, there is a subtle difference between criminality on the part of a priest, and dissidence on his/her part.

Criminality is normally punishable by the State. Dissidence, though not criminal, is a threat to the Church - against which the priest is rebelling. This may, or may not require the discipline of the Church - dependent on the degree of loyalty expected of that Body.

Anonymous said...

Indeed Janice. Often in these cases it is claimed that there are no victims because the insurance company covered it -- but the rest of the population that now has to pay higher premiums are victims as much as if the money had been stolen from them.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
Please give a first name or no further comments will be published.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice
Good questions.
I guess I am thinking that if a dissident priest decided to leave an Anglican church it would be merciful not to deforck him; just as it would be merciful not to defrock a fraudulent priest who otherwise was punished by the state. Whether a fraudulent priest ought to be licensed again would depend on a whole lot of factors I won't attempt to discuss here.

An abusive priest, especially an abuser of children, raises questions about safety of children so that any mercy shown would not mean any kind of further risk re the priest being in contact with children. It would be most unlikely today that any convicted abuser of children who was a priest would practice again in our church, I presume not in yours either.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
A dissident priest may be the conscience of the church, not a rebel against it.

Father Ron Smith said...

As you rightly say, Peter. Also, he may be guided by his own conscience, only - in opposition to that if the leadership of his Church.