ONE of Australia’s best known priests has resigned after growing dissatisfaction with the direction of the Catholic Church.
High-profile commentator on Church affairs, Missionary of the Sacred Heart Father Paul Collins, has been the subject of an investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) since his controversial book, Papal Power, was published in 1997.
This book and his outspoken views about the state of the Church and its direction have embroiled him in controversy.
In a rare move, he released a four-page statement, explaining why he has decided to quit the priesthood.
Sixty year-old Fr Collins said his move was partly spurred by a desire to avoid his order being “caught in the crossfire” of the escalating dispute between himself and the CDF.
The CDF has alleged that Fr Collins’ book, Papal Power, contained a number of errors amounting to heresy, including a denial that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Jesus Christ and for incorrect views about papal infallibility.
The allegations have been denied by Fr Collins who has not formally responded to a CDF letter seeking an explanation of his views, as he is critical of the congregation’s procedures for investigating cases such as his.
In his statement explaining why he is leaving the priesthood, he said: “I can no longer conscientiously subscribe to the policies and theological emphases coming from the Vatican and other official Church sources.
“I increasingly feel that being a priest places me in the position of co-operating with structures that are destructive of that open vision of Catholicism and of the faith of the people who have embraced it.”
Fr Collins told The Catholic Leader that his decision to resign after 33 years as a priest did not mean he was withdrawing from the Church. “Catholicism is my home and I have no intention of leaving – come what may. I am just changing status in the family.”
Fr Collins has been a relief priest in Canberra and Goulburn archdiocese while writing and undertaking other work for the ABC. He plans to continue to write and provide media commentary on Church affairs.