Robert Nugent, a Catholic blogger who has accumulated almost 19,000 subscribers on YouTube under the alias Decrevi Determined to be Catholic, has been one of the most vocal critics of the synodal process. With titles such as “Irish Synodal Process. Roadmap to Where?”, “Only One Irish Bishop Sticks His Head Above the Synodal Swamp”, and “God Have Mercy on Us – Synthesis of the Irish Diocesan Stage of the Universal Synod”, Mr Nugent has established himself as a contrarian commentator on matters relating to the Church – in particular the Synod and this is something that appears to have resonated with a growing contingent of people.
Aware of Mr Nugent’s dissatisfaction at the alleged treatment of traditional Catholics in certain dioceses, The Synodal Times invited Mr Nugent to speak about his own experiences of the Synod in his parish and beyond in the hope of providing greater clarity on the subject.
Speaking to The Synodal Times, Mr Nugent began by saying that his own Diocese of Killala had already completed its listening process almost three years before Pope Francis announced the commencement of the Church’s Universal Synod: “In the Diocese that I’m in Killala, they kicked off their process in 2018 before the abortion referendum. When they kicked off the synodal process, they didn’t really restart it again, they had already done that work”, he said. “During the listening process, they dragged out that initial consultation from 2018 and said that they had already done this and this is what it is – even though we weren’t re-consulted. The Legion of Mary weren’t involved or any other traditional groups in the Diocese.”
Although the meetings were advertised as discussions where all were welcome to express their views indiscriminately, Mr Nugent recalled that certain opinions were not desirous at these gatherings. “We met the Diocese in 2018 and we brought up the abortion question at that meeting. We were immediately shut down and told to leave – that there was no place for that. This was from the bishop himself. He said ‘we’re not going to talk about that here; that’s not what this process is about.”
Disillusioned and with nowhere to go, the exclusion caused a mass exodus of parishioners according to Mr Nugent. “About 160 of us left the Diocese and went to other places for Mass after that meeting because it wasn’t an open meeting – it was controlled by the Association of Catholic Priests and they had picked people who they wanted on those committees. So, I mean, what’s the point in engaging with a group that doesn’t want you? That’s simply it. There’s little else to say – they didn’t want us in that process and we just left the Diocese with our families and went go to traditional communities that do want to listen to us because our own local church has disowned us. They have told us to leave. How are you going to get people back that have been alienated?” he said.
“There’s nowhere for us to go. We’re not invited to talk and not allowed to give an opinion. Abortion wasn’t even in the synthesis document, we were told not to discuss it at the meetings. What can we do?”
Forlorn and stranded from the Church that brought so much fulfilment, crisis quickly turned to opportunity as he created his YouTube channel -something that he has been immensely buoyed by. “I’m the largest independent Catholic blogger for marginalised groups in Ireland and I’ve been thrust into that from being told that I have no voice – well, actually I do have a voice. Priests and bishops will reach out to me, laity will reach out to me. The bishops have spent millions on communications and yet people will come up to me all over Ireland and congratulate and thank me. This shouldn’t be the case because I’m a layman. Why isn’t my voice being heard?”
Reflecting on the events of the last number of years, Mr Nugent said that he encountered a marked contradictory approach from the Church when it’s been tasked with listening to one spectrum of opinions. “We’re in the middle of the synodal process and for traditional Catholics, the greatest mystery, the greatest treasure we have is our Mass – our traditional Latin Mass,” he said.
“It would’ve been a good time instead of restricting our Mass to have that part of this process, but we were told to leave parishes. We were told after Traditionis Custodes, you cannot advertise your groups, your Mass, you can’t use parish churches and then Pope Francis kicks off with the synodal process asking for opinions from Catholics – so there’s this schizophrenic relationship with listening,” he noted.
When asked what it would take for traditional Catholics to engage with the synodal process and be better represented, Mr Nugent asserted that many simply won’t turn up because they’ve never felt like their presence was welcomed. “There’s no way you will get traditional Catholics involved in this process because the bishops don’t want us involved and have never asked for us to be involved. There’s no outreach to us. We may be only 5,000 Catholics in Ireland but we’re not insignificant.
“There’s only been one bishop that has reached out to traditional Catholics in Ireland and that is the Bishop of Galway. You have the bishop in Cork who has restricted traditional Latin Mass which includes the Dominican Rite. The Bishop of Killala steadfastly refuses to even acknowledge that we exist – he won’t even implement Traditionis Custodes. There are two priests that want to say the traditional Latin Mass and he won’t allow them. Where are we to go? They don’t want people like me and they’ve said that. It’s the reality of what we’re facing.
“Rome tells us one thing and then we have certain priests come to us here in Ballina and tell us that everything is up for grabs. We are going to change the dogmas of the Faith. This is what we’re being told behind closed doors and I have the recordings. So they’re not being honest with us. They’re telling us one thing and doing another,” he complained.
Commenting on the current state of inclusivity within the Church, Mr Nugent believes that inadequate catechesis is causing a lot of Catholics to believe that certain demographics are not wanted in the Church. “I do resent this saying that people on the margins are excluded,” he said. “This is a perception that Catholics who don’t know the Faith think, but there is no exclusion in the Church. We keep repeating that mantra that people were excluded, when instead we haven’t taught the Faith so that’s the impression that we’ve given.”
Concluding, Mr Nugent acknowledged that some mistake his passion for antipathy, but that his intentions and ideals derive from his formal grounding in the Faith. “I’m not here to divide the Church or cause hurt or pain, but I was taught that we had a deposit of the Faith and I was brought up to say that this is a deposit of the Faith and this is what it means to be Catholic and all of a sudden I’m told no: That’s actually not what Catholicism is anymore,” he remarked. “Now you can bless anything, you do anything you like, you can have an abortion and be pro-choice and I refuse to give into that confusion. I refuse to apostatise my Faith after I’ve been formed one way. I want to stand up to the destruction of the Faith.”