09Apr Tony Butler laments the “silencing” of Tony Flannery

Years ago Nikita Khruschev was lamenting the past errors and the decisions made by his predecessors. “You were part of the regime, why did not not speak then?” a voice called out from the crowded Douma. “Who said that?” shouted Khruschev…….. silence…. a long silence followed. “And thats exactly why i didn’t speak out” said Khruschev.

The word “scary” has been mentioned as a reaction to the “silencing ” of Tony. That’s exactly my reaction. I have lived with fears daily for years. Suffering an illness that brings fear and anxiety every day on awakening, every day – for hours, I am not not a brave person, I know fear in my daily life, daily for over 40 years. Call it ” free floating anxiety” or whatever, it is my unwanted companion, an interrupted message system from one messenger to another in my brain. I live with that but little did I think that the greatest real fear would come from The Church.

The message that has been sent by authorities in the Church into which both Tony and myself are baptised members is frightening, alarming and unnerving. I stand by Tony as my brother in baptism, I stand by him in our sharing in ordination. I stand by the courageous stance that “Reality” has over the years in asking questions, seeking truth and Gospel values with the charism of Ligouri reaching out to the world with the message of Jesus. I also respect those here who have written replies that do not agree with Tony. We can dialogue on these things.

But what frightens me so much is where dialogue is closed. Where silence and secrecy is a punishment my Church continues to use. Lessons will never be learned by those whose defence mechanisms are so well oiled. I affirm my faith in the Roman Catholic Church – not the Vatican catholic church – and publicy I stand by my brother Tony. I stand with my brother-priests in our present situation where there is a crisis in health, morale and collegiality.

We must return to our old Jersualems, to reconnect with the tender humanity of Jesus, where we meet with our brothers and sisters who are waiting for their stories to be heard, waiting to be shown the new vision that is possible, and yes even to quote Cardinal Martini ” to quarrel peacefully “. In this quest I am not afraid. I fear the Church that imposes silence, and I fear for that Church.

17 Responses

  1. Val

    I feel a lot of sympathy for Priests today, you have a real tough job, where the proverbial tyres meets the road. As a person you are entitled to your opinion and the church should have an environment where Priests views and feeling can be discussed in a non judgemental atmosphere, a place where you can vent your frustrations and concerns. On the other hand publicly challenging the teachings of the church is not the way to do things and giving Enda Kenny’s flawed speech the thumbs up is wrong. Enda Kenny represents a State that was and is every bit as responsible for the lack of protection of our children. I wish you well for the future and hope a resolution can be found.

  2. JeannieGuzman

    Val: Living in Ireland for about 200 years was the closest thing to living in a theocracy that one could imagine. Just look at the horrors that have arisen out of that collective experience for the Irish, both in Ireland and in the States…… well, I might as well include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc….. Whether one likes it or not the Irish and Irish priests have left there mark on most of the English speaking world, when it comes to paying deference to Catholicism, sometimes over rationality! Now, we can compare Ireland, under a theocracy and the USA under a democracy! Now we can see how the American Forefathers, good Masons I might add, saw the dangers of NOT separating Church and State. Today, people in the States enjoy a higher standard of living and more freedoms, because we didn’t allow the Roman Catholic Church or any other denomination to take over our schools, hospitals and governments. I doubt if many of the Irish want to go back to the old way, where the Church has her fingers in every facet of normal, everyday life. Now it’s time to get the Church out of the Educational System in Ireland, so that children will be able to grow up with the morals and values that secular societies share and that their parents want to see them have, rather than all the guilt and inadequacies that we picked up in our parochial school experience. Unfortunately, priests will be the last to profit from taking the Church out of most facets of society. They are wed to her for life, or at least until they get thrown out of the priesthood for expressing an idea contrary to the current Church blather!

  3. Pól

    I don’t think Tony Flannery gave Enda an unqualified endorsement.
    .
    Everyone knows that the speech was not subject to the usual quality control, as it should have been, and that the Pope was badly misquoted in it.
    .
    And that the spurious closing of the Vatican embassy did nothing to reassure anyone that the Government knew what it was doing.
    .
    And it is also true that the State is co-responsible for child sexual and vionence abuse.
    .
    It might have been better if Fr. Flannery had been a little more specific and limited in which parts of the speech he supported.
    .
    Nevertheless, the general gist of the speech was true and a snotty and legalistic response from the Vatican has done nothing to enhance its reputation either.

  4. Máire

    I find Val’s comment insulting to the people of God. Those in the pews are not unthinking serfs who simple-mindedly follow wherever a priest or bishop leads them. They are bound by natural law, the law of God, reiterated in Vatican II documents, to exercise their judgment about matters that any human being teaches. Human dignity itself resides in our willingness to test and to judge before accepting a teaching as truth– and that moral duty includes Church teachings. We are sanctified, as Jesus said, by the truth, not by unquestioning obedience, and we have a duty to disobey whenever teachers guide falsely on an important matters of morality. Unless we exercise free will to accept or reject, we are refusing to develop in ourselves God’s greatest gift to humanity. And since any religion or church is a community, it is right, and one may well argue that it is the moral duty of members, to engage in “publicly challenging the teachings of the church.”
    .

    As Pope John XXIII wrote, “each individual … is truly a person…. a nature, that is, endowed with intelligence and free will. As such he has rights and duties, which together flow as a direct consequence from his nature. These rights and duties are universal and inviolable, and therefore altogether inalienable” (Pacem in Terris, 11 April 1963). What is “inalienable” belongs to priests and laity alike. And truth compels our consciences, as Pope Paul VI reminded us, only by its own power as truth, not by the command of a pope to obey or–which means the same–to be silent.

  5. Chris (England)

    I feel deeply saddened by the action of Rome in respect of Tony Flannery. Once again, their harsh and rash actions says much more about our out of touch Hieracrchy than about down to earth ministers of the Gospel. The Hierachy appears not to have heard of dialogue or listening, and is intent only on imposing its own views on the rest of us. I think this is going to backfire on them, if it has not already done so. The laity of 2012 is not made up of the ignorant fearful women and men that were cowed into submission in earlier centuries. Benedict is an intelligent man, a learned theologian: yet he he appears only to want to control, or let those around him, control the Church in the style of his predecessors of Mediaeval times – a distant monarch issuing decrees. How very far removed this is from the gentle man of Galilee who walked the dusty roads and sat and chatted with anyone intereted in dialogue! The Tony Flannerys of today give their lives to explaining and interpreting the core message of Christ for people. It is not easy; it involves compromise and acceptance of weakness and imperfections, but they give their lives to the task and what do they get for it – a kick in the teeth. Priests are more vulnerable to Hierarchichal threats and puunishments that lay persons – as a people we should be doing more to support the prophets of out times.

  6. Brendan Mackle

    ON THE DANGERS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

    People who live in stone houses
    Shouldn’t throw glass.
    The cut crystal of dogmatism
    May shatter on the granite of certainty
    May splinter on the limestone of rectitude
    Showering shards of transparent lances, beautiful and deadly
    About all their ways,
    Preventing them from setting out on any journey
    From where they are to another place, another way of being.
    Denying with razor edged absolutism
    Any possibility of pathways to otherness,
    Turning them to the icy self-perfection of cut glass,
    Only safe when left untouched, mausoleumed in stone houses.

  7. Fiona Caulfield

    There is no such thing as the “Vatican Catholic” church or even the “Roman Catholic” church for that matter. The church is the “Catholic Church” plain and simple. The one true Church founded by Christ on the apostles.

  8. iggy o donovan

    Sorry Fiona Caulfield but there is a Roman Church. The official title is SRE sancta Romana Ecclesia

  9. Mary Burke

    Val, you are confusing the church with a political party. In the case of the latter, it’s political death or departure to hold and express views different from the official line. In the church, the opposite is the case. It’s performing a service to evaluate constantly the official position on every conceivable issue to ensure that their current articulation accords with divine revelation and contemporary human experience.
    Our faith is 2000 years old. Our thinking isn’t.

  10. john hassett

    It seems that the Vatican has its own version of the trinity: contraception, married priests and women priests. The sending forth of Fr. Tony Flannery to “pray and reflect” is an affront to the integrity and dignity of the man. The treatment of Fr. Tony is just one more example of the Vatican thinking that it is the Church. My opinion on the matter is that the Vatican is beyond redemption. How does one go about dismantling a City State?
    It is ironic that at a time when the People of God are being lead from death to life in celebrating Easter one of the most authentic ministers of the Gospel in experiencing the withdrawal of life and an apparent desire for his demise.
    Obviously, another sacrificial lamb. Obviously, another true disciple. Obviously, another icon of Christ.
    No place for such a person the the Vatican mind set!

  11. Elizabeth Byrnes

    I would like to express my support for Fr. Tony Flannery and the Association of Catholic Priests. I am appalled and saddened that, in this day and age, the Church Authorities in Rome are still employing the secret investigation of people like Father Flannery who is a loyal member of the Church and who has simply had the corage to speak about the issues that need to be aired in our Church. Nothing he, or any member of teh ACP, have said reflects on the core fundamentals of our faith but on issues that need to be aired and discussed if the Church is to be relevant and meaningful to people today and if it is to recover its authority and integrity.
    I thought that Vatican II had, at long last – thanks to Pope John XIII that inspired man of vision – rid our Church of medieval secrecy and silencing of people in this manner without due cause or process. I am truly saddened by the action of Rome in relation to Frs. Flannery and Moloney, two people I very much admire.

  12. Martin

    After Vatican Council I, the Old Catholics abandoned communion with Rome and are no longer Catholic. There is a real danger that after Vatican Council II, the Liberal Catholics risk their communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Rome won’t budge on any of these issues: women priests, acceptance of homosexuality, contraception, or sex before marriage. She simply can’t change Her teaching and continue to be the Catholic Church. The Church simply proclaims the truth and the truth doesn’t change, although our understanding may deepen and clarify, but it never changes 360 degrees. There’s also a credibility issue: who on earth could take a Church seriously Who one day says, for example, homosexuality is wrong, and the next, it is right. Such a church could not be taken seriously.

  13. Artemisia

    JeannieGuzman:

    I’m sorry, but I find your comments absurd and offensive. The US is no model of democracy – its evangelical fundamentalism is well recorded and the hatred and vitriol spouted by your State(s) against other peoples is noteworthy. Laughable you should speak of separation of Church and State – are you aware of the speeches your politicians make in the name of “God”? Ireland may have many faults, but it certainly does not need to emulate the USA, least of all in its contorted version of “democracy”. Since you focus some of your argument on your great education system – as one who has much experience of your students at university level, may I state that I find them more hung-up and bigoted than any European student I have ever taught. It is clear they are given fundamentalist-type evangelical tuition concerning homosexuality and sexuality, in general, from an early age. Witness the statements from US contenders for the presidential election – embarrassing, to say the least ! You speak of your health system – do pray tell us how it caters to the poor of your society – I’m all ears! Your country’s issues with racism are as pronounced as they ever were. Your suggestion that the problems of child sexual abuse in America are caused solely by Irish priests is very telling – your bias is, frankly, appalling. It is precisely for this reason that we have priests like Fr Flannery, who will not be silenced by a US cardinal trying to stir things up, as only Americans know how.

  14. Fergal

    “Quarrel peacefully” is a rational and reasonable dictate. But how problematical and painful this must be for one who is silenced. Fr. Robert Nugent SDS in his book “Silence Speaks” (NY:Paulist Press, 2011) conveys some idea of the frustration and not a little personal pain experienced by those thus castigated. One such theologian was the eminent Yves Congar OP. Observations by the latter and quoted by Nugent, give us a glimpse of a rock-solid and seemingly inflexible establishment that Congar encountered in his day and that appears to have prevailed to present times. Congar’s comments are unambiguous: “It is clear to me that Rome has never looked for and even now does not look for anything but the affirmation of its own authority……the whole history of Rome is about insisting on its own authority and the destruction of everything that cannot be reduced to submission” (p47).

    On the other hand Fr. Tony Flannery must take comfort from the gifted words of another theologian who, like Congar, was also a peritus at Vatican II. Nugent correctly focuses on pertinent theological thinking in quoting this distinguished individual: “Not everything that exists in the Church must……be also a legitimate tradition; in other words, not every tradition that arises in the Church is a true celebration of the mystery of Christ. There is a distorting, as well as a legitimate tradition…[and]…consequently tradition must not be considered only affirmatively but also critically” (p69).
    How consoling it should be for Fr. Tony to reflect on these words of Joseph Ratzinger.

  15. Martin

    it is with saddness that I write these few words, while the Catholic church in Ireland is tearing itself apart in the row over Fr.Flannery’s ‘silencing’. I recall, as if it were yesterday, the words spoken by the Provincial of one of the German Pallottine provinces. The occasion was the last retreat I attended as a serving member of that Society. To quote his words: ” Many a priest is driven into the arms of a woman by the conduct of his fellow priests.” I was stunned, because just then I was totally demoralized by the jealousy of my Provincial and some of my fellow priests. Nine months later, I bade a tearful farewll to the olny life I had known for sixteen years. If the church is not careful, pehaps, Fr.Flannery may follow my example.

  16. Val

    JeannieGuzman, isn’t it strange that Catholic and other religious denominations have had to fill the void catering for the “poor sick” in your secular utopia. As for The Irish Labour party saving our education system by taking it out of the hands of the church, well I suppose they may as well wreck it since it’s one of the very few things that actually still work in our broken country.

    Pol, I agree that the Vatican’s response was terrible and I know a lot could be done better.

    Mary Burke, maybe I didn’t but it well, when I said “the church should have an environment where Priests views and feeling can be discussed in a non judgemental atmosphere, a place where you can vent your frustrations and concerns” I didn’t mean a councilling service, I mean an actual arena were change could be a possibility, if appropriate, all this public confrontation is damaging to the faithful.

  17. Joe O'Leary

    “It is clear to me that Rome has never looked for and even now does not look for anything but the affirmation of its own authority……the whole history of Rome is about insisting on its own authority and the destruction of everything that cannot be reduced to submission” (p47).

    I heard the very same observation a few months ago, from a Catholic Archbishop!