21Jan There’s far more at stake than the future of just one priest

“Truth can impose itself on the mind of man only in virtue of its own truth, which wins over the mind with both gentleness and power.” (Article 1, Declaration on Religious Liberty, Vatican II 1965)

Way back in 1965 this official statement reconciled me to the Catholic Church, after years of agonising as a student of history over its long record of religious persecution. That was all behind us now, I told myself. The church at its summit had at long last realised that truth cannot be conveyed or strengthened by coercion. The truth of the Creeds is centrally also love, so in future it would only be communicated lovingly, in freedom.

This conclusion was supported by the strong criticism directed by some eminent bishops during the council toward the formerly unjust practices of the church’s central theological monitor, the Holy Office (once the Roman Inquisition). This body became the ‘Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’ on the same day the Declaration on Religious Liberty was formally ratified. Most of us then expected that the CDF would now develop procedures and structures that would bear comparison with the highest principles of jurisprudence in the secular world.

The CDF has instead reverted to the intellectual brutalities of the Holy Office, reneged on this key Vatican II declaration on religious freedom, and very seriously weakened the authority of the church.

From 1965 until 2012 in Ireland we could all confidently believe that those Irish priests who strictly adhered to all the positions of the magisterium, even on controversial matters, were doing so freely in good conscience. We could do so because there was visible freedom in the church to express conscientious reservations about some non-essential aspects of those teachings. That freedom was visible only because people like Fr Tony Flannery had shown the courage to call for a rethink on a number of issues, some in the difficult area of sexuality. He did that not from the ambo in the chapel but as a media columnist – so every adult Catholic in Ireland knew that he was expressing a purely personal, and therefore fallible, opinion. Far from accepting everything he wrote as necessarily correct, we knew that he might well be in error – as did he. However, we knew the dignity attributed to private conscience by St Thomas Aquinas and Cardinal Newman. We knew also that key changes in church teaching – for example on slavery and monetary lending at interest – could not have occurred without conscientious disagreement among theologians, or without a magisterium courageous enough to tolerate opposing views.

So Fr Flannery’s open statement of his conscientious difficulties served to buttress also our confidence in the magisterium, because it too, by its restraint, was visibly witnessing to the dignity of private conscience, as well as to its confidence in its own positions. Tony’s witness, like that of other outspoken priests, told me that I was a member of a thinking and mature church, not a closed and fearful club that could never dare to reconsider anything.

The truth of those issues would in the end convey itself solely by virtue of its own truth, as Vatican II had confidently insisted.

Now, in a process that defies the promise of St John the Evangelist that perfect love will cast out fear, the CDF’s perfect fear has cast out love – as well as justice – from the central administration of the church. We are forced from now on to the conclusion that it may well be this same fear, rather than sincere faith, that rules the minds of those who do not differ from the central magisterium on any issue. This decision to excommunicate a priest for giving expression to private conscience on some non-creedal questions has delivered another deadly blow against the trust that needs to reign within the church if it is to fulfil its mission, and to educate. It has compromised every priest on the island who never questions anything. What answer can such a priest now give to the most tempting teenage gibe: “Aren’t you just saying that because you would lose your job if you didn’t?”

I too wait now to hear how Irish bishops will react to this CDF decision. Tony Flannery’s future is at stake, but so is something else. I can see no prospect of a successful ‘New Evangelisation’ in an Ireland dominated by the delusion that a seamless clerical unanimity, achieved only by threat of excommunication, will defend the truth. Instead that delusion can only strengthen a rampant secularist campaign to represent Catholic teaching as nothing more than repressive indoctrination. The Irish fans of Richard Dawkins can sit back at present, knowing they can trust the CDF to score their best goals for them.

Sean O’Conaill
Coleraine
N. Ireland

43 Responses

  1. Joe O'Leary

    “He who acts against his conscience loses his soul.” (Fourth Lateran council, 1215)

    “It is better to perish in excommunication than to violate one’s conscience.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)

    “I shall drink . . To Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards.” (Cardinal John Henry Newman) “If Newman places conscience above authority, he is not proclaiming anything new with respect to the constant teaching of the Church.” (Pope John Paul II)

    “In the final analysis, conscience is inviolable and no person is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his/her conscience, as the moral tradition of the Church attests.” (Human Life in Our Day, U.S. Bishops Pastoral)

    “A human being must always follow the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were to deliberately act against it he would condemn himself.” Catechism of the Catholic Church #1790)

    “We follow church leaders only to the extent that they themselves follow Christ. . . Some situations oblige one to obey God and one’s own conscience rather than the leaders of the church. Indeed, one may even be obliged to accept excommunication rather than act against one’s own conscience.” (Cardinal Walter Kasper, Head of Ecumenical Matters at the Vatican.)

  2. Rev. Fr. PP

    As a parish priest – not a Redemptorist- working in a rural parish in Ireland, I only pray for one of two things tonight:
    One, that I had the moral courage of Tony Flannery to speak the same truths that Tony has spoken and written about – as they reflect what I believe in good conscience to be the call of Jesus Christ. (And indeed what most priests would quietly acknowledge as true.)
    Failing that my next wish:
    that Tony could opt for the ‘quiet life’ as so many of us his brother priests have done and just bring Christ to the people at a local level and keep out of the line of fire of those in authority.
    It may not be brave but it’s about survival at this stage in a system that can be harsh and brutal on prophets.
    Not putting my name to this contribution reflects where I most comfortably sit.
    Well done Tony, you put the rest of us to shame.
    V. Rev Fr

  3. Darlene Starrs

    The CDF excercises Church authority in and through the delusion that they are protecting God and the Church!. I, as a woman called by Christ, have known no other form of Church leadership! I certainly do recognize the “sin” perpetrated against Father Flannery and others at many levels. I have to say, that it is somewhat “irritating” that the issue comes to the forefront with the silencing of the priests, but women like myself have been silenced by the Church leadership for most of my adult life and will probably continue to do so. No, the cup that we must drink, as carriers of the Vatican II vision, in our very souls, is a cup that smacks of calvary every day, but I know through my fidelity to Christ and the vocation He gave, not the Vatican, Christ is triumpant and so triumpant will be the Church that Christ wants, in His time. We must continue to be the voice of reform, irregardless, of what Rome says or does because we have a higher authority to do so. Let’s do what we need to do. The Lord says, “Be Not Afraid, I Go Before You”.

  4. Sue Brown

    Joe O’Leary’s reply is very thought-provoking…the Christian way can never mean you act against your own conscience, and sadly each of the figures he quotes felt he had to add ‘even if you are excommunicated for it’. In truth, no one can come between a soul and God’s love, however much they shout and punish.
    On a practical level, how will Tony Flannery support himself if he is forced out of the Redemptorists? Is there anywhere he can turn for help?

  5. Darlene Starrs

    Thank you ever so much to those contributors to this website that reminded us what the official church and other theologians have said about the primacy of conscience. Quite clearly, we see, another example of the sin of hypocrisy, the “sin” that Jesus himself ranks as number one, particularly, as it applies to the religious leadership of His day. History repeats itself! and the sin of hypocrisy is alive and well! Seriously, I wonder who is in fact in need of excommunication……anathema!

  6. Peter Short

    You are right. The time of seamless clerical unanimity is long gone, and any prospect of a New Evangelisation now depends on the minority who still believe in the teaching authority of the Church. They can no longer rely on their priests to be be faithful to their calling (although many still are). It is ironic that many of the flourishing organisations are lay ones in the proper sense intended by Vatican II, and commended by John Paul II, who have to work around priests who openly dissent from the teachings of the Church. These are the very lay people who most strongly recognise the importance of the priestly ministry, and don’t see priests as some sort of democratic conduit through which they get to tell the Vatican what to think.
    As a postscript, can I add that a teaching that the Pope himself has said is to be “definitively held by all the faithful” is not “a non-essential aspect” of Church teaching.

  7. Martin Tobin

    Thank you Joe O’Leary for those fine quotes you have given us. There is one I would like to add:

    “”Over the pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one’s own conscience which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even the official church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism”.

    (Joseph Ratzinger in: Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II ,Vol. V., pg. 134 (Ed) H. Vorgrimler, New York, Herder and Herder, 1967).

    Congrats Tony for your courage! We are all behind you.

  8. Mary O Vallely

    “Now, in a process that defies the promise of St John the Evangelist that perfect love will cast out fear, the CDF’s perfect fear has cast out love – as well as justice – from the central administration of the church.”
    Powerful, Sean O Conaill, just powerful! Fear has indeed replaced love and we must be careful NEVER to succumb to fear ourselves. Heartrending to read TF’s statement in the Irish Times yesterday. Whilst I applaud his courage I worry about the toll this is bound to have on his health. Let us keep him and all who suffer in our prayers and give serious thought to how we can show our support. Meanwhile, of course, the Holy See seeks to resume dialogue with the SSPX. I’ve given up weeping so praying as never before. God bless all. Courage, mes ami(e)s!
    (Hope to see you on Sunday on the Navan Road.) Mary V

  9. DR.HENRY

    Dear Brothers in Christ, the CDF has nothing to do with Christianity. Whatever it proclaims is pure nonsense, intended to intimidate. The spirit of tyranny, not the spirit of Christ, rules the CDF. Their members would burn you at the stake if they could. And you can be assured that the Holy Spirit has been thrown out of the dismal dungeon that is now the CDF. The best thing you can do is to ignore them, stay away from controversial issues, and carry on the necessary pastoral care of Ireland’s genuine Catholics.The CDF and the mind of Christ are polar opposites.Have lots of pancake suppers and other fun things that bring people together. Stay fully dedicated to Word and Sacrament, but at fun events put up a notice that says NO THEOLOGY SPOKEN HERE. Go for it guys and gals.

  10. John Hunwicke

    I’m a bit mystified by the suggestion that there is something “Vatican 2” about the published opinions of Fr Flannery which the CDF want him to renounce. His words about the origins of the Ministerial Priesthood run directly and totally contrary to the teaching of Presbyterorum Ordinis Paragraph 2. (It is interesting to read the reservations about this doctrine voiced by a presbyterian scholar in the Abbott edition of the Conciliar documents.)

    Or is this all this kerfuffle another example of “the Spirit [or “Vision”] of Vatican 2″ requiring us to rubbish what the Council actually said? If this is so, I think writers should be a bit more honest about what they really mean.

    The CDF has recently been requiring the SSPX to subscribe to the teachings of Vatican 2. It also requires Fr Flannery to do so. What’s so strange about that? What on earth do people think the functionaries of the CDF are paid to do?

  11. Kevin

    Fear casts out love. You said it, Sean.

    Thanks for those quotes Joe. Been wondering about conscience lately. I know a girl in a ‘second marriage’ – though her first. In tears one time cause she was told she could not take Communion. Told her Jesus is about welcoming and healing not threats and sending people away. It helps to know these things about conscience. Helped, helps me and helped, will help her too. Was told something about ‘internal forum’ yesterday by another friend here. It makes a great difference to hear, know these things – so we can go to Jesus truly believing He is about love, not fear – welcoming and healing, bringing life in abundance – not holier than thou threats and condemnations.

    I am sure no one here wants any of this. We all want peace.

    Christ’s peace, which seems to me to come too through love, not fear.

    And to Fr PP. It’s nice to see you support each other – even if you have to do it discreetly. :)

    God bless you all.

  12. Kevin

    “Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. Conscience confronts [the individual] with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official church” (Pope Benedict XVI [then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger], Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, ed. Vorgrimler, 1968, on Gaudium et spes, part 1,chapter 1.).

  13. mary

    I am an ordinary catholic and I am saddened by Fr Tony Flannerys stand. I have attended the Redemptorist retreat in Limerick for many years and have often been disturbed ‘in a bad way’ by the dissention preached by Fr Flannery. I guess we are looking at the church split becoming public. Its sad it has come to this. I believe Pope Benedict is a very holy pope and I will be sticking to the rock given us by Christ which is the papacy.

  14. Jim Sheil, Cleveland, OH USA

    This “thing” is all about power and is a real abuse of power. To Rev Fr PP @2, you are on target. Many priests feel contained to do as you say, and who can blame them. It is very difficult in these times to be a parish priest. Most focus on their parish and do their best to serve their folks. This is where Christ is doing what this coming Sunday’ Gospel speaks about. There seem to be two churches: the one with the fancy clothes and abuse, and the one where the folks are. The values I learned as a soldier are clearly operative in many local parishes. I am glad to be retired. I have neither the courage nor the energy of the parish priests that I am coming to know. I sense many of us will be needing Tony’s moral courage and dedication in the not too distant future.

  15. Dominic MacCarthy

    If a Conservative or Fianna Fail party agent became convinced that his party was wrong, and that Marxism was the best future for humanity, we would expect him to resign his post and join the Communist Party instead.

    If he continued to draw wages as a Conservative or Fianna Fail party agent, whilst advocating policies clean contrary to party policy, he would soon be told to toe the line or get out. If he refused to do so, but acted subversively, spreading Marxism whilst pretending to be a party agent, we would say he was either dishonest, or a hypocrite, or a fifth columnist.

    If a Catholic priest becomes convinced in conscience that the solemn, constant and defined teaching of the Church is wrong and unjust, conscience demands that he retract his allegiance to the Church and goes elsewhere, and joins a religion whose teaching better accords with his own opinions.

  16. Eileen

    But Dominic, (15, above), the Catholic Church is NOT the CDF or the Vatican. The Church is the people of God. Jesus established a community of believers. The Catholic Church, in its true sense, is about inclusiveness and love. In Christ’s time, the Church elders didn’t like what he was saying and doing, so they tried to shut him up. Like the CDF is doing to Tony Flannery. They are betraying the real values of the Catholic Church. Can we not learn from history? Or from the Word of God? Tony, you have my support. It might be many years from now when you will be seen as a prophet.

  17. Kevin

    If split comes, so beat it. I won’t be losing sleep over leaving. I am not telling anyone to get out. But if that is what you really want – OK I’ll go and you are welcome to your perfectly, obedient and pure little church. Truly, and may you be truly blessed in it. I am happy to see people truly honest enough to say, “Get out” and mean it cause they believe it and it’s what they want. People like us, trouble makers, dissenters, shameful ‘rabble rousers. I was flattered with that one. Thank you ‘out there’ :-)

    All I need to hear – to know – have clarity on at last, that this is what people want. I’ll get out. I will leave and not look back. I won’t fear hell for leaving either. And I will go elsewhere and will lose absolutely NOTHING in the leaving. Jesus does have other flocks say the Scriptures. Fr Flannery has not, is not doing this, some of you are. You want something that does not accommodate certain folk by your thinking and standards, and that’s OK. I won’t be a fly in the ointment, or is it the honey, of the Hive Mind.

    Thank for your clearing up your positions – and my own. I’ve been unsure about this for a while. What people really want. I am not staying where clearly not wanted. Jesus said if we found no peace where we offer it – to leave that place and wipe the dust from those same feet.

    Good luck to you good people and God bless you. And you are good people. We will all find our ways. I managed without ‘organised’ Church for many years. No power tips or nonsense. Just a simple belief in God that allowed me to relate to others – of all faiths/traditions and none. No power tripping by cleric or lay person. Peace. I can easily do so again. I am sure we’ll at least meet intermittently in our various mansions one day. :-)

    God bless you all and thanks for finally clearing this up. Your church is now smaller, purer and more obedient to Rome etc. Praise Jesus.

    God bless us all. :-)

  18. Kevin

    PS. Be assured on my heart felt prayer for you Tony and all of you in this. Every success. I’m done trying to meet the needs of others for justifying my existence, life – spiritual or otherwise. They want the small, pure, more perfect Church with its heart and root in Rome – fed a strict diet of unquestionable orthodoxy. I have no problems with that and if I am some kind of irritant or threat to that – then time to go. I’ve had as many deeply spiritual experiences in Mosques, Synagogues, the natural world and in many other places so I won’t be deprived spiritually in any way. And I have God’s Word to, read, contemplate and feed upon.

    I was reminded of a young woman yesterday who took her life in early fifties cause of some of the issues being discussed here. Forever judged, wounding – hurting that created an anger she could not cope with, such that in a moment of despair and self destruct – all that christian ‘loving’ shown her to took her own cross and she was slaughtered there too.

    It’s just not right. The Emperor is naked.

    But I’ve lived long enough to know we all have paths to walk. I came back to the RCC, on main reason, I missed community. Many beautiful, great and good people. But it seems that there is some core to this Church – something thing we must ‘serve’ which confuses me, cause I am not sure what that ‘thing’ truly is. People make no bones about telling us we are wrong and to leave ‘their’ church – and I respect that right for them to do that. The majority believe a certain way and want teachings on certain matters as they are etc. How they find, realise holiness for themselves. I find holiness through the commandment of Jesus to love the very self, made in the image of God, with its potential to reaslise God, the divine life – Love. I can find, do, be – live that anyway/where as our Lord God is not one kept in little boxes. Not denegrating Tabernacle here – no way. The RCC is a lovely place but I am not staying were not welcome.

    I’ve heard them ask we leave. Not you leave Tony. Those who cannot in good and true heart and consciences accept and live certain teachings – to leave. Consistently through here too by older and younger. That’s OK. I accept that. So it’s time to heed their warning/request – to just get out, leave.

    I have a Mosque I can attend and will go there for now.

    God bless you all truly and I pray, and it one thing I can do well, pray – that zillions come out for your meeting outside the Papal Nuncio’s Palace.

    :-)

  19. Association of Catholic Priests

    I am a priest, in my 78th year, asking Seán Ó Conaill to add my name to his statement: “Far more at stake…” And I would encourage those many priests—including bishops—who share these sentiments to lend a head (sic) by laying it on the threatened block beside Tony Flannery’s. I am quite confident there are more than enough to permanently blunt the guillotine. Pearse Timoney.

  20. Darlene Starrs

    Wow, Thank you Father!

  21. Winifred

    As an ordinary Catholic I cannot understand Fr Flannery’s viewpoint. He finds problems with the Church’s teaching on contraception. How can anyone who believes in God, and that He is the creater of life, believe that contraception is right? Can Fr Flannery not see the damage contraception has done to society? It has led to promiscuity and co-habitation, which is fornication. Jesus said fornicators would not get to heaven, unless they repent and sin no more. I have heard priests say that marriage is “the ideal” and they appear to accept co-habitation as not being sinful. Also Jesus spoke forcebly about adulterers, yet some priests bless second marriages. It makes life a lot easier for priests who follow the sheep rather than lead them. If John the Baptist had followed their line of thought he would not have lost his head. What we need in the Church are men of virtue, courage, and true followers of Christ, even if it means their head on a plate. Thank God we still have a few of such priests. It is no wonder we have fewer people going to Mass, they have been spiritually starved for the past 30 years because the Gospel has not been preached in many parishes and anything controversial that Jesus said is never spoken about.

  22. Peter Short

    @Kevin #17,18 — I truly appreciate the sentiments that you expressed there. But I think you are wrong on at least one count. Nobody wants a Church that excludes those who are not “perfectly obedient and pure”. If that were the case there would be nobody at all left, since “all have fallen short”. Such a Church could not be the Church that Christ established.

    On the other hand, a Church that was not obedient and pure and consistent in its teaching could not be Christ’s Church either. It would have lost the unity and holiness and catholicity that we profess in our creed to be essential marks of the true Church. If that were the case then I’d want you to hold the door for me, because I would be out before your good self.

    Herein is our conundrum. Fr. Flannery purports to hold, in good conscience, a view that dissents from the consistent, authentic teaching of the church. Nor are they minor matters, but there is at least one on which the Pope has spoken infallibly. Now, much is made of a quote from the current Pope, writing as a cardinal: “Over the pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one’s own conscience which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority”.

    Yet Ratzinger is here writing about paragraph 16 of Gaudium et Spes which says that conscience is fallible, and that “conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity”. Not only that, but Ratzinger is not writing in his own words but is instead paraphrasing Cardinal Newman’s words on conscience, summarised in his lengthy letter to the Duke of Norfolk. There, Newman — while allowing for the possibility of disagreement in conscience with Church teaching — maintains that it is impossible for a properly informed conscience to be in disagreement with *infallible* Church teaching. Conscience, says Newman, is not the subjective feeling of the individual Christian, but the voice of God convicting him or her. How could we accept a capricious god who spoke to the Church’s magisterium one way, and to her members another?

    So, while it is painful to have to disagree with the vociferous objections on this thread and elsewhere, it seems to me that the CDF is doing what it is absolutely duty bound in faithfulness to Christ to do — to remind all of us of the authentic teaching and tradition of His Church.

  23. Sean

    I wonder if you guys practise censorship yourselves, protecting and censoring what goes out under your own brand name? Also in a climate where tens of thousands of people are losing their jobs, being separated from work, work colleagues, income, have you the courage to go all the way and be prepared to be cut adrift from Rome for the sake of your convictions and declared solidarity with Fr Flannery?

  24. Noel Clarke

    Very Rev. Fr, PP (2)
    In the absence of moral courage what do priests of your ilk witness to in the parish?
    Ah, you already answered that question “SHAME”
    Why does a bird sing? ’cause it has a song to sing!
    The sham (shame) is we don’t know your name
    ( and we are called by name)
    and you don’t clothe your self with the garment of moral courage
    but
    you wear the church titles of authority very snugly!
    now that a shame!

  25. ger gleeson

    Kevin, you are a Catholic, no more, no less than the Pope is. You are staying with the ONE TRUE CATHOLIC CHURCH. You know that you are not on your own when despair strikes. If you need extra comfort read the post from Fr Pearse Timoney above @19. BE NOT AFRAID.

  26. Michael O'Connell

    Pearse ,
    God on yeh. You put a spring in my step today. The Spirit is truly alive.  You apparently haven’t learned to play the game, ‘tug the forelock’and opt for the  ‘easy’ compromise that deadens the spirit –  without us knowing. 
    For me you are a sign that truly : “And remember this ,I will be with you until the end of time”
    I think there great hope for a Church with you in it. 
    Michael O’Connell

  27. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    Kevin – this is not about “getting out” – you truly have an army within your organization and time and time again, this seems to either be completely misunderstood or underestimated. The contributors on this website who ask for any of you to get out, are not acting out of their conscience and if they were, should seriously question their Christian education. I was not raised to tell people with a varying opinion to simply get out. Also, I don’t believe any of your supporters here truly feel that an excommunication is necessary. You are weary with the burden that we, your parishioners, have placed on your shoulders – our collective conscience that also speaks to us about those items that you have brought forth. All must be done on our behalf and it is time for us to be more active and allow the Associations to simply become our delivery team. Fr. Tony can’t become a martyr through all this because this has and always will denote a certain “end” to something. You will be as equally effective as our messengers – not once having to pick sides – just paying the voices forward. This is probably the safest way to proceed. Any new association would fear impediments placed on them by Rome and this is Rome’s way of telling you that there is a better system to move forward. Fr. Tony should stick to his conscience and bring the battle to those who wish to persecute him, but the overall strategy of priests putting themselves in the front lines of battle should be rethought for the time being. Your roles should be relegated to messengers – I’ve tried to contact Fr. Tony/Hoban directly on these matters, but have been unsuccessful or haven’t received any response from them. Please tell Fr. Flannery to not worry about what he will do if he is excommunicated. There will certainly be a outcry of support if this were to happen.

  28. Richard Neumann

    Rather than trying to silence Tony, the Vatican is in his debt for his clear and honest writings; particularly “Fragments of Reality” which I am now reading. This book should be required reading for the those who would govern our church.

  29. Bro Jude

    Let us reflect on the issues surrounding the Irish Times article of Fr Tony Flannery, CSsR. Objectively, there is a thrust towards consent of the will and intellect to Magesterium teaching from some curial congregations. One’s orthodoxy is almost defined by the level of intellectual consent to the Church as an institution. Here discipleship of Christ can appear to some curial officals as akin to membership of an international company called Catholic Church Inc.. “Knowledge of Church teaching will save”, could be the mantra of such curial officials. However, knowledge has a deeper, more interior content. At this deeper level it is about union with Christ. In the interior life of union, one is in the area of conscience – of ‘heart speaking to heart’ (Newman). Knowledge of, and union with, the person of Christ. This, I understand, is the very inner life of the various quotes on conscience offered by Fr. Joseph O’Leary. Reference to knowledge as union with Christ, is not implying a ‘solo-run’, a ‘me and Jesus only’ kite. Rather, it is the ultimate standing before Christ in a place of silence, where one remains open to Christ in his Word and the community of faith (Church)…and then steps out in following one’s conscience in the knowledge born of that union. This is far more profound then just intellectual assent. Fr O’ Leary, rightly, offers us the voices of Benedict XV1, Blessed John Paul 11 and others, who encourage one to follow the ultimate arbitrator between God and the soul – one’s inviolable conscience. So, I pray for a clarification between ‘knowledge as union’ and ‘knowledge as consent to a teaching’. This is not an academic exercise, but, ultimately a life-changing decision born from the silence and humility which ‘costs not less then everything’. To the extent that this clarification seems not to have happened, our current debate will be no more than an exercise in polarisation within the Church, and, a source of scandal and amusement by those outside the Church. To end, I wish to add that my request for such clarification is not motivated solely by Fr. Flannery’s case. One is keenly aware of many other cases, which when taken collectively, reveals a malaise abroad in the Church.

  30. Mary Wood

    Weds evening.
    The Reds have sided with the CDF
    http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/world-news/detail/articolo/irlanda-ireland-irlanda-21603/
    I’d just say to any God-fearing Gospel-living orders or congregations,
    REMOVE YOUR GENERALATE FROM ROME NOW.
    Pull up the drawbridge and get on with God’s work.
    .
    Or you will go under.

  31. Bob Hayes

    On here we read plenty of ‘freedom of conscience’ arguments supporting Fr Tony Flannery. I wonder if people supporting Tony Flannery will engage the same arguments in support of Fr Tom Brodie who has been removed from office at the Dominican Biblical Office, Limerick following the publication of his book ‘Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus’. http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Irish-priest-disciplined-after-claims-Jesus-never-existed-in-controversial-book-187717531.html

  32. Brian McKee

    Do these “guardians of the faith” appreciate just how crazy their actions appear to people in the pews and on the streets? You dont have to agree with Tony Flannery’s views to stand in amazement as the strive for orthodoxy descends into narrow minded fascist-like censorship.
    I recall Fr Joe Dunne’s book “No Lions in the Hierarchy.” It is difficult to believe that members of the hierarchy do not share concern about the manner in which the CDF are undermining the moral of the Irish Church. Unfortunately none appear prepared to put their heads above the parapet. If they don’t speak in support of a priest’s right to follow his conscience, the danger is that we will become deaf to their voices on other matters. It might result in a call from the nuncio, but would certainly increase their credibility among their people.
    I hope Tony, his fellow religious and clergy under the gaze of the “thought police” are encouraged by the support of the people of God.

  33. Joe O'Leary

    Critics of Fr Tony find a knockdown argument in his statements on the origin of the priesthood. It is worth remembering that many saw Schillebeeckx’s work on Ministry as obviously heretical. But when summoned to Rome and given a chance to air his case, he was allowed to continue unimpeded. Back then we groaned about “a new inquisition” but at least there was an attempt at theological discussion. The origins of the priestly caste is a very obscure issue and the status of the monarchical episcopate and threefold ministry emerging in the second century and held by the church to be established by divine positive law is something theologians fret a lot about. Ministry is dynamic and relational in the NT (“feed my lambs”) but a sclerosis seems to set in in the early middle ages.

  34. Peter Short

    Bro Jude – if you have read Newman I cannot see how you say that conscience is the “ultimate arbitrator between God and the soul”. Neither Newman, nor Aquinas who he cites for reference, say that. Conscience *is* the voice of God. “The natural law is an impression of the Divine Light in us, a participation of the eternal law in the rational creature.” (Aquinas cited in Newman’s Letter to the Duke of Norfolk). Conscience, says Newman, is this same law, “as apprehended in the minds of individual men”. Newman propounds the “doctrine that conscience is the voice of God, whereas it is fashionable on all hands now to consider it in one way or another a creation of man.”

    It seems to me that to say that conscience is the arbiter between God and the soul is to make the very mistake that Newman warns against. In particular, it suggests that conscience might also be at odds with the Church when speaking infallibly (i.e. with the voice of God). How can there be two voices of God saying different things?

    It is for this reason that Aquinas, Newman, and Benedict XVI all agree that conscience is both above ecclesiatical authority, *and* that it cannot be opposed to the infallible teaching of the Church. If you take the view that you appear to have taken, then this is a total contradiction at the heart of the Church’s moral teaching.

    Mary Wood – you are explicitly advocating schism. I take it you also are of the view that it is perfectly alright for individual opinion to be placed ahead of the authentic teaching of the Church.

    None of this really comes as a surprise. We’ve had forty years of Catholics in the pews being led astray by dissident priests promoting their own dissident views. Now it finally comes down to whether there are any Catholics left who attach any importance at all to “thinking with the mind of the Church”. I suspect you will find that there are more than you think. Firstly, although Catholics have been served horribly in their education in the faith, they have unprecedented access via the internet to the actual teachings of the Church. They don’t have to take it from the platitudinous sermons of priests who have been trying to shape the Church in their own image for decades. And they certainly don’t have to take it lying down when so-called “liberals” attempt to paint them as cruel, uncompassionate, or “fascists”.

  35. Darlene Starrs

    I would tend to think, Father Joe, that “Abuse of Power” has always been an issue with any form of “institution” in the Church from its’ earliest formations until now. I remember a statement like “power hungry monks”. Does that enter the story at all, in terms of the creation of a “priestly caste” and then the ordinary folk? Oh, I should say that when I’m thinking of the “priesthood and eucharistic meals” having origin in the Jewish culture…..I am probably thinking of the “Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper”. I do know that St. Paul tells a community who meet for Eucharist and then have a meal……that they shouldn’t be getting drunk.! Maybe their religious services had no resemblance to any Jewish service. It has been no concern of mine, that is, the early priesthood, because it never occurred to me that there was serious abuse with it. Although, was celibacy and the priesthood combined in the 12th century? If it was, then, I could see a more priviledged priesthood forming then. My sense, from studying the history of the Church was that it was with Thomas Acquinas that the age of “priestly aristocracy” was solidified. Ah, now, no one
    is going to like me for that….but, well, here is where I do a risky theology. I had always thought that the sense of of “priviledge” with the priesthood and other elevated clergy came with Thomas Acquinas. Maya Coupa Maya Coupa….sorry for the spelling! I was born into the Latin, but, by the time, I started school,,,,,,,mass was in the vernacular!

  36. paul kenny

    Galileo said it all: Eppur si muove. Who was right in the end?

    Time they got real. Galileo got the apology…… 400 years too late.

    Will it take another 400 years before they realise that being dogmatic is not the same as being right?

  37. Darlene Starrs

    Oh, That’s a tough one Bob……apparently, Father Brodie says…Jesus was not an historical figure………Oh, that’s a tough one even for this extreme liberal! You know that’s not the first time such a claim has been made…..Not long ago was written, a book: “The Pagan Christ”, in which the author says that the Chrisian story: the life, death and resurrection of Christ was and is a myth. The author says that the story of the human experience, life, death, and resurrection, is a given for every person irregardless of Jesus actually living on earth………Having said, that……No, Father Brodie should not be treated in any kind of “power-tripping manner” even if he doesn’t find any takers of his theological position. I don’t know, what ought to be said and done in his case, because, like I say, even amongst us extreme liberals, to suggest Jesus was not an historical figure, probably just won’t fly. Like I said, it’s already been written about and talked about and gone. What does anyone else think?

  38. Martin Murray

    I agree that this issue is about more than just the integrity and future wellbeing of one priest, important as that is in itself. It also has to do with the integrity and future wellbeing of the church itself and the wonderful gospel message of hope it proclaims. If this is the CDFs contribution to the supposed new evangelisation, then they may as well put up a sign saying, ‘Go Elsewhere’. How they are being seen to treat good people like Fr Tony Flannery and others like him who have given a lifetime of service to God in the church, could have no less an effect. Just read all Kevin’s comments above for one heartfelt example.

  39. Denis Daly

    I make no comment on Fr. Flannery’s views as expressed BUT fully stand in support of his right to express those views without fear of coercion or (to use Trade Union language)employee suppression or victimisation.

  40. Eileen

    We are asked on this website to be respectful, not to personally attack anyone and to take on the idea, not the messenger. I am, therefore, disturbed and disappointed at Noel Clarke’s (24) sneering attitude to Rev. Fr. PP (2) who made a courageous and humble contribution above – his patriarchial title notwithstanding but it’s only a pseudonym! Like Rev. Fr. PP. I also reserve the right not to disclose my full name, simply because this is the internet and our contributions have the potential to end up anywhere and be subject to mockery and derision. (I have the experience of being terrorised by unknown sources on the internet so my stance arises from that). I had looked on this blog as a safe place for discussion where diverse opinions are respected – an assumption presumably made by those who submit their full names. It seems my stance has been vindicated.

  41. Joe O'Leary

    Peter Short wrote: “Mary Wood – you are explicitly advocating schism. I take it you also are of the view that it is perfectly alright for individual opinion to be placed ahead of the authentic teaching of the Church.”

    Peter, I looked at Mary’s letter and found no advocacy of schism and no evidence of the view you further extrapolate.

  42. Soline Humbert

    @8
    Mary O Vallely
    I echo your appeal “courage mes ami(e)s!
    ” In the world you will have trouble. But courage! I have overcome the world.” (john 16:33)
    The present crisis brings to my mind the recent prophetic words of the abbot of Glenstal abbey, Mark Patrick Hederman.In a piece on St Nicholas,whose remains have been discovered in co.Kilkenny, he writes about the laity reclaiming the church:….St Nicholas represents a return to a more original Christianity which was present on this island and is inserted into the geography and the ancient monuments scattered throughout our land. It is a unifying ecumenical spirit which precededed all the rifts which occurred and which separated us from the Orthodox in the eleventh century and later with the Reformation which tore this country apart. And finally,the name of this great saint means “Nico” which is “Triumph” and “Laos” which is the same word we use for the people of God,the laity;so he represents “TRIUMPH OF THE LAITY”…. Nicholas,the wonderworker and patron saint of the laity has to help us TO TAKE BACK THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST TO AND FOR OURSELVES,so that the spirit of his humanity can inspire us with new hope. this is meant to happen here as of now (Kilkenny People 30/11/12)
    So see you Mary (and others!)outside the nunciature on Sunday. Our liberation is at hand! Courage!

  43. Kevin Conroy

    Some years ago I was involved in a parish council when an issue arose which became a little contentious. There was a meeting of the council at which the parish priest, his curates and lay representatives of the parish attended. I disagreed with the parish priest and referred to Canon Law which seemed to me to be clear on the matter. No one else spoke in deference to the parish priest. There was no open discussion. Everyone stayed quiet. At that point I realised I could not remain in that Tradition. I now pray and participate in the Church of Ireland which I know is far from perfect but where active discussion is encouraged.