Tony Flannery is not the problem!
A new Reader on Meister Eckhart (edited by Jeremiah Hackett) has been published recently. It stuck me that that all the characters of history (like Eckhart) who offered hope and intelligence in our Faith, were always feared. The ‘prophets’ who inspired Vatican II were Giants of Faith but had suffered because their ‘thinking’ was considered ‘dangerous.’ The named ‘prophets’ in Scriptures were consistently dismissed because of their awkwardness. Do we ever learn? All this nonsense of ‘Silencing someone’ is actually a Fear of Questions. It is a Protectionist Policy which satisfies an anxious or paranoid mind . Do we have to protect the ‘Church of Jesus Christ’ from questions? In our Philosophy of years ago, Socrates’- “The unexamined life is not worth living” was a challenge. That has to be the Way to a ‘Life of Faith’ And then we had Anselm: ‘Fides querens intellectum.’ This is now even more important in a very questioning society where Religious practice is collapsing (where ‘God is missing and not missed.’ )
I intended to write on Suicide; then the Abortion issue arose; then the possible recognition of Marriage for the homosexuals in UK and the Church reaction became newsworthy; then we had Algeria and now Tony Flannery’s story erupted. I somehow saw many of the issues stringing together in the phrase from JP2 : ‘The Culture of Death.’ But I would apply it differently. ‘A culture of death’ is seeping into the centre of our Church. Barriers are everywhere. A siege mentality is reappearing. The ‘life of the Spirit’ is being controlled. The siege mentality will accelerate that culture of death. The Body of the Church is dying or killing itself through fear of life. There is paralysis. Carlo Martini was so right in what he said. His voice was needed in the years before his last moments. He could have helped to halt the Official Church’s death wish, as it rapidly closes the doors and the windows of Vatican 2.
The issue of fundamentalism is the most serious one in the Church. It happens in the literalism (and absolutism) in interpreting Scripture. It happens in the ‘New’ emerging Liturgy. It is obvious in the dollops of Latin dumped on our Missal and in the crudity of Latinisms being imported into that Missal. This nonsense is the last refuge for those who cannot handle the ‘real world.’ Such rigidity is a psychosis rather than a life lived in the midst of the ‘ Word made Flesh. ‘
We recoil at the blowing up of the Twin Towers in New York and cannot understand the mentality behind Islamic fundamentalism. We are shocked at the bombing in London of the train and bus on 7th July. We cannot grasp Algeria or the shooting of Mulala in Pakistan by the Taliban. We are frightened at what is occurring in the Arab Spring which at one time, seemed so hopeful. But what is happening in our Church is of a similar ilk. The mindset of our own fundamentalists is also destructive. They know better than Christ what must be done. The Christ of the Gospel had very similar problems. Who did he reserve his strongest words for ?
John Paul II came out of Eastern Europe. He was limited by his experience. He had a big mind which got smaller as he aged. . We were then subjected to his restrictions. His regime then appointed most of our Bishops. That in turn leads to a very reduced ‘model’ (image) of the mission of the Church. If the minds of the Leaders are small; then the outcome for everyone will be curtailed and controlled.
I hoped for an explosion of reality at the Synod. It doesn’t seem to have happened. This was the opportunity for our experienced Leaders to be Prophetic or even to be Truthful and forceful – (like those who attended Vatican II). Evangelisation is about spreading the Gospel in today’s world; in today’s language. The Word has to become flesh. The Word has instead become sterilised rather than enfleshed.
I believe none of us are true to the Gospel if we aren’t struggling with the questions of today. Fear says more about us than it does about Jesus Christ. No question is too big for God. There is an absence of respect for reflection in our Church (and in life generally).
The Church has to be a place where ‘life in all its fullness’ is celebrated. Tony Flannery has done nothing wrong. In fact he has done every thing right. The ACP has done nothing wrong. In fact it does everything right. It deals with life as we who actually work on the ground, meet God daily. The ‘office workers’ in Rome need to do an apprenticeship on the ground or become better informed.
I repeat myself: Our Bishops and our Religious Leaders have to shout STOP. The Charles Browns of this world have to be told what life is about in our homes and in our parishes and in our country. They need to be properly educated. The Bishops of Ireland need to work with the ACP and discover together what matters now and say it. The age of Deference is gone. The stupidity of such a Monarchical (isolated) system is over. Feudalism has ended. We cannot allow the nonsense which is evidenced by this behaviour around the Tony Flannerys of this world to continue. If we remain silent; we are wrong. We let down the Church.
I began my Religious life in 1964. I am almost 40 years a priest. Tony Flannery is my vintage. I understand exactly what he says and know his questions and his search for honesty is right. We deserve to be respected and listened to rather than treated like delinquents! I do say that I have never been curtailed myself and am grateful. But the church I find where I am, is not the Church evidenced, in the Roman behaviour. I don’t recognise that God! There is a need for a thorough renewal in Rome and I know Tony Flannery is not the problem; It exists at the Centre.
I end by saying: I am not surprised by what has happened. I am embarrassed and ashamed that the wonderful Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ is let down by our Roman bureaucracy. I want to fight to redeem our Church. It still is Good News for me. The Word is made flesh daily and celebrated.
Seamus Ahearne osa Rivermount, Finglas South, Dublin 11.