25Jun International Network of Reform Movements

For the past nine months or so I have been part of an international network of reform movements, lay and clerical. We had a gathering last October in Bregenz, Austria, and since then a group of seven of us take part in regular skype conferences. In April of next year the next gathering will take place here in Ireland. Currently we have members from the United States, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Australia and Ireland. We hope to expand the group further.

One of the issues we are focusing on now is the question of what are the fundamental rights of catholic people in the Church, how these rights are being violated, and how people can be made more aware of their rights. This discussion is focusing in particular on five issues:

1. The appointment of bishops.  How does the process work; who is being consulted; who makes the decisions; what criteria are used in making these decisions. Is there a better way of doing this.

2. The problem of ‘authority vetos’ within the Church.  This works at all levels. The pope can veto the opinions of bishops; bishops can veto the opinions of priests; priests can veto the opinions of parish councils.   How can this be replaced by a system of consensus decision-making?  A start would be for priests to agree that all decisions made by the parish council would, in so far as is possible, be by consensus.

3.  Closure of parishes is a major issue in other parts of the world, particularly in the United States and Europe.  The decision to close parishes is usually made by the Episcopal authorities without any consultation with the local community. This is the wrong way to deal with this situation. Organisations like FutureChurch (U.S.) have modelled better ways of working, which they have outlined in their website.  This is beginning to be a problem in Ireland, and will be a major one in a few years time.

4. Related to the above:  the right of each believing community to the Eucharist. This raises all the issues about ministry that we are familiar with.

5. Transparency in decision-making at all levels in the Church;  and in particular full and open reporting on all decision that are made.

These we see as being urgent issues to be discussed. Our aim is, rather than just raising the issues, to try to model better ways of operating in these areas, and to provide resources for local communities. The conference we will host here next April will try to come up with clear positions on all these areas.

Tony Flannery

6 Responses

  1. Aideen Green

    Fr Tony,

    I so wish that more people, both priests and lay people in the church, thought like you. I have worked in my Parish in different capacities, since it’s foundation , . I have become more and more disillusioned with the lack of transparency and engagement as the years have gone on. I love the Lord and want to be part of the church but I am struggling. If , I as a woman and a lay person, can be of any help to you, I am more than willing.

    Yours in Christ, Aideen.

  2. JohnM

    On a visit to the midlands I found on Sunday morning that a statue had been erected outside the local church, near the door, the grim visage of a 17th century bishop whom we are told on the inscription had been a supporter of the Jansenists. The statue was inaugurated, I was told by the combined presence of the bishop and the papal nuncio. This, I suppose is to be an inspiration for present and future generations.

  3. Joe O'Leary

    Was the statue of Florence Conry (Conrius), Archbishop of Tuam, who was a friend of Jansenius and highly regarded by Pascal? I would think it a good idea to celebrate him. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04261c.htm

  4. JohnM

    Statue : I don’t know the person’s name, someone pulled out of the history archives. It’s a grim frowning visage. From what I can gather the Jansenists or the Calvinists with their grim outlook and seeing sin in everything is not an inspiration. I believe in the end the Jansenists were repudiated by the authorities in the church.

  5. Joe O'Leary

    The French Jansenists were persecuted by State and Church. Some Jansenist ideas were condemned by the popes, notable in the bull Cum Occasione 1643 that controversially condemned five propositions supposed to be found in Jansenius’s massive work, Augustinus, and in the encyclical against Quesnel, Unigenitus, 1715, that insists Christ died for all. Jansenius himself died in the odour of sanctity and was never condemned as a heretic. Blaise Pascal may be gloomy but he remains the most influential religious writer of his time. In short Jansenism is a very difficult movement to judge. The tremendous learning of people like Tillemont and the deep moral and spiritual insight of people like Nicole as well as the sincere piety of the solitaries of Port-Royal (who had a lot of influences on English Anglical piety) puts Jansenism in a very special niche. There is no heresy attributed to the Jansenists that is not equally to be found in the writings of St Augustine.

    John Calvin was a very great theologian, too, and not as heavily invested in the gloomy doctrine of double predestination as some of his successors were. Calvin of course rejected the authority of Rome, which the Jansenists did not.

  6. JohnM

    You could ask to what extent the Jansenists influenced the Irish church for the worse, producing the puritanical attitudes that led to the Magdalen laundries and forced adoptions and nest of worms that has still not been fully revealed or understood. Isn’t Catholicism in Ireland still in spiritual corsets for the most part, or do my eyes deceive me? If the Jansenists are not the spiritual fathers of these attitudes then who?