Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Vatican moves against turbulent Irish priest…

Sat 7 April 2012, 9:30am

Colm Kelpie has a few examples of why the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith acted to close down Father Tony Flannery’s column in the Redemptorist’s Reality magazine.

- “Many of us priests are very frustrated with the way the Vatican conducts its business.”

- “To hear someone in the position of the Taoiseach speak so strongly, so eloquently, and with such dignity, in challenging the Vatican was good.”

- “Many reforms are needed in the church, and there is little or no discussion allowed at any level.”

- “We cannot have any event (the Eucharistic Congress) dominated by a phalanx of mitre-wearing bishops surrounded by large groups of clergy.”

Father Flannery coincidentally is a founding member of the Association of Catholic Priests (IACP). His problem may be less what he says than that what he says has considerable influence outside the hierarchy…

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Comments (31)

  1. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Well, it’s not as if he’s being singled out for special treatment.

    And it’s not a democracy.

    If anyone doesn’t like that, then they know what to do…

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  2. the simple, but ultimate answer is to split from Rome.
    There are deep deep problems and they need fixing.
    When you’re down there’s not much to lose.
    People say we should leave the troika
    Do something radical, this is SF’s position.
    similiarly its worth noting
    There exists a Church of England & Scotland
    why not a Church of Ireland ?
    A rapprochemont with the protestants would give us
    one primate of all-ireland, one established church .

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  3. smcgiff (profile) says:

    Install Reformation 2.0

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  4. I think I see it as a move against a turbulent Pope rather than a move against a turbulent priest.
    Tony Flannery enjoys the confidence of his Redemptorist confreres. He is subject to the “Order” rather than the Pope himself who is more at arms length than the traditional dioscean priest.
    There is essentially a three way split in “Irish” Catholic priesthood. There is the Tony Flannery/Brendan Hoban tendency. Brendan Hoban who is a priest in the Diocese of Killala (Mayo/Sligo) is probably more vulnerable than Tony Flannery.
    There is of course a traditionalist element who call themselves “Marian priests” who make a virtue out of what many would call blind obedience. They are particuarly vitriolic about the ACP.
    They also see the ACP as being indiscrete.
    A third element is the “ostrich element” who would rather waffle and hope they wake up from a nightmare. That third strand most evident in parishes rather than “Orders” is no longer sustainable. It is “make your mind up time”.

    My observation is that most previous ostriches are behind the ACP…albeit not overtly.
    Another aspect is that the parish structure is breaking down. The notion that someone goes to Mass locally has given way to people going to Mass (if at all) where they feel comfortable.
    People arent necessarily checking that their local priest is an ACP man but the idea is that you can always have a choice. If you cant identify with the man on the altar and he doesnt identify with you….dont go at all or go somewhere else.

    Amid all the doom in gloom there is a statistic which stands out from last weeks first 2011 Census Report. In the Republic of Ireland, 84% of the population is “Catholic” which casts a shadow over the narrative of the last decade.

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  5. Nevin (profile) says:

    The Pope addressed the actions of ‘dissidents’ on Holy Thursday:

    Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?

    He went on:

    Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognize the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit. And if we look at the people from whom these fresh currents of life burst forth and continue to burst forth, then we see that this new fruitfulness requires being filled with the joy of faith, the radicalism of obedience, the dynamic of hope and the power of love.

    Peter and Martin may well look upon ‘dissidents’ to central authority in a somewhat similar light.

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  6. susan (profile) says:

    It is amazing that a man of Benedict’s intellect is still refusing to admit that while his Church is not by a stretch of anyone’s imagination remotely a democracy, everyone can and increasingly does vote with their feet, and with their pursestrings.

    Benedict clings to his authority – (murky at best if you actually talk to someone who has read the fine print of the Second Vatican Council) — but getting back to it Benedict clings to his authority to specify at exactly which angle the deck chairs of his Church are pointed and who may sit them in, all the while ignoring that the hull is already breaking away and the stern is listing ever more sharply skyward.

    There is a staggering amount of money in conservative groups like Opus Dei etc but let’s face it they are not generally the ones who show up to offer solace and support in times of a family’s great loss, sacramental milestones and celebration – the one hold the CHurch still does have over most cafeteria/nominal Catholics, a description which fits most of us, most certainly me.

    Benedict has a problem, and his mismanagement is measured in the the millions leaving the Church, the millions less collected each and every year of his pontificate.

    Here in America groups like Call to Action organize protests, etc., but in such an enormous country it is difficult to collect enough numbers for its voice to truly be heard. Priests are silenced ruthlessly, losing parishes and pensions without much public outcry. Ireland on the other hand is a small enough island blessed with more than enough intelligent, compassionate and angry enough people baptised and raised Catholic to organize a protest that would thunder across Europe.

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  7. Nevin (profile) says:

    “To hear someone in the position of the Taoiseach speak so strongly, so eloquently, and with such dignity, in challenging the Vatican was good.” .. Fr Tony

    Could blood be thicker than Holy Water? Fr Tony’s brother Frank, apparently, is the ‘Fine Gael Director of Organisation and Strategy’.

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  8. Ulick (profile) says:

    For once I agree with Baker. If you don’t like belonging to a Church which adheres to it’s centuries old faith and teaching rather than bending to incorporate the latest liberal western fads, then there is always the door.

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  9. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Great to hear of such unexpected and unlooked for harmony. Of course that’s all ery fine if you have already left the church. but there is little doubt that such tensions do exist.

    The Pontiff has a right to push the lines as hard as he feels inclined. In fact the liberalism that’s been evident in a generation of priests who were influenced by Vatican II has also presided over the internal collapse of the church as the social force it once was.

    Some of the new more conservative breed have also been some of the most inspiring and compassionate that I remember. It seems to me that the survival of the church is what’s at stake here, regardless of how these matters get resolved.

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  10. sherdy (profile) says:

    Mick, its how these matters get resolved that will decide whether the church does ultimately survive.

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  11. susan (profile) says:

    Can you give some specific examples of that compassion, Mick? The bans on contraception, women priests, married priests, and the ban preventing divorced Catholics from remarrying in the Church or from receiving the Eucharist if they do remarry may be obscuring my vision. That and reading through the very conservative Cardinal Francis George’s deposition in Chicago’s child abuse coverups.

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  12. Ulick (profile) says:

    “In fact the liberalism that’s been evident in a generation of priests who were influenced by Vatican II have also presided over the internal collapse of the church as a social force it once was.”

    Spot on Mick. It’s this key fact which is always omitted by those liberals who push more liberalism as the cure for all of the Church’s problems. The likes of á la carte Catholics such as Flannery and Brian D’Arcy would be better off in one of the Protestant denominations.

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  13. Reader (profile) says:

    Ulick: It’s this key fact which is always omitted by those liberals who push more liberalism as the cure for all of the Church’s problems.
    The other key fact is that the western world has been shaken up by waves of liberalism over the last 50 years.Some conservative institutions bent, others broke. I’m sure you can think of local examples.

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  14. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    “In fact the liberalism that’s been evident in a generation of priests who were influenced by Vatican II have also presided over the internal collapse of the church as a social force it once was.”

    Which may, or may not, be a good thing…

    And I’d add.

    If these ‘disobedient’ priests believed that the current pope was going to be anything other than completely opposed to further bending the church to “the modern age”, then they haven’t been paying attention.

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  15. susan (profile) says:

    Pete, as I’m sure you and everyone else knows before his selection as pope Benedict was formerly known as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the “Sacred Congregaton of the Holy Office”, the historical Inquisition.

    The only “surprise” here is that it took so long for the hammer to fall. Had the scope of the child sexual abuse scandals and long term coverups engulfing the Church across the globe not been so unfathomably enormous, expensive and damaging at the time Benedict was elevated, I believe he would have cracked down much, much sooner.

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  16. susan (profile) says:

    Oops, meant to mention he was first named Prefect in 1981 – 24 years before he was named pontiff.

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  17. susan (profile) says:

    Nice to see the only cleric I follow on Twitter, Carlow’s Father Paddy Byrne, tweeting his support for Father Flannery and his order today.

    Father Byrne also tweeted on Good Friday, yesterday, “Christ on the cross neither judges nor excludes.” If that is heresy count me in.

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  18. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    “Pete, as I’m sure you and everyone else knows before his selection as pope Benedict was formerly known as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the “Sacred Congregaton of the Holy Office”, the historical Inquisition.”

    Well, indeed, susan. But during that time he was, as it were, under instruction.

    My point was that, since becoming Pope, Benedict has made it abundantly clear that

    a) he has done his thinking on these matters.

    and

    b) he has chosen the way forward for the church.

    Admittedly he’s chosen a ‘back to the future’ approach. But it’s his call to make.

    These others have simply been openly challenging his authority [within the church]. That’s only going to end one way…

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  19. susan (profile) says:

    “only going to end one way…”

    Maybe. But maybe not.

    To quote a rich cultural tradition we both respect, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.” Or indeed, its collapse.

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  20. Newman (profile) says:

    I love the confidence that is expressed that if only the Pope would take advice from the sages of our time and introduce women priests gay marriage divorce for all et al that the Catholic Church might survive.Moral relativism is an answer to nothing that truly calls for reflection…Pope Benedict understands this profoundly and his leadership is a light in the midst of the confusion and moral chaos of our age. His rebuke to those who seek to remake the church in their own image and incorporating their own preferences echoes the voice of the Church throughout the ages.That’s why it has flourished and survived for 2 millennia…..Disobedience and contumacious dissent in the manner practised here by individual priests or groupings of same is not a recipe for seeking truth

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  21. carnmoney.guy (profile) says:

    Susan, re tweet from Fr Byrne
    Christ on the cross neither judges nor excludes

    Oh really, read Lukes gospel

    The current clergy need to grow a pair, to come out of the shadow of child rape, not to embrace the latest liberal attitudes and be trendy, but get up and tell the laity what is right and wrong. They joined an organisation wedded to celebracy for a thousand years.

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  22. ThomasMourne (profile) says:

    Many Catholics who are dissatisfied with the outdated attitudes of church leaders and ministers expect ‘leadership’ from these same people in ‘modernising’ the church. This is not going to happen, so these people have the following options: (a) stay where they are and put up with things as they are; (b) leave the Catholic church and perhaps join another one; (c) help to set up a reforming group with like-minded people; (d) wise up and stop believing in myths and fairy tales.

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  23. susan (profile) says:

    Roma Locuta Est, Causa Finita Est, is the overwhelming consensus here at Slugger. As it is, of course, inside the Vatican.

    And yet I wonder.

    The last few years Father Byrne has held a mountainside Vigil followed by an Easter Mass at dawn on Mount Leister. 3,000 attended two years ago, 4,000 last year, 5,000 this year, by reports I’ve heard. Seamus Heaney’s “fire on the mountain” brought to life for the “common” Carlownian if you wills.

    My own pastor is a learned, charismatic, and deeply compassionate man who will never be promoted because back in the seventies he adopted and raised two children, a son and a daughter, and now has adoring grandchildren. The Easter mass I attended, his third, was double rows of Standing Room only and packed in the choir loft as well.

    I’m inured to seeing simple human compassion and common sense dismissed as “moral relativism” by celibate males cloistered far from the economic and psychological demands of family life.

    “Don’t attempt to remake the church in your image,” I hear, and yet Jesus was a non-violent, all-forgiving, homeless Jew, a victim of the death penalty. How does that square with the enormous hats, Prada shoes and declarations that Jesus didn’t invite women to the Last Supper? Jesus appeared to the women at the tomb, who never faltered or left his side. As anyone lucky enough to be raised by an Irish mother can well believe.

    Ditto, the dismissive canards about “fairy tales.” Most spiritual and religious people are not morons – they have their moments when they wonder whether all religions are not a crutch to help us bear the unbearable and attempt to comprehend what will forever be incomprehensible.

    And yet there are other moments, those moments of strength and solace or connection, and, even here and there, a miracle. The Catholic acceptance of mystery, and free will, of a God and a mother of God who suffered greatly and saw what they most loved destroyed, and then reborn.

    That’s religion for you. For every Bach Mass in B Minor, for every comfort brought to the dying and the indigent, there is also strife, superstition, exclusion. I don’t have all the answers. And even as a child most of us could squint between the lines and see the Vatican does not either.

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  24. HeinzGuderian (profile) says:

    For once I agree with Baker. If you don’t like belonging to a Church which adheres to it’s centuries old faith and teaching rather than bending to incorporate the latest liberal western fads, then there is always the door.
    ……………………………………………………………………………..

    The ‘latest liberal fads’ being…..

    The Earth isn’t actually the centre of the Universe,
    The Sun doesn’t actually revolve around Earth,
    Two Millennia of persecution of the Jewish people. Culminating in the Holocaust.

    When I think of religion I don’t think of Bach in B Minor……I think of Galileo,”forced to recant”.
    I think of backwardness and belief in the patently absurd.

    We are good at making invisible friends. Why,every adverse group of people on the planet have their own one,(or several).

    I haven’t seen any evidence supporting the ‘ancient gods’,as opposed to the jewish/christian one ?

    Oh I have no doubt people ‘truly believe’ with all their hearts. They ‘witness miracles’.
    The people of the Andes still leave a gift for the Original God,The Sun…….although we now know that one day even He will burn out and die.

    There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.
    Douglas Adams.

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  25. susan (profile) says:

    I love Douglas Adams, HeinzGuderian.

    But for you to claim religion does not include Bach’s Mass in B Minor, only Galileo’s forced recantation is as woolly-headed as if I tried to claim that atheism and agnosticism included only the excesses of Stalin and Mao’s dictatorships, and not some of the most life-saving, life-enhancing breakthroughs in literature, science, medicine, and technology.

    Atheism, agnosticism and religion have all made immeasurable contributions to the advance of civilisation — art, literature, music, medicine, science and technology – and all have also been the cause of oppression, repression and cruelty. Well, actually I am not sure how much oppression, repression and cruelty you can pin on agnosticism, but atheism certainly has been enforced with as much iron-fisted tyranny as the worst theocracies.

    It is not a black and white world, deal with it.

    Fascinating articles this morning on both The Irish Central website and the Daily Beast on what just might be the beginning murmurings of a “Catholic Spring.”

    http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Catholic-Spring-uprising-prediction-for-Ireland-over-dissenting-priest-Father-Flannery-147131755.html

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/11/vatican-silences-father-flannery.html

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  26. HeinzGuderian (profile) says:

    Uncle Joe Stalin trained in the priesthood……..ah yes,suddenly it becomes clearer…..
    Chairman Mao didn’t massacre millions of his own people in the name of Atheism,and to try and use such childish arguments is,well,childish.

    You knock yourself out Susan,believing in whatever particular brand of invisible sky daddy you like,(and I bet you a pound to a penny,it is the same brand as your parents used),but in the name of the Lord Zeus,do not indoctrinate little children into this fallacy.

    Your backward religions are dragged along,kicking and screaming at every single step…….

    “During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumb-screws, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood.
    Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry…..There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remain.”….Mark Twain.

    No,it’s not a black and white word Susan,and yes,I do deal with it……..so sorry I refuse to believe in your childish friends……..I think you are the one who is struggling to deal with that. ;-)

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  27. susan (profile) says:

    HeinzGuderian, if these broad stroke swipes are meant to be cutting, you are going to have to step it up a bit. Aim for a bit of nuance – you might hit something. :o)

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  28. RyanAdams (profile) says:

    Ulick

    “For once I agree with Baker. If you don’t like belonging to a Church which adheres to it’s centuries old faith and teaching rather than bending to incorporate the latest liberal western fads, then there is always the door.”

    Looks like a majority of Catholics should start searching for the door then…
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-17699603

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  29. Alias (profile) says:

    “Looks like a majority of Catholics should start searching for the door then…”

    Why? Because an oganisation co-founded by Fr Flannery, the Association of Catholic Priests, conducted a survey that found support for Fr Flannery’s views?

    That’s a bit like Fr Flannery’s bother – the FG adviser one who wrote Kenny’s speech attacking the Church that Fr Flannery approves of – conducting a survey which finds support for Fine Gael.

    Forgive me until I stop laughing…

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  30. RyanAdams (profile) says:

    And like clock work here we go again … Discredit the researchers because they’re telling you things you don’t want to hear. How about instead of constantly picking holes in peoples research you go and trawl for an academic researcher or professional body who have carried out their own research to the contrary of the ACP? I remember back in 2010 when the BT conducted a poll before the general election and there was a kick off because the pr company had previously worked with the dup. We had all sorts of wild speculation the poll was flawed and the dup had it all rigged up. Yet nearly every seat was called correct, they even had FST right with Gildernew ahead by a percentage point which was pretty accurate. The only one called wrong was East Belfast, and let’s face it every single party and pundit underestimated the wrath of East Belfast and only caught on to the electorates intentions half way through the count.

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  31. susan (profile) says:

    Interesting poll, RyanAdams, thank you for the link.

    90% of Irish Catholics believe priests should be able to marry, 77% think women should be able to be ordained as priests.

    Higher numbers than even I would have predicted!

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