Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tony's Tribulations

Tony Flannery
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It's a while now since I mentioned Tony Flannery and no doubt people are wondering how he is bearing up under CDF abuse.

For those who have not been following the story, Fr. Tony was taken to task for his views on a variety of, relatively minor, issues by the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly the Holy Office and before that The Inquisition). These concerned, inter alia, homosexuality, the origins of the priesthood and possible ordination of women. Not exactly earth shattering, but I suspect there were some other trickier issues such as the Real Presence, hovering in the background.

Anyway Fr. Tony came up with a statement with seemed agreeable to the CDF and all was set for a kiss and make-up when the head of the CDF, Cardinal Levada, retired and was replaced by the hard line German, Cardinal Mueller. Fr. Tony was now expected to sign a blank cheque, as it were, swearing allegiance to the teaching of the Church as presently construed and in all its minutiae. He baulked at that, was not supported by his Order, the Redemptorists (REDS), and has been out of ministry and supposedly silenced ever since. There was some hope of a compromise when Pope Francis acceded to the throne of Peter but he is a festina lente man, quite cautious in practice, and currently in the throes of a civil war within the Vatican administration.

Latest vibes from the CDF and the REDS are that Fr. Tony now faces a choice between unconditional surrender or spending the rest of his life out of ministry and probably having to find another way to earn his living at the age of 68. And that's where we're at today.

While he has had to put up with a lot of sniping, including an imposter trying to undermine him on Twitter, Fr. Tony has said that, despite all the difficulties, his recent period of "exile" has been a fruitful one. He has got a lot of support from those, including colleagues, who know in their heart and soul that the Church will have to change if it is to have any meaningful future. He was one of the founders of the Association of Catholic Priests. He has published a book detailing his position and his appalling treatment by the Vatican (CDF). He has just come back from a speaking tour in America which has deepened his understanding of the reform movement.

And he has tweeted his two most recent radio interviews. The first of these was on an American faith station, where a very capable interviewer put him through his paces. This was immediately followed by an interview with a young traditional whippersnapper of a Dominican, who was also put through his paces, but who, in my view, came immeasurably worse out of it. [Tony is 2mins 40secs in and Thomas Petri is 19mins 11secs into the broadcast]. The second of these interviews was with Áine Lawlor on RTÉ radio this morning[9mins 18secs into broadcast]. It was a sympathetic interview which would make your blood boil and your heart cry at the same time.

When the American radio station tweeted a link to their programme the whippersnapper shot back:

On reading Fr. Tony's reply, the whippersnapper immediately deleted his own tweet. Unfortunately for him I had taken a screen shot (above). Otherwise it would not have been clear what Fr. Tony was replying to. He then replied to Fr. Tony (below):

I took him to task for deleting his original tweet (above) and he accepted that he had been thinking of the wrong priest, this one, rather than Fr. Tony. Really sloppy stuff from a Dominican academic.

Anyway, the big question now for Fr. Tony is: does he follow his conscience or buckle. Unfortunately, in an ideal world, or one in the spirit of Jesus, he would not have to face this dilemma. Pre-Vatican II questioners were silenced etc. but were brought back into the Council as periti. People had then thought that the Church would henceforth be able to accommodate questioning or even dissent as it trod the path less traveled into the future. However the old ways reasserted themselves and the big stick has been persistently waved ever since.

The traditional Church attitude to conscience was that you were obliged to follow your informed conscience, and that following this informed conscience took precedence over everything else, including the teaching of the Church. Pope Benedict, in his younger days, taught this.

Even if we accept this view there remain two issues: (i) what exactly is an informed conscience, and (ii) if you have one which is in conflict with the perceived teaching of the Church, are you obliged to follow it out of the Church.

The American whippersnapper, and Fr. Vincent Twomey of this parish, take the view that the proof of an informed conscience is that it leads to an endorsement of existing Church teaching. The Church can never be wrong, therefore any conscience which is in conflict with it is not sufficiently informed. So that part of the problem is defined away. Then if your conscience is in conflict with the Church, you either change your conscience or get out. QED.

+John (Charles), +Connie (Lucey) & +Michael (Browne) are surely locked in a St. Valentine's Day embrace in Heaven (or wherever they are) at that one. You will have noticed that this line of reasoning precludes any change in, or evolution of, Church doctrine initiated from within the Church itself.

Fr. Petri's Twitter banner

Although I had never heard of him before today, I was trying to figure the whippersnapper out. I sense a bit of insecurity there. He is pompous in his presentation, soaks up adulation and has a bevvy of uniformed nuns, listening to him expostulating on the annunciation, in his Twitter banner. Nuff said.

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