Saturday, July 1, 2017


Tony Flannnery's book(2013)
Click on any image for a larger version

I'm using the Real Presence here as a proxy for a lot of other stuff, such as the resurrection, the virgin birth and so on. These are all phenomena which are taught as doctrine by the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) but which defy the laws of nature as we know them. They are therefore matters of faith requiring to be believed by Roman Catholics who wish to say members of that church. (You can read my earlier paper on the subject here.)

In an age when the RCC was a temporal power, something that applied in Ireland up to recent times, and when Canon Law was claimed to trump Civil Law, and when Science was seen as very much the handmaiden of religious belief and subject to it, then there was no real problem. Clear as mud.

The problem now is the new revisionism. Roman Catholics, at least some of them, are looking at these eternal truths afresh and to a large extent unencumbered by medieval concepts of the universe. And the result is startling. In the glare of the limelight these doctrines don't hold water, at least not in the manner stated.

George Pell

You only have to watch Cardinal Pell attempting to explain the Real Presence to Richard Dawkins to realise this.

It seems to me that the RCC is now in some difficulty explaining these matters to today's generation in language that retains some meaning. If these matters are now to be understood in a symbolic sense, then that's fine, and the way is open for using a wide degree of metaphor and language. The inspiration and sense of the spiritual need not be any the less but the proponents are saved from promulgating what to a rational person is pure nonsense.

I can remember the excitement and liberation in my youth when I first read John Robinson's book Honest to God.

Well that was kick-off for the Protestants. Now the RCC has reached the same point and needs new ways of expressing old truths. But this is dangerous territory. Putting your head above the parapet is likely to get it blown off, all the more so if you are a priest.

I'm not sure what stage of his spiritual evolution on this scale Redemptorist priest Tony Flannery was at when the Vatican tried to blow his head off, but it is clear that he has developed his understanding further in the intervening years. He tells us that:
Currently I am working with a group of people who are exploring new ways, and new language, for addressing spiritual realities. We are doing this is the light of the enormous advances made in scientific understanding in the past sixty or seventy years, most especially in cosmology and quantum physics. We are exploring ways to talk about creation in the light of what we now know about the universe, and what that tells us about a Creator and our relationship with that Being. It is a fascinating study, about which much stimulating material is now being written. This is not to contradict what has gone before us, but to ‘find new wine skins for the new wine’.
Flannery explains his thinking in a little more detail in a recent blog post.

In my view, this is enough to get him excommunicated, given that the RCC is still sticking solidly to its traditional presentation of the divine mysteries. However there are developmeents within the RCC bubbling just beneath the surface and, if he manages to hold on long enough, he may yet find himself in the vanguard of change from within.

Müller's brief

The recent sacking of the Head of the Inquisition (CDF), Cardinal Müller, an old Ratzinger man, may indicate the delicate shoots of change, if not in doctrine at least in its understanding and presentation.

Pope Francis has come to where he is along the road less travelled and through the dark night of the soul. He is not a man to be trifled with and Müller was a silly man if he thought he was. Francis moves slowly but surely and he is fully aware of the need to bring the bulk of the organisation with him.

Interesting times.

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