Saturday, October 5, 2019


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This was a book launch in a cemetery where a dead man spoke through a living medium.

I had been to one book launch here before. That book was by two living authors, both of whom were present. Today's book was, effectively, by two authors - one of whom, Angela, was present while the other was Resting In Peace a mere block away.

So let me explain.

Fr. Seán Fagan was a renowned theologian and a good man. He was a Marist priest who loved his church but was not impressed by its bureaucratic and fossilised dogmatic overlay.

He was going back to basics, to human values in their proper religious context, such as primacy of conscience. Unfortunately he ran foul of the Inquisition, or to put it another way got complained to the CDF which eventually silenced him and hit him with a super gag order. This meant he could not reveal his silencing to anyone on pain of expulsion from the priesthood.

He obeyed this stricture, for a variety of reasons, but he entrusted the documentation to his friend Angela, and asked her to "spill the beans" after his death.

The book now being launched is the spilling of the beans.

I have previously posted on Fr. Seán and his book What happened to sin, a copy of which I secured through the Dublin City Library Service.

Garry O'Sullivan

Garry introduced the evening. He is the owner of the Irish Catholic newspaper and Columba Press. He took over Columba when it went bankrupt so the title continued and it is the publisher of this book.

As an aside I gather Garry is currently in talks with Seán's nemesis, Vincent Twomey. In a strange twist of fate, Vincent is responsible for me coming across Seán in the first place.

I was having a go at Vincent's wobbly theology on the informed conscience when my attention was drawn by Patsy McGarry to a rapier of a letter from Seán to the Irish Times (29/12/2007) whipping the carpet out from under Vincent's theological gumboots.

Angela Hanley

Angela told us how she, initially reluctantly, got involved in correspondence with Seán, how this blossomed into a friendship, and how Seán entrusted her with spilling the beans, after his death, on how he was "spiritually abused" by the CDF.

It was not an easy book to write. Seán was a positive and optimistic person until the CDF got him in its clutches and reduced him to wishing the Lord would call time on his earthly stay.

Reading the book makes your blood boil at least every few pages.

After Seán's death (15/7/2016) Angela set about preparations for writing the book. She had a lot on her plate but she persisted and finally got the book written.

It clearly illustrates the cowardly and venemous modus operandi of the CDF.

Cowardly because they never have the courage to face their victims. They will not engage directly with them thereby denying them the opportunity to adequately defend themselves. They prefer to operate through the victim's superior and let them carry the can. Angela recounts how the CDF threatened to depose the Marist's Provincial, though they had no authority to do so. They also refuse to reveal the identity of a complainant, which also circumscribes an adequate defence.

Venemous because they set out to destroy their victims. And they often succeeded. They appear to have damaged Seán Fagan beyond repair.

Mary McAleese

For those not up to speed, Mary is a former two-term President of Ireland who has got herself a doctorate in Canon Law. She is currently campaigning to reform the church for its own good.

She was recently banned from speaking within the Vatican's holy precincts. The organisers immediately moved the conference, on women and the church, out of the Vatican rather than forego Mary as a speaker.

So she's a heavy hitter.

Mary made a plea directly to Pope Francis on Seán's behalf in 2013. Following this, and many other pleas through various channels, a minimum concession was made and the threat to his priesthood was removed. All other restrictions remained.

I'm not sure what this concession meant. Perhaps it meant that he would not be removed from the priesthood no matter what sanctions he broke. But what would the punishment then be? Excommunication? An excommunicated priest?

In the context of human rights and consent she pointed out that one is not born a Catholic but conscripted at Baptism.

She also reminded us that the Vatican (as a State) has signed up (internationally) to all sorts of human rights (eg free speech, due process) which (as a religion) it flouts.

My own view is that the Vatican (a religion) has no moral claim to statehood in the first place. It abuses this status, acting as a State one minute and not a state another, according as this suits its agenda.

Having looked at some of the good people let's check out some villains.

Charles Brown

Prime among these is Charlie Brown. As Seán/Angela reveal he was Cardinal Levada's sidekick in the CDF's dealings with the Marists. He was complicit, to say the least, in the bullying of the Marist's Provincial.

Was he then sent to Ireland, as Nuncio, to keep an eye on the situation here? Most likely. Otherwise he was just a waste of space. He refused to meet ACP and took refuge in making holy exhortations at a safe distance in Knock in the West. Following in the Pius XII mariolitrist tradition he was.

[Update 7/10/2019: I heard, over the weekend, that he had his eye on London after Dublin. That would indeed have been a fairly prestigious assignment - Court of St. James's, no less?. He would have been following in the footsteps of Archbishop O'Hara (Nuncio: Ireland 1951-54, Britain 1954-63) though the representation has been upgraded to Ambassador status since O'Hara's day. Note that the Holy See Ambassador is accredited to Great Britain and not UK.

Well, all this might just have come to pass but for the change of régime in the Vatican. Pope Francis has sent him to Albania for his sins. Catholics are about 10% of Albania's population which is 57% Muslim.]

Vincent Twomey

Vincent is a retired professor of moral theology whose theology of conscience is fatally flawed but no doubt pleasing to his mentors, particularly his teacher, Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger. He was also a member of Benedict XVI's Schulerkreise.

He is at the opposite end of the scale from Seán. Nuff said.

I asked Angela to sign my book and mentioned that it was an already read copy. She was clearly listening. And it will be even more well read as I go back and consult bits of it in writing this post.

Then I saw someone getting Mary McAleese to sign their copy. What a good idea, I thought, she is, after all, a part of the story.

Seán's motive, and Angela's mandate, in having his story told:
Spill the beans in public on what really went on, to shame our sinful church in the hope that it might prevent further repetitions.

Strong words, and this is what Angela has done. Bless her.

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I'll finish as I started with the book cover. I thought it was brilliant. But that wasn't the whole of it. It was pointed out to me that the design continued across the spine to the back cover. Neat.

Incidentally, when you've read Angela's and Seán's book you might reinforce the experience by reading, the not so silenced, Tony Flannery's book, published in his lifetime.

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