Fr. Tony Flannery, Emblematic of Our Era

Redemptorist priest Fr. Tony Flannery in Ireland, co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, is in trouble with the Roman authorities. He was silenced a year ago for his writings, and he complied. He has been threatened with excommunication and ordered to sign a statement that women can never be ordained Catholic priests and the he agrees with church teachings on homosexuality and contraception. Now he is breaking his silence: he writes in the Irish Times that silence is “too high a price” when obeying his conscience is at stake.

He writes:

There are people who will say I should leave the Catholic Church and join another Christian church – one more suitable to my stance. Being a Catholic is central to my personal identity. I have tried to preach the gospel. No matter what sanctions the Vatican imposes on me I will continue, in whatever way I can, to try to bring about reform in the church and to make it again a place where all who want to follow Christ will be welcome. He made friends with the outcasts of society, and I will do whatever I can in my own small way to oppose the current Vatican trend of creating a church of condemnation rather than one of compassion.

The statement of the Irish Redemptorists is here. It says in part:

It is of immense regret that some structures or processes of dialogue have not yet been found in the Church which have a greater capacity to engage with challenging voices from among God’s people, while respecting the key responsibility and central role of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

          *               *               *               *               *

This is what bothers me, and I think should bother anyone, whatever their position on disputed Church teachings: one person is punished for saying what lots of others also think.

We all know that many, many priests would be open to the ordination of women and don’t believe that the Church has no authority to ordain women. We all know that many theologians, perhaps most among those with earned doctorates, would dispute that Jesus explicitly instituted an ordained priesthood and that this was the understanding of the first generations of the Church, as there is no indication of this in the New Testament or the earliest patristic sources. We all know that many priests, many or most theologians, and most laypeople by far reject the official teaching on artificial contraception.

It seems that the authorities, knowing full well of this diversity of views among priests, theologians, and laypeople, are willing to single out one person as a way of pressuring the others to remain silent. It seems that the authorities are willing to make lots of people take oaths they obviously don’t fully believe in, and thus be complicit in pressuring them to violate their conscience, as a way of making people say what they don’t believe or not say what they do believe. The Church becomes, then, a place where one cannot be honest. This is a problem.

My point here is not that women should be ordained or homosexual relations should be approved or the teaching on contraception should be changed. I didn’t say that, though I expect some commenters will assume I did. My point is that, even if one agrees with official teachings in these areas, the actions of church authorities are highly problematic in disrespecting conscience and forcing dishonesty.

I suppose some will say that no one is forced to be a Catholic or a priest. Those who disagree should have the integrity to leave. Really? Does anyone really want every layperson who disagrees on contraception to leave? Does anyone really want every priest and theologian who disagrees on one issue or the other to leave? This is absurd and unrealistic idealism of a cheap sort.

Here’s the reality: the Catholic Church is divided about many issues. Authorities are working mightily to impose from above positions not held by many priests, theologians, and lay people. It will be interesting to observe how this works for the authorities. It will be interesting to observe what form resistance will take. Expect many skirmishes ahead.

What would be a better way forward? I honestly don’t know. I don’t see the hierarchy changing its position, and I don’t see the dissenting priests and theologians and laypeople going away. In such circumstances, it’s hard to imagine how the Church could arrive at consensus and become united.

I suppose the best one could hope for is a gentler hand from the hierarchy, a bit more humility about its positions, and a bit more loving respect for people it considers to be mistaken. History shows that Church authorities have a rather mixed track record the last couple centuries when it comes to responding to issues raised by a changing world– think of mistaken or unfortunate statements on slavery, or religious liberty, or separation of Church and state, or the legitimacy of democratically elected government, or Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, or use of the vernacular in the liturgy. Church authorities would have good reason to show more humility and more respect for others’ views.

That’s what I’m praying for. But as I say, expect more skirmishes ahead.

awr

 

 

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136 comments

  1. I visited with a friend of mine who is seriously ill. “You look good today, Mary. How are you feeling?” I asked. She replied, jokingly I think, “Father, it’s more important to look good than to feel good.”

    We put a whole lot of emphasis on looking good, the ol’ bella figura. That does not eradicate a possible diferent reality that lays within. And that different reality continues to affect and effect.

    Forcing dishonesty? We do it all the time. “Welcoming” to the Sacraments (as if they we hors d’oervres) Catholics who are marginal at best. The old joke about baptizing and confirming “pigeons” that never come back has more than a grain of truth. We baptize, confirm, and maybe even marry and ordain, hoping the grace of the sacrament will eventually ‘kick in’ and the recipient will live the sacrament in faith. How often is the “I do believe” reponse to the baptismal creedal questions an expression of real inner conviction [to whatever degree] and not merely a rehearsed, rote reply?

    Silencing a writer or speaker is one thing. Compelling an action that violates conscience or reality (e.g., signing a statement recanting one’s stated beliefs) is playing a dangerous game for both parties.

  2. Surely one solution would be for the Redemptorists in Ireland to publicaly re-instate Tony Flannery, whatever difficulties that might cause with Rome. He has had the courage to be honest with himself and the people he has served. Now it is time for his Order to be honest to him and with the Vatican.
    Chris McDonnell UK

  3. In order to become a priest, one must make a Profession of Faith and take the Oath of Fidelity. These are prerequisites for ministry. The Profession of Faith (with its concluding formula) makes it impossible for one to hold dissenting opinions regarding the reservation of priestly ordination to men only, the immorality of homosexual acts, etc. etc.

    Ultimately, Fr. Tony Flannery is not keeping his word. He promised to accept the faith in its entirety and to pass it on in its entirety. If he feels the need to take back his word then yes, we should respect his freedom. The necessary consequence of that however is loss of the sacred ministry once entrusted to him; he is no longer suitable.

    His Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity, freely given so many years ago, bind him. What Rome has asked him to sign is a simple corollary to the word he gave already. A refusal to sign shows that he does not intend to keep that word. His conscience is not being violated; he is simply being forced to admit what his current intentions are.

    “When a man takes an oath, he’s holding his own self in his own hands like water, and if he opens his fingers then, he needn’t hope to find himself again. ” -A Man for All Seasons

    1. @Fr. John Naugle – comment #3:
      Do you believe every priest who disagrees on one issue or another should leave? Even if this would involve, say, 1/3 or 1/2 of all priests?
      Do you think it’s theoretically possible that the magisterium, which has been mistaken in the past, is mistaken on any issue today?
      Or to put it another way, did you read my post and do you wish to engage it?
      awr

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #4:
        Having a problem or issue with a teaching is different than dissent. One may certainly withhold assent while questioning respectfully. Dissent is not a right however. Here I appeal to Donum Veritatis. Dissent (as opposed to having difficulties) is most certainly incompatible with the cura animarum.

        To be clear: I am objecting to your claim that the Church is forcing dishonesty. I claim the exact opposite: we are finally forcing honesty. Is it not dishonest for a priest to carry out public ministry while violating the terms on which he received it? Remember: the Profession of Faith is renewed every time a new office is given, such as pastor. If Father X promised to do A and now is doing not-A, we have a problem. Did Father X lie when he promised, or has he reneged on his commitment? Or is it simple human frailty and confusion? The problem needs to be diagnosed. Father Flannery has been invited to be honest. As a condition of continuing in his vocation he must be faithful to his word. You’ve posited a right for him to both dissent and to maintain his present condition. To dissent on infallible teachings (all first paragraph “credenda” and second paragraph “tenenda” teachings are infallible) while claiming the office of teaching for oneself is dishonest, no?

      2. @Fr. John Naugle – comment #6:
        Fr. Naugle,
        Do you believe every priest who disagrees on one issue or another should leave? Even if this would involve, say, 1/3 or 1/2 of all priests?
        Do you think it’s theoretically possible that the magisterium, which has been mistaken in the past, is mistaken on any issue today?
        awr

      3. Anthony Ruff, OSB : @Fr. John Naugle – comment #6: Fr. Naugle, Do you believe every priest who disagrees on one issue or another should leave? Even if this would involve, say, 1/3 or 1/2 of all priests? Do you think it’s theoretically possible that the magisterium, which has been mistaken in the past, is mistaken on any issue today? awr

        Why re-post these questions? To be clear: I think the CIC should be obeyed. A cleric who violates Canon 750 has to be dealt with according to Canons 1364 or 1370.1. The goal being not that they leave, but rather they repent and retract. Should they refuse, they are not suitable for the care of souls. I’m not going to be baited into saying that a priest should ever leave. Every priest SHOULD simply pass on the deposit of faith and those things pertaining to it and required to safeguard it. We priests are free to do nothing other than that since our life is not our own.

        Non-definitive teachings (that is, belonging to the third paragraph and demanding “religious submission of intellect and will”) are indeed reformable and fallible. However, “A proposition contrary to these doctrines can be qualified as erroneous or, in the case of teachings of the prudential order, as rash or dangerous and therefore ‘tuto doceri non potest.'”

        http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_1998_professio-fidei_en.html

      4. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #12:
        Just speaking for myself – I don’t believe that every priest, or public minister of the church, who disagrees on one issue or another should leave.

        However – and I’d like to say this with as much empathy as it’s in my power to do – I do distinguish between a personal struggle with belief, and publicly teaching something that is in opposition to what the church teaches.

        Without wishing to disparage these personal struggles in any way, it does seem to me that public ministers of the church should not, while clothed – literally or metaphorically – in the mantle of their office, teach that which is contrary to what those with teaching authority teach. It doesn’t, or needn’t, diminish their human dignity, and the difficulties and conflict that are part and parcel of maintaining that dignity, to note that their ministry is to pass on what has been given to them by those who do possess teaching authority. We are heralds, not authors, of Good News.

        I suspect that many public ministers of the church more or less agree with what I’m suggesting here: that private struggles are not to be proclaimed publicly. What happens, then, is this: on the one hand, I’m not able in good conscience to publicly proclaim and teach a teaching with which I don’t agree. On the other hand, for whatever reason or reasons – a laudable humility in the face of the church and its towering tradition, or a lack of personal courage, or conflicting thoughts about the matter, or some other reason or reasons – I don’t feel comfortable articulating my dissent. And so, I am silent about this teaching. I proclaim neither support nor dissent for this teaching. And a sort of vacuum arises around this teaching, in which the people for whom I’m responsible hear nothing at all about this teaching from me, to whom the church has entrusted responsibility for articulating its teachings. And inevitably, the vacuum gets filled by sounds, and noise, from the surrounding culture.

  4. I feel like the general response to any such assertion is that the people who disagree aren’t really Catholic, that the ignorant uncatechized “pigeons” skew things.

    The raw data for the 2005 Gallup survey of American Catholics is available online (presumably there is more recent data elsewhere, but I’ve not the time to look.) Among Catholics who go to Mass weekly or
    more often – arguably the most devout of Catholics – nearly half
    (48.2%) support women’s ordination to the priesthood, a position that
    is forbidden by the Roman Catholic Church. Fully three-quarters of these devoted Catholics support the ordination of women to the diaconate.

    These are not the “pigeons” and while I didn’t break out the data along lines of catechesis (one good proxy for that would be belief in the Real Presence, I would hazard), that would be an interesting exercise indeed.

  5. My college theology professor noted that when John Courtney Murray was ordered not to publish on certain topics, he complied, because he felt that if his position were correct, it would ultimately be vindicated. He did not complain to the media that he was being mistreated, nor did he use the media to attack Church teaching. By contrast, my professor noted that Charles Curran and Hans Kung and their like spent lots of time complaining to the media about how they were being mistreated by the evil Church, a tale the media was only too happy to tell. Flannery falls clearly in the Curran/Kung camp.

    I note, too, that Fr. Ruff’s call for humility goes only one way. There is no call to humility for the likes of Flannery.

    Finally, Fr. Ruff’s piece ignores the many problems posed for the Church by Catholic priests and theologians who use their position to attack Catholic teaching in the media. Such attacks, at the very least, undermine faith in the Church. If one believes what the Church teaches, one can also argue that such attacks imperil souls.

  6. These are courageous priests and theologians who speak out on the part of many. To use a familiar phrase, we, the people, deserve to be heard and in the present circumstances our voices are not being heard, we require others to do so for us. We must continue to support them with our comments and our prayers and when there are attempts to silence their voices, raise our own in support of their pleas to be heard without fear of interdict.
    That is not dissent, it is a community searching together for a way forward on our Christian pilgrimage

  7. In essentialibus, unitas.
    In dubiis, libertas.
    In omnibus, caritas.
    In matters essential, let there be unity.
    In matters uncertain, freedom.
    In all matters, charity.
    But perhaps Vox Clara would not be happy …

  8. Here is another interpretation or approach to this event (supports some of what Fr. Ruff has written about scapegoating):

    http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2013/01/association-of-catholic-priests-supports-tony-flannery/

    – “The effort to depict him as ‘disloyal’ and ‘dissident’ is unwarranted and unfair, but also extremely ill-advised in the present pastoral context in Ireland.
    The ACP is disturbed by the procedures evident in this case: the unwillingness to deal directly with the accused person; the injunction to secrecy; the presumption of guilt; the lack of due process. They suggest a callousness and even brutality that is in sharp contrast to the compassion of Jesus Christ.”
    – “There is a double standard at work when we preach the value and right of religious freedom to others and fail to honour them within our own Church.
    The Church attempts to preach justice to the wider society while our own internal processes are lacking in justice.”
    – “We believe it is part of a worldwide effort to negate the influence of independent priests’ associations in Austria, USA, Germany, France, Switzerland and other places. The directive of the CDF, through the Redemptorist authorities, placing Fr Flannery under a formal precept of obedience not to attend the AGM of the ACP last November seems to confirm this view.”

    The Irish Redemptorist Provincial Team has released a statement in support of Flannery.

    Shades of the Australian Bishop William Morris shenanigans.

  9. The question does deal with honesty. Fr. Flannery is a religious and a priest who made a promise of obedience on the day of his vows and later ordination. All priests have an obligation to obey their bishops & religious superiors (PO 7) and teach what the hierarchical Church believes and teaches (LG 25). Additionally, as a religious, the Holy Father is his “highest superior” (CCL 590: 2).

    Missing from the discussion thus far is the obligation the bishops have to protect the Church from scandal and clerics/religious who might use their position within the Church to misdirect the faithful. These are clerics, religious, or even lay Church professionals who’ve chosen to ignore the council’s call for “religious submission of mind and will” to the hierarchical Church (LG 25). They then risk teaching without ecclesiastical mandate.

    It would seem, however, that having received the council’s teaching, the bishops are doing what the council asked them to do. In the Council Fathers’ words they are “vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock” (LG 25). It is to this & similar teachings of Vatican II that Fr. Flannery and others seem to object.

    Ironically, Fr. Flannery really loses no rights per se. He can choose to continue to honor his promises of obedience or he can seek to return to the lay state which would relieve him of the obligation toward obedience that the priesthood & vowed religious life in the Church entails. In the lay state Fr. Flannery can continue to write, speak, and teach to all who will listen without confusing the faithful into thinking he teaches with an ecclesiastical mandate. Continuing to promote positions contrary to what the hierarchical Church believes and teaches while presenting oneself as a priest & religious in communion with his bishop and the pope is where dishonesty risks presenting itself.

    1. @Daniel McKernan – comment #11:

      Missing from the discussion thus far is the obligation the bishops have to protect the Church from scandal and clerics/religious who might use their position within the Church to misdirect the faithful.

      I doubt, Daniel, that most of the faithful are entirely clueless about discord in the Church. I’m sure that not a few of the Catholic faithful have met a woman Anglican priest or Protestant pastor, learned from her preaching, and enjoyed her friendship. People of good will are just that.

      A certain point arrives when compartmentalization and anathematization clashes with charity and amity. I perceive that Fr. Flannery is a good priest, a good man, who has lived beyond the manicured garden of “orthodoxy”. It’s hard to return to this garden once a person’s life is touched by others. How many priests, religious, and even laity must be silenced or excommunicated for the sake of a contrary-to-human-subjectivity, mechanical Catholicism which exists only in the minds of a few self anointed guardians of faith?

  10. As a nearly lifelong Catholic (I was born and raised in the Lutheran tradition), and having been in rebellion against the Church’s teachings in morals such as sexuality and divorce, after prayer and reflection and lived experiences, I have come to understand the Church’s teachings and have submitted in humbleness. I know that it pains many who post here that the Church is saying that our behaviors are against our true nature as sons and daughters of God and that if we continue in those behaviors, we will separate ourselves from God for eternity. My experience is that God is indeed merciful and that if we truly acknowledge our sinfulness and bring it to Christ in the sacrament of Confession and really work to avoid these sins, we can become holy. Unfortunately, the culture and to some degree, the progressive mindset is that holiness either doesn’t matter or it can be attained by just being “who you are”, which seems to be behind much of the dissent. For example, I don’t believe that anyone actively supporting abortion represents a life on the journey to God. Those individuals may be naive or they may truly be evil in their intent. But Christ can forgive even sins that on face value are unforgivable, if we only recognize them and commit our lives to the love of God and our neighbor (which does not mean confirming them in sin).

    One other point – I have been in the corporate world pretty much my entire life. I’m pretty sure I would not have a job if I publicly dissented against my company’s leadership. I’m not quite sure why many believe that dissent against the Church should be tolerated or even embraced. I for one, believe that the Church has well reasoned teachings, supported by tradition, Scripture and the natural law and what kind of pride (and even arrogance) must I have had to question those in the “screwed-up” times of my life?

    1. @Randy Schreiner – comment #14:
      You write:
      “Unfortunately, the culture and to some degree, the progressive mindset is that holiness either doesn’t matter or it can be attained by just being ‘who you are’, which seems to be behind much of the dissent.”

      This is slander – or to use your word, arrogance. For those in the “progressive mindset” you don’t think like you, holiness doesn’t matter?? Good grief. You think those who dissent just think you should “be who you are” and don’t need grace or conversion?? Good heavens. Your glib judgment of others is breathtaking.

      awr

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #16:
        Father Ruff, it’s pretty apparent you don’t want someone like me posting here since I’m upsetting you and I will refrain from doing so in the future. We come from two different mindsets, and maybe worldviews on how we make this spiritual journey. I have taken some time to read your blog without doing much posting and trying to understand other points of view, but I wonder if the chasm is too great for reaching common ground, other than to pray for each other and wish each other well which I will do for you. I do take it very personally when others attack the Church that I love and I feel it is necessary to stand up for Her whenever I am able.

        One final point – did your response to me constitute an ad hominem attack? While I was referring to progressives, I certainly didn’t address any specific individual, where your response was absolutely directed to me.

  11. Because one person’s honesty about convictions that seemed to many (even to those in the best position to make such judgments) to be contrary to church doctrine has at times been the catalyst that stimulated authenthic development of doctrine or a better understanding of what a doctrine really states, even the most “conservative” among us — and certainly those who embrace the role of orthodoxy in faith and doctrine — should value such honesty.

    Murray, mentioned above, is one clear case among many. All it took was his looking at the question of religious freedom in different terms, asking different questions, than those commonly used within the church; what resulted were conclusions initially taken by the highest Vatican officials to be heterodox, but which were soon recognized as legitimate doctrinal development.

    Which of today’s dissenters will one day be recognized by the entire church for the contribution they made to the church’s doctrinal patrimony? Who seems to be “preaching heresy” today, when what they’re really doing is asking different questions about a thorny issue than the tradition has taught us to ask?

    Surely not every dissenter on every issue. Some heretics will always will be just that. But history suggests that not all of them will. We should approach the question with great humility.

  12. To my mind, it seems useless to endlessly debate secondary or even tertiary issues such as ordination of women, homosexuality, abortion, etc, etc, etc when more fundamental issues are what need to be addressed. It seems to me that none of these questions will be resolved until we have a common understanding of what makes one Catholic as opposed to non-Catholic, and who has the authority to determine who is or isn’t Catholic.

    1. @Jonathan Ziegler – comment #18:
      I agree with Jonathan that it’s useless to endlessly debate secondary or tertiary issues – although I don’t mean to coopt him into agreeing with me or my post because I don’t know if he does.

      Part of our disagreement is about whether or not some of these issues are secondary or tertiary, and whether or not that makes them deal-breakers or issues on which there is room for disagreement.

      I tried very hard in the post to say that it is NOT about anyone’s position on women’s ordination, homosexuality, contraception, but more fundamental issues about what is going on in our Church and how we handle difference of opinion among Catholics of good will. I hope it is useful for people like me to try to move the discussion forward by naming as accurately as possible what is going on.

      My (fairly weak) conclusion was that when disagreement is this broad and this widespread, the most immediate solution isn’t to insist that either side just change its mind – since that isn’t going to happen – but for the hierarchy to back off a bit and just hold the thing together and respect all the various opinions a bit more. I suppose this is just stalling or buying time. But it seems more loving and charitable. Maybe with time, there will be more consensus, or more clarity about some things. Maybe not… but until then, more charity and respect and justice and humility from the hierarchy would still be a good thing.

      awr

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #20:

        I’ve written and erased a response several times, but I’m having trouble making a cogent comment. All I know is that for me personally, it’s the lack of clarity one way or another on what the Church is, who is in it, and what we have to do to be/remain in it is what is pushing me away from Catholicism. When depending on the priest I can either be or not be in mortal sin and either shouldn’t or could receive communion, how can there not already be a schism?

      2. I hear you. It’s a tough time to be a Catholic, for all of us on all “sides” of these many issues. It just is. Part of having faith in the Church is accepting that you belong to her in this time and place, the messy way it is; I can’t decide I’d rather be a Catholic in 1950 or 1980 or 1280. I don’t mean to preach at you – I try to apply this to myself, and some days it’s pretty difficult.

        I think there is something like a virtual schism in our Church, just as there is in the Anglican Communion and the various Protestant Churches. Our hierarchical structure, and our highly centralized polity (as of now, it wasn’t always this way in our past history) have not at all saved us from the problems of Anglicanism and Protestantism – it has just changed how we deal with it. In fact, some of the Protestant churches are less divided than we are. We have a hierarchy that claims to speak for all of us and claims to have the final truth, but we don’t have anything like agreement with that in the Church at large.

        Keep the faith. Corragio!
        awr

  13. a way of making people say what they don’t believe or not say what they do believe… and then, what is one to think of the tenets of our faith? One is led to wonder. Are they also mere words not backed by belief? Is the whole thing a sham? That’s one danger of those efforts to maintain the appearance of unity in everything: they reduce credibility even in essentials.

    The raw data for the 2005 Gallup survey of American Catholics… Among Catholics who go to Mass weekly or more often … nearly half (48.2%) support women’s ordination to the priesthood. That’s centered on the church in the US, but the Catholic church cannot make such changes in a single country, and I am far from sure that women’s ordination is so popular world-wide. It could be premature. I keep hoping that people will change their focus to women deacons, a question on which there is a small window of opportunity.

    the obligation the bishops have to protect the Church from scandal : I cannot believe this comment. You’re talking about Ireland in 2013. Do you realize what those words call to mind?? (Hint: think “sexual abuse cover-up”).

  14. Fr Ruff

    Perhaps your perspective comes from the perspective of a Benedictine monk, who takes a vow of stability, and whose order has an abbatial tradition that takes that vow into account. IIRC, the Dominicans have have a somewhat different but not altogether unrelated tradition where superiors are supposed to express a request a third time with great care, as at that point the request obliges. In each tradition, there is an awareness of the need for caution in the use of authority because it’s not only the obliged one who has to live with the consequences, but the entire community, including the abbot, for the rest of each’s life. One of the problems with the use of power by bishops and pastors today is that they often DON’T have to live in close range with the results for the rest of their lives, as they are likely to be transferred (all the more likely if they are docile to the desiderata of their superiors up the chain). The wisdom of stability – and of old canons that traditionally forbade transfers – is that a cook has to eat his cooking too. This is one indicator that the use of power in the Church is more informed by ideas from the modern nation state and multi-national conglomerate enterprise than more traditional Catholic values.

  15. I have been in the corporate world pretty much my entire life. I’m pretty sure I would not have a job if I publicly dissented against my company’s leadership.

    A corporation, a company, a business, are images for the church that are conspicuously absent from scripture and tradition. They convey an incorrect perspective, which then risks leading to unorthodox views. If you want to think the right way, consider the range of images mentioned in the catechism, 753-757. (For example, the Church as “our mother”.)

    1. @Claire Mathieu – comment #23:
      I need to respond, since this was addressed to me. Do we actively disparage our Mother or try to undermine Her authority? As I indicated, my assent came as a result of stages of rebellion and dissent against the teachings of the Church, and as a result of careful study and prayer and comparison to my life experiences where I’ve found what the Church teaches, at least to me, true and beautiful and reflects the loving plan of salvation that God has for all of us.

  16. threatened with excommunication

    Really? What for? In the recent past the people who have heard that threat are people who have not merely said things that the Vatican didn’t like, but have also taken action – participate in a woman’s ordination for example. One has to actually do something to trigger that threat.

    What has Fr Flannery done? Cofounded the Association of Catholic Priests. So that, not his writings, is what earned him the CDF’s anger.

  17. What is Core to American Catholics in 2011?
    http://ncronline.org/node/27165

    Results from the latest version of American Catholics is the fifth in a series of surveys of Catholic attitudes conducted every six years. (I think the 2005 report by Gallup referred to above was part of this series) They make up one of the deepest and most consistent portraits ever compiled of the membership of the country’s largest religious denomination. Interviewing took place April 25-May 2, 2011.Results based on the full sample of 1,442 Catholics have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points

    …almost three-quarters (73 percent) say that “belief in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead” is very important to them personally, and close to two-thirds say that the church’s teachings about Mary as the mother of God (64 percent), and the sacraments such as the Eucharist (63 percent) are also very important. It is noteworthy that helping the poor is almost as core to Catholics’ identity as their belief in Jesus’ resurrection, with 67 percent rating this dimension of Catholicism as very important.

    Additionally, almost half (46 percent) say that having a regular daily prayer life is very important, and more than a third (36 percent) see devotional activities such as participation in eucharistic adoration or praying the rosary as very important to them as Catholics.

    By contrast …Catholics have less regard for the Vatican’s teaching authority. Fewer than one in three (30 percent) says that the Vatican’s teaching authority is very important to them, 46 percent say it is somewhat important, and 20 percent say that it is not important at all.

    Large majorities say that a person can be a good Catholic without going to church every Sunday (78 percent), without obeying the church hierarchy’s teaching on birth control (78 percent), without their marriage being approved by the church (72 percent), and without obeying the church hierarchy’s teaching on divorce and remarriage (69 percent). Though still well over a majority, fewer Catholics agree that one can be a good Catholic without obeying church teaching on abortion (60 percent).

    Although the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have been highly involved over several decades in articulating the church’s opposition to abortion, fewer than half of American Catholics, 40 percent, say that the church’s teachings opposing abortion are very important to them personally. And even fewer say that the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage (35 percent) and the death penalty (29 percent) are very important.

    Similarly, Catholics also see the current structure of the church, despite its centuries-old tradition, as relatively unimportant to their identity as Catholics. Most strikingly, only one in five Catholics (21 percent) says that a celibate, male clergy is very important to them as Catholics, and almost half (46 percent) say that it is not important at all. By the same token, close to two-thirds (62 percent) indicate support for women in the role of priests in the church, and 75 percent express support for women as deacons

    Although American Catholics like most Americans are religious, like most Americans, Catholics just don’t see “rules” and “specific beliefs” and “authority” as being very important to their religiosity.

  18. Fr John Naugle writes: “The Profession of Faith (with its concluding formula) makes it impossible for one to hold dissenting opinions regarding the reservation of priestly ordination to men only, the immorality of homosexual acts, etc. etc.”

    I think this is post Ad Tuendam Fidem. In any case custom is the interpreter of law and something is difficult to characterize as “dissent” if it is the view of most of the faithful and most of the clergy.

    “He promised to accept the faith in its entirety and to pass it on in its entirety.”

    So you regard the Vatican views on sex ethics etc etc as part of an eternal deposit of faith.

    “he is no longer suitable.”

    I think his many years of sterling service (can you match them) speak against this.

    “His conscience is not being violated; he is simply being forced to admit what his current intentions are.”

    He is not being forced to admit, he is being pressurized to unsay what he has openly said. I share his views on the contested issues fully, and if the authorities think I am therefore unworthy let them say so. If they asked me to sign any document I would refuse. Their behavior is not only immoral, it is ridiculous and is sinking the church in Ireland.

    Don’t quote that Bolt play without recalling how viciously Thomas More burnt innocent peasants for possessing Tyndale’s Bible.

  19. I’m pretty sure I would not have a job if I publicly dissented against my company’s leadership.

    I’m pretty sure a mother would not kick her son out of the family even if he publicly “dissented” against her leadership. In a family, that would be a completely disproportionate reaction.

    Do we actively disparage our Mother or try to undermine Her authority?

    As an adult, the more authentic, intimate exchanges with my mother came when I took it upon myself to express, sometimes forcefully, my disagreement with her views (at the times when I disagreed.) Mutedness produces distance since it prevents us from searching together for common ground.

  20. “One may certainly withhold assent while questioning respectfully.”

    But, Fr Naugle, that is precisely what Tony Flannery is forbidden to do. He must write an essay and publish it stating that he assents to the contested doctrines. If you cannot recognize in this a violation of conscience, perhaps you need to ponder on the following florilegium:

    “He who acts against his conscience loses his soul.” (Fourth Lateran council, 1215)

    “It is better to perish in excommunication than to violate one’s conscience.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)

    “I shall drink . . To Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards.” (Cardinal John Henry Newman) “If Newman places conscience above authority, he is not proclaiming anything new with respect to the constant teaching of the Church.” (Pope John Paul II)

    “In the final analysis, conscience is inviolable and no person is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his/her conscience, as the moral tradition of the Church attests.” (Human Life in Our Day, U.S. Bishops Pastoral)

    “A human being must always follow the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were to deliberately act against it he would condemn himself.” Catechism of the Catholic Church #1790)

    “We follow church leaders only to the extent that they themselves follow Christ. . . Some situations oblige one to obey God and one’s own conscience rather than the leaders of the church. Indeed, one may even be obliged to accept excommunication rather than act against one’s own conscience.” (Cardinal Walter Kasper, Head of Ecumenical Matters at the Vatican.)

  21. “Mutedness produces distance since it prevents us from searching together for common ground.”

    This is very true of all human organizations. The fear in the air is palpable in our muted church.

  22. “It seems that the authorities, knowing full well of this diversity of views among priests, theologians, and laypeople, are willing to single out one person as a way of pressuring the others to remain silent. It seems that the authorities are willing to make lots of people take oaths they obviously don’t fully believe in, and thus be complicit in pressuring them to violate their conscience, as a way of making people say what they don’t believe or not say what they do believe. The Church becomes, then, a place where one cannot be honest. This is a problem.”

    But what can be done about this dynamic? I have felt the pressure – as, I expect, has anyone who has stood up in a church and taken wedding vows: making promises that, in one’s heart of hearts, even if one sincerely means what he is saying, perhaps are made while unsure that he can really do it for the rest of his life. And perhaps doesn’t really mean it in all sincerity. Then why make the promises? Perhaps because the cost seems high to not go through with the ceremony?

    Yet in my view, these promises must be made, and they must be made publicly. And if they are broken, there must be consequences. Some people are genuinely scandalized (in both senses of that word) when there are no consequences; it’s a question of justice. (Justice cuts both ways on these questions of dissent).

    In saying this, I don’t defend the specific processes that are used to investigate and punish. They should be more transparent. They should be more fair. They should be less adversarial. There should be much more dialogue than there is. It is up to the church authorities to improve its processes. But I do think that the elements I’ve mentioned here: public promises, and proportional consequences for not abiding by them – are essential.

  23. Hello Jim @comment 34,

    In saying this, I don’t defend the specific processes that are used to investigate and punish. They should be more transparent. They should be more fair. They should be less adversarial. There should be much more dialogue than there is. It is up to the church authorities to improve its processes. But I do think that the elements I’ve mentioned here: public promises, and proportional consequences for not abiding by them – are essential.

    This strikes me as the most sensible summation of the issue I have seen here.

    Reform the processes (which are all too often too opaque) by all means. But vows freely taken must have force, at some point. It would be a great tragedy of Fr. Flannery felt himself no longer capable of fulfilling those vows (the desired solution). But if this is truly the case, he has an honorable alternative available to him.

  24. Hello Fr. O’Leary,

    A sidebar, but a necessary one:

    Don’t quote that Bolt play without recalling how viciously Thomas More burnt innocent peasants for possessing Tyndale’s Bible.

    There were precisely six people burned at the stake for heresy during More’s chancellorship: Thomas Hitton, Thomas Bilney, Richard Bayfield, John Tewkesbery, Thomas Dusgate, and James Bainham. None of them were peasants, and each did more than merely possess proscribed scriptural translations. They were educated men who knew what they doing, and were given every opportunity to avoid such punishment by More, who did not want to see them burned. But More’s actions in this regard were the discharge of his duty as the chief minister of the civil power (the kingdom of Henry VIII), just as were executions for other crimes. And those punishments did not contravene Church teaching as it stood at that time.

    And those who would stand in judgment of St. Thomas for his actions in this regard might profitably ponder how future generations of Catholics will judge elected and appointed civil officials of our time who endorse and administer a legal regime that permits and even subsidizes the killing of over one million dead unborn children in the U.S. every single year.

  25. there is something like a virtual schism in our Church, just as there is in the Anglican Communion and the various Protestant Churches. Our hierarchical structure, and our highly centralized polity (as of now, it wasn’t always this way in our past history) have not at all saved us from the problems of Anglicanism and Protestantism – it has just changed how we deal with it. In fact, some of the Protestant churches are less divided than we are.

    We are moving into a postdenominational age just as we have moved into a postindustrial age. The hierarchical communication and identity structures of the industrial age are being superseded.

    Not only do we have an extensive pattern of switching membership among Protestant denominations, we have a growing number of nondenomination congregations and congregations which deemphasize their denominational affiliations.

    Sects and schisms were the old way that Protestantism grew. However today’s community and mega churches have stayed away from denominational controversies and focused upon the needs of their members. These are where the growth is. The denominations on the left and right that are fighting and splitting are wasting their energy and are no longer the centers of growth.

    Moreover we have the case of what Gallup calls the disappearing “Protestants.” If one is a non-Catholic Christian over age sixty, one is likely to say “yes” to the question “Are you a Protestant?” But those under sixty are likely to say “no”. Many people say they are “Christians” or “other Christians.” Gallup thinks the word Protestant may disappear as a self identification. It is going out of fashion. We might say it is a relic of the industrial age of Christianity. Gallup defines Protestants as non-Catholic Christians.

    Maybe we also have an as yet unrecognized case of the “disappearing Catholics.” CARA has challenged the conventional sociological notion that Catholics leaving the church have been balanced out by immigration. CARA says the numbers don’t add up; CARA thinks some Catholics are returning.

    Perhaps Catholics are not so much in industrial terms “leaving the Church” and “returning to the Church” but rather in postindustrial terms “constantly rethinking their relationship to Catholicism.” They may both be “Christian” rather than “Catholic” by being an active member of a Protestant congregation, but also be “Catholic” by taking communion at family weddings and funerals. They might despise the bishops but love the nuns.

  26. From the recent New York Times article about Fr Flannery:

    In the letter, the Vatican objected in particular to an article published in 2010 in Reality, an Irish religious magazine. In the article, Father Flannery, a Redemptorist priest, wrote that he no longer believed that “the priesthood as we currently have it in the church originated with Jesus” or that he designated “a special group of his followers as priests.”

    Instead, he wrote, “It is more likely that some time after Jesus, a select and privileged group within the community who had abrogated power and authority to themselves, interpreted the occasion of the Last Supper in a manner that suited their own agenda.”

    This view would seem, among other things, to be in contradiction with the teaching of Vatican II, in Presbyterorum Ordinis 2 and Lumen Gentium 19-21 (as well as the Council of Trent, session 23, in particular canon 3).

    So if “emblematic of our era” refers to denying the teaching of Vatican II while simultaneously claiming to be true to the same Council’s “spirit”, then, regrettably, I suppose Fr Flannery fits the bill.

    As for his calling a news conference to openly declare his dissent, I find that rather distasteful to say the least. Is the poor man really that starved for attention that he needs the secular press to affirm his stance of sticking it to the man?

  27. The issue of dissent on contraception is very “close to home” for me – my wife and I have loyally tried to adhere to the Church’s teaching on the matter and, in the 10 years of our married life, shunned artificial methods of birth control. NFP hasn’t worked for us. But we have joyfully accepted – and love- the 4 children God has sent us, and will likewise love the 5th that arrives in 3 months, as also any others God is pleased to send us in the maybe 10 years of fertility probably left to us. However, we follow out of loyalty to the Church and her magisterium – trusting that she could not so seriously mislead her people for so long. It would be a great deal easier for us – in terms of our marriage, not mention financially – if we could use contraception. Indeed, nearly everyone does – including nearly all Catholics we know. We’re “out of step” and it shows, and it hurts, but we cannot in conscience violate the Church’s teaching. Now…and this is something my wife and I have discussed….what if one day the Church reversed her teaching. Where would that leave people like us? Would it not be spitting on our sacrifices and loyalty? “You could have had the BMW and the house with a pool and the annual holiday and the label clothing and the affluent lifestyle, as the sacrifices you made in eschewing contraception were really unnecessary!”. Now I wouldn’t change my kids for all the wealth in the world, but I’m not so sure I would have followed this lifestyle if the Church hadn’t taught it. And I would feel my sacrifices were for nothing and my obedience and loyalty mocked, if the Church “backtracked”. I would wonder if, indeed, the Church had any authority, if what it taught could just be reversed. This touches me intimately and I’m afraid, being human, I have little patience for those who choose the easy way. My own sins are of a different category (and no doubt worse!)

    1. @Nicholas Mitchell – comment #39:

      Nicholas,

      Thank you for your witness… you are able to convey the riches of the truth on the Church’s teaching about contraception in a way that I and many others cannot. Please continue sharing it!

      We’re “out of step” and it shows, and it hurts, but we cannot in conscience violate the Church’s teaching. Now…and this is something my wife and I have discussed….what if one day the Church reversed her teaching. Where would that leave people like us? Would it not be spitting on our sacrifices and loyalty?

      You are actually “in step” by having and following a well-formed conscience and it’s the majority that is “out of step”. The Church cannot and will not change her stance (to the dismay of that majority) so please don’t worry that your sacrifice will be for naught.

      Please say a prayer for priests and for those studying to become priests (my own state currently) — as the discussion here evidences, priesthood has its challenges too.

      Let us pray for each other.

      1. @Clarence Goodwright – comment #58:
        Thank you for your encouraging words, Clarence, I do appreciate them…will certainly pray for you and for all seminarians, and I am grateful for your prayers too.

  28. I’ve followed this discussion from a distance because I wanted to survey the arguments that have been put forth on either side.

    A lot depends on what one thinks is going on. In the end, I think that those who have pointed to Fr. Flannery’s place in the ACP are right: this is NOT about applying discipline. There are plenty of other priests who have done and said these things and worse and remain untouched. This is about “decapitating” the ACP by removing, in disgrace, one of its co-founders.

    The ACP is a valuable and important organization; it should not be harassed. The existence of priests’ organizations in general is important, and a sign of the times.

    1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #40:
      “this is NOT about applying discipline. There are plenty of other priests who have done and said these things and worse and remain untouched. This is about “decapitating” the ACP by removing, in disgrace, one of its co-founders.”

      I can’t help but think that Fr. Flannery has a responsibility to the association he co-founded. Was he thinking about this when he wrote what he did? Anyone who has been around the block knows that the surefire way to marginalize oneself in the church’s version of the public square is to press one (or more) of these hot-button issues. If he is reckless with his own vocation and career – well, that is his affair. But why jeopardize the reputation of the association?

  29. “I’m pretty sure I would not have a job if I publicly dissented against my company’s leadership.”

    Given the appalling lack of competence in many companies, there might be a lot of people who would still have jobs if dissent in the workplace were accepted.

    It would be curious to see if new bishops, upon entering a diocese, were willing to sign a document pledging loyalty to the local Church, chiefly in terms of transparency and the administration of sexual predators. Do you suppose many bishops would tolerate such a thing?

    To a degree, this issue is about pride. In some contexts pride is not such a good thing. But if it’s bad for a priest, it might well be worse for a bishop, esconced as he usually is by sycophants in the bureaucracy.

    Speaking as a parish minister, I find dissent to be an invaluable check on my worst instincts. Roman Catholicism could do far worse than have organizations of parish priests tweaking the bishops. Any bishop who wouldn’t welcome such a thing should be investigated for emotional immaturity.

  30. Abp Di Noia, vice-president of the CDF, recently sent a public letter to the SSPX. Excerpts:

    … the terms of our disagreement concerning Vatican Council II have remained … unchanged. With magisterial authority, the Holy See has consistently maintained that the documents of the Council must be interpreted in the light of Tradition and the Magisterium and not vice versa, while the Fraternity has insisted that certain teachings of the Council are erroneous … The three years of doctrinal dialogues just concluded, though permitting a fruitful airing of views on specific issues, did not fundamentally alter this situation.

    Even if we are convinced that our perspective on a particular disputed question is the true one, we … may propose and seek to exert influence, but we must not disrespect or act against legitimate local authorities. We need to respect the proper fora of different types of issues: it is the faith that should be preached from our pulpits, not the latest interpretation of what we take to be problematic about a magisterial document.

    Donum Veritatis … states that a theologian “may raise questions regarding the timeliness, the form, or even the contents of magisterial interventions”… but a theologian should “not present his own opinions or divergent hypotheses as though they were non-arguable conclusions. … the theologian will refrain from giving untimely public expression to them”

    The SSPXers are contesting magisterial teaching much more loudly and fundamentally than Fr Flannery. They are canonically inhibited but, as far as I can tell, are neither forcibly laicised nor formally silenced. The letter, as a whole, seems thoroughly eirenic. Hardly the “there’s the door, go join the Anglicans” attitude that some claim the CDF is taking.

    I know that the SSPX situation is complex. How does the CDF’s treatment of this group compare with its treatment of the ACP and of Fr Flannery?

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #42:

      Jonathan: The SSPXers are contesting magisterial teaching much more loudly and fundamentally than Fr Flannery. They are canonically inhibited but, as far as I can tell, are neither forcibly laicised nor formally silenced. The letter, as a whole, seems thoroughly eirenic. Hardly the “there’s the door, go join the Anglicans” attitude that some claim the CDF is taking.

      I think it comes down to this: the SSPX aren’t pushing hot buttons such as women’s ordination, the place of LGBT people in the Church, and the status quo on Humanae Vitae (in fact, the SSPX reject NFP!) However, I agree that there’s a level of institutional Church hypocrisy here. Some prelates tacitly accept that the SSPX spews anti-Semitism and openly denigrates conciliar documents. The SSPX can get away with this so long as they stay on the right side of the road (or left, in your case) with regards to theological, ontological, and moral theological positions which do not threaten the Vatican power structure. Fr. Flannery, who is likely a kind and generous priest who is attempting to respond to difficult pastoral issues in love, has dissented on points vulnerable to the institutional Church.

      If Msgr. Fellay gets face time with the Pope and curial officials, it’s about time that Fr. Flannery, the ACP, and similar national reform associations get a word in at San Pietro. I don’t think that anything Fr. Flannery or his brother priests will say will change Vatican minds, but at least there’ll be a facade of concern for both the Left and Right.

    2. @Jonathan Day – comment #42:
      I am surprised no one has pick up on your statements or reflections. There are two sides to the coin of dissent in the Church. What needs to be asked though is which is worse? Many say the SSPX is a better form of dissent for it bases its life and theology on what most Catholics accepted prior to Vatican II, it hasn’t invented anything new except its rejection of the authority of Vatican II but in a very narrow way of a couple of documents. But it has rejected outright the authority of the pope, especially as it regards the selection and ordination of bishops, which seems to be more serious but more so from a discipline point of view rather than dogmatic.
      The other side proposes things that seem to touch more on doctrine as well as discipline, especially the issues of sexuality, ordination of women, birth control and pro-choice ideologies as well as same sex marriage. The other group also challenges the status quo in terms of who is ordained either priest or bishop and how these are selected, which is more discipline rather than doctrine except when it comes to women’s ordination.
      Obviously the groups similar to SSPX are highly organized and have pulled off a rather large “so-called” break with the Church, although the Holy Father has tried mightily hard to keep them in and at the same time challenge some of their presumptions about Vatican II which they reject.
      The other side is highly disorganized and fragmented and have no bishops organizing them as Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre organized his group and made sure other bishops were put in place to keep it going.
      In terms of rupture though, the disorganized side seems to have sunk very deep into it whereas the SSPX’s side only dances with it and in specific areas of bucking Vatican II and current popes. It seems to me that the SSPX is more like the Eastern Orthodox in terms of rejecting certain aspects of papal authority and the authority of a particular ecumenical council (after all the Orthodox not only reject papal authority over the whole Church but every Ecumenical Council since the Great Schism, yet ecumenism with them is more fruitful than with other break away groups). We can’t say that about dissenting groups in Austria, Ireland or our own country. Their dissent is more Protestant than Orthodox, so to speak.

      1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #66:
        Fr Allan, my experience of the SSPX is very limited – a Mass and homily at St Nicolas du Chardonnet, some of their internet presence, and the film La Guerre Perdue du Vatican, where they play a significant role. My sense is that they encompass a wide range of views and have their own “conservative” and “progressive” wings.

        However, as you say, most SSPXers do seem to embrace ideas that were in wide circulation 150 years ago. That doesn’t mean the ideas are either right or wrong.

        Broadly speaking the views I have seen and heard from SSPXers include: accusing the Jews of “deicide”, with the antisemitism that goes with that; outright rejection of religious liberty; condemnation of democracy and a call for a return to Catholic royalty; utter rejection of any ecumenical initiative whatsoever. Most see no merit whatsoever in the Mass of Paul VI; some see it as utterly heretical.

        I see no hint of willingness on the part of the SSPX to engage in dialogue with the Vatican about these matters. Fr Flannery, in contrast, seems to be saying simply that he wants the ordination of women to remain in discussion. Has he participated in female ordinations, as Fr Bourgeois did?

        I therefore don’t see the symmetry that Richard mentions, between the treatment of the SSPX and that of Fr Flannery and the ACP. Pope Benedict seems to be treating the SSPX with softer gloves than he is Fr Flannery; and the offences of the SSPX against doctrine and church unity seem far worse to me.

      2. @Jonathan Day – comment #69:

        Jonathan: Fr Allan, my experience of the SSPX is very limited – a Mass and homily at St Nicolas du Chardonnet, some of their internet presence, and the film La Guerre Perdue du Vatican, where they play a significant role. My sense is that they encompass a wide range of views and have their own “conservative” and “progressive” wings.

        The SSPX’s connection with the Front National (FN, reactionary-xenophobic far Right French political party) likely complicates the way in which the Vatican handles their irregular situation. I suspect the SSPX-FN connection was stronger under founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, but less strong now under his successor, daughter Maxine. Factions of the French SSPX have not only pined for a fantasy repristinated “Catholic monarchy” but have also actively worked within modern French politics.

        The members of the ACP and similar Catholic reform groups may or may not be involved in political action. Certainly, members of these organizations, as citizens of their respective countries, are free to and perhaps even should criticize their governments. However, I suspect that the political tangents of these groups are not nearly as organized as the SSPX-FN bond.

        The SSPX, despite its prominent characteristics such as a revanchist stance on the Mass, profound anti-conciliar attitude, and anti-Semitism, has roots which have grown through other aspects of society. Perhaps this is why the Vatican has treaded cautiously on the group. However, and as I have said earlier, the Vatican’s sollicitude towards Msgr. Fellay does not, in my view, permit the Vatican to ignore reformers such as Fr. Flannery and the ACP. “Complexity” is subjective and not a qualifier.

  31. “You are a slow learner, Winston.”
    “How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”
    “Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”

  32. What puzzles me is this: many theologians … would dispute that Jesus explicitly instituted an ordained priesthood. If ordained priests are among those who believe that Jesus did not institute the ordained priesthood, what are they doing as priests? What do they think of the invented priesthood which they carry out?

    1. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #44:
      Jeffrey, hi. Am not sure what you mean by your question. This isn’t really a question of priesthood v. no priesthood. Many people devote their lives to things that Jesus did not specifically institute. Take religious life in all its forms. Or various eremetical patterns of life. Getting married. They do it because it is good to do, or because they feel called to it, or because they believe it will be a fruitful path for them to live out those things that Jesus did teach and exemplify. When you say “invented” it sounds like this = “phony” or “wicked.” There are other choices.

      1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #45:
        It was Fr. Flannery’s opinion (in 2010) that “a select and privileged group within the community who had abrogated power and authority to themselves, interpreted the occasion of the Last Supper in a manner that suited their own agenda.” There are other choices, indeed!

        My question, more specifically addressed, is this: Why does Fr. Flannery continue to belong to a priesthood which he considers most likely to be the creation of a group of power-and-authority-hungry elites with an agenda? Why doesn’t he align himself with whatever he believes the true priesthood to be?

      2. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #51:
        I think Fr Flannery is speaking of the bureaucracy connected to the Bishop of Rome.

        If he aligns with the “true priesthood,” perhaps he does so as a parish priest, and not as part of an institutional bureaucracy.

      3. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #51:
        Again, common reasoning (I don’t know Flannery’s own take on this) suggests that the reform of the institution requires it to relinquish such elements as he names.

        The context for his quoted comments is lacking in the article.

      4. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #51:
        Another p.s.

        It is possible that what he means about the Last Supper is the unproven assumption is that there were no women there. It is certainly true that misogynistic views of women were instrumental in interpreting the data left from apostolic times.

  33. “Part of our disagreement is about whether or not some of these issues are secondary or tertiary, and whether or not that makes them deal-breakers or issues on which there is room for disagreement.” (awr comment #20) (“virtual schism” awr comment #32)

    As this dialogue unfolded I could follow the ghost of this “deal breaker” image throughout. In comment after comment, absolute personal obedience to the heierarchy, assent to teachings on birth-control or homosexuality, women’s ordination- all are seen as part of not just the secondary, but the primary deposit of faith by some, and as well outside that central core by others. If all the good people who engage in this conversation disagree on what is part or not part of the core of Catholocism, isn’t that the definition of a state of schism? The only remaining question has been the same throughout history: which of us are the schismatics and which are the faithful?

  34. Hello Jonathan,

    They are canonically inhibited but, as far as I can tell, are neither forcibly laicised nor formally silenced.

    I don’t know *how* you would silence them short of a big roll of duct tape.

    That canonical inhibition is no small thing. SSPX priests cannot licitly celebrate the sacraments. They have no chance of being hired by a diocese or a seminary or theology school without they recant their views and leave the Society. These are no small disabilities to labor under, and they are certainly ones that Fr. Flannery would find outrageous, I suspect.

    Which is why a similar cry of “disproportion!” is heard from the SSPX. “The Tony Flannerys, the Richard McBriens, the Theresa Kanes continue to dissent from not only older Magisterial teachings but even from the text of the Council itself, and no one says ‘boo’ to them – and yet we are canonically inhibited, we are demanded to sign a doctrinal preamble!” Each side feels that Rome is targeting them disproportionately.

    And yet what Matthew Hazell says up above remains true. The Society finds certain statements of the Council to be erroneous. But so does Fr. Flannery. This is true of others who have not been disciplined, but if so, that merely seems to demand that they be similarly disciplined as well. The SSPX situation is complicated by the illicit episcopal consecrations (something always sure to get Rome’s attention), to be sure, but there is this basic commonality between them and the dissenters on the theological “Left.”

  35. Hello Jordan,

    If Msgr. Fellay gets face time with the Pope and curial officials, it’s about time that Fr. Flannery, the ACP, and similar national reform associations get a word in at San Pietro.

    I think this is a reasonable request, too – bit I also don’t expect either party’s minds to be changed one whit. The distance seems to be too vast.

  36. F/U to Rita’s & Todd’s comments – would suggest that we need to be more nuanced. For example: There is a significant difference between believing that priesthood is a sacrament, divinely inspired and what you may understand about the process the church experienced in coming to this realization. Simply, the core truth is shared; how it developed, its historical understandings, etc. are open to rational arguments, differences, etc. Think how the approach to scripture has changed with adoption of the historical criticism methods – still believe that scripture is inspired but realize that its composition, development, and understanding change over time. Issues such as women priest, celibacy, contraception are not *dogmas* – central, core beliefs.
    And on another note – many refer to *obedience* – keep in mind that *obedience* comes from the latin root – to listen to. It is a two way street; it implies servanthood; it is not top down hierarchical.

    Here is a helpful article by Rev. J. Komonchak on Newman – *Tacking on the Truth*: http://commonwealmagazine.org/tacking-toward-truth

    Some highlights that speak to the issues here:

    – Why, then, did their conscience not permit them to come into the church? “Certain great difficulties” were blocking their way, Newman said, similar to those that had prolonged his own journey, especially the contrast between formal teaching and popular and political manifestations of Catholic life.
    – The great instrument of Newman’s overcoming the obstacles was the distinction, set out in the preface, of three offices in the church—teaching, worshiping, and governing—that correspond to the three great offices of Christ as prophet, priest, and king. In the first respect, Christianity is a philosophy or theology, a body of beliefs; in the second, it is a worshiping community; in the third, it is an apostolic ministry. Each of these has its own guiding principle: truth for theology, devotion and edification for worship, and expedience for ruling. Reasoning is the instrument of the first, emotion of the second, and command and coercion of the third. Each of them runs its distinct danger: “reasoning tends to rationalism, devotion to superstition and enthusiasm, and power to ambition and tyranny.” It is difficult enough for the church to fulfill any one of these roles
    – if the church was promised the gift of infallibility, it was in her formal teaching, not in the realms of worship and political action. Only the gift of impeccability would preserve church leaders from mistakes in conduct, policy, words, and decisions, in her laws and administration, “and such a gift,” Newman dryly added, “they have not received.”
    – Catholic Christendom is no simple exhibition of religious absolutism, but presents a continuous picture of Authority and Private Judgment alternately advancing and retreating as the ebb and flow of the tide;
    – he was appalled by the level of education he found when he studied in Rome soon after his conversion, and decades later he would complain that “the system goes on by the tradition of the intellect of former times”; there was a prejudice against new work on ancient foundations, confirmed by fear of scandalizing the faithful. Catholic theological philosophers, he said, “move in a groove, and will not tolerate anyone who does not move in the same,” which is why he postponed publishing his Grammar of Assent for so long.
    – This lack of creativity was compounded by excessive reliance on the exercise of authority. Newman himself was second to none in regarding authority as a central principle in the very “idea” of Christianity. But for almost the whole of his Catholic life he had to devote a great deal of his energy to defending himself and others from the abuse of that great principle. In 1863 he warned against the actions of those who were “blind to the intellectual difficulties of the day. You cannot make men believe by force and repression. Were the Holy See as powerful in temporals, as it was, three centuries back, then you would have a secret infidelity instead of an avowed one—(which seems the worse evil) unless you train the reason to defend the truth.”
    – Today we appear to be undergoing, in as painful a form as any in our history, one of those moments that Newman anticipated, when grave scandals by church leaders are once again hiding from large numbers of people “the real sanctity, beauty, and persuasiveness of the church and her children.” Newman himself never permitted his own encounters with incomprehension, stupidity, and downright wickedness among his fellow Catholics, including among their leaders, to allow his own “admiration, trust, and love for Christ and his church” to diminish.

  37. Jim – think of Rev. Pflueger and St. Sabina’s. Realize you may not like him or his approach but where would folks be without Pflueger – has he in fact jeopardized St. Sabina’s or inspired it?

    Good point but it is more complicated than that?

    Or what about the 50+ Boston priests who demanded that Law resign or be replaced? What if they had not spoken out? What was better for the archdiocese of Boston?

    What is the responsibility? To seek what is true or to support an insstitution, or association?

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #57:
      Bill – as it happens, I admire Fr. Pfleger and his ministry. I don’t think I’ve ever criticized him or his work publicly. I’m just setting the record straight on that, as the church can sometimes be a very small place (in several ways :-)), and I wouldn’t want anyone to get the impression that I don’t like him or what he’s about.

      To my knowledge, neither Fr. Pfleger nor those Boston priests have openly dissented. Not toeing the company line is not the same as teaching or advocating something that contradicts what the church teaches. The three cases – Fr. Flannery, Fr. Pfleger and the Boston priests – seem to me to be pretty different from one another, so I’m not sure what other lessons can be drawn from them.

  38. Fr. Anthony raises some valid points, but one thing about Fr. Flannery’s article (which I read in the Times) jarred with me. It’s not a lengthy piece, but, by a quick count, Fr. Flannery uses the words “I”, “me” and “my” 51 times. He also uses “we” a few times when he seems to mean “me”. When he addresses the question of why, if he doesn’t agree with Catholic teaching, he doesn’t just stop being a Catholic, his response is: “Being a Catholic is central to my personal identity.” There is something askew here.

  39. Okay, but *dissent* can be a very broad term and can be applied by a whole host of folks. Pflueger has often been called out as a *dissenter*; Some questioned the Boston priests because they went public. Guess it is in the eyes of the beholder.

    Technically, many theologians, etc. would not call Flannery in dissent – he has not contradicted any dogmas. His focus is primarily on social issues that the church weighs in on (but they aren’t dogmas).

    It was the same for folks doing theology in central/south america – Boff, Guiterriez were accused of dissent but it was a disagreement about politics and the role of the church (JPII interpreted as too much marxism – good folks disagreed on that but you can do whatever you want as pope).

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #61: Technically, many theologians, etc. would not call Flannery in dissent – he has not contradicted any dogmas.

      Except for his denial (see above, comment #38) of certain de fide dogmas relating to the establishment of the episcopacy and priesthood stated bluntly by Trent, and elaborated on by Vatican II.

      Fr Flannery is in dissent, regardless of how “many theologians” might try to spin otherwise.

  40. Hello Jim @ comment#59,

    To my knowledge, neither Fr. Pfleger nor those Boston priests have openly dissented.

    Actually, Fr. Pfleger has. In April of 2010 he made a public statement advocating ordination of women as priests and bishops: “They had turned their backs on Him. They had left the One they had been with for three years, 24/7, and they ran away from Him when He most needed them. Only John, at the foot of the Cross and the women. That’s why there should be woman priests. That’s why there should be married priests. That’s why there should be women bishops and women cardinals.”

  41. Again, the issue of women being ordained is not *dogma*. (thus, let’s clarify and correct #62) Try as some in the curia and the current pope want to *invent* a new category of magisterial teaching – *definitive*:

    In 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a clarification, explaining that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, though “itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of the teaching of a doctrine already possessed by the Church…. This doctrine belongs to the deposit of the faith of the Church. The definitive and infallible nature of this teaching of the Church did not arise with the publication of the Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”.

    So, not infallible (ex cathedra) but can’t be discussed and this statement is authoritative & definitive (thus, infallible). Yet, this matter does not pertain to faith & morals but to a two thousand year tradition based upon fallible, human facts. Yet, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis gives no indication of what historical facts are sufficient to ensure infallibility by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, nor any indication of how those historical facts were verified. Because of these issues it is argued that, if it is indeed possible for the Church to ordain women to the priesthood, this would not contradict the Church’s dogma regarding infallible teachings.

    Over the last five years, thousands of responsible church leaders have spoken out about women’s ordination (just like Fr. Flannery). Yet, to date only a few have been threatened with the extreme actions directed at Fr. Flannery. Why? Could this be connected to what Rita states above?

  42. Bill @comment 63:

    Again, the issue of women being ordained is not *dogma*. (thus, let’s clarify and correct #62)…

    I’m sorry to be blunt, Bill, but what you’re really saying is this: “I think the Church ought to ordain women, therefore the teaching against it isn’t dogma.” Followed by a short rambling “creeping infallibility” discourse about why you find it unconvincing.

    The claim by Jim (presumably in good faith, based on his past comments here and elsewhere) was that “neither Fr. Pfleger nor those Boston priests have openly dissented.” Whether one approves of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and its antecedents or not, it has still been defined as belonging to the deposit of faith (as you yourself note), and it’s reasonable to say that public disagreement with it amounts to what what most would reasonably label as “open dissent.”

  43. No, Richard, I didn’t say that. Nor did the Pontifical Biblical Institute when Paul VI asked for a study on the scriptural basis for limiting ordnation to men.

    No, did not ramble (except in your mind).

    Good folks with good faith differ on this issue – to attempt to label some as heretical or in dissent; to try to excommunicate; to forbid discussion, (out of fear; stating that it creates scandal, confusion), etc. is not the tradition or history of the church.

    Allan – your SSPX comparison to good faith groups of priests such as ACP, Austria, Germany, etc. is insulting. But it fits your narrow, prejudiced hobbyhorses. You are well on your way to becoming the equivalent of Charles Coughlin of Macon. GA.

  44. Hello Jonathan,

    I see no hint of willingness on the part of the SSPX to engage in dialogue with the Vatican about these matters.

    I really do think that’s true of most of the Society at this point.

    There’s the “resistance,” which includes the Williamsonites, which is opposed to any deal with Rome until it “returns to Tradition.” Some of them are, I think, effectively crypto-sedevacantists. Bishop Fellay and his allies seem open to a deal – really tried to pursue one last year, once the Pope seemed eager to have one – but faced such resistance that they seem to be gun-shy of trying any more now.

    Fr Flannery, in contrast, seems to be saying simply that he wants the ordination of women to remain in discussion. Has he participated in female ordinations, as Fr Bourgeois did?

    On a charitable reading – certainly that’s possible.

    But every time I hear this plea for “discussion”…I just wonder what the point is. Because one senses that any discussion which does not produce the hoped for results – ordination of women – will be denounced as a farce. Positions seem hardened. I wonder if anyone would listen – and that goes for both sides, including Fr. Flannery.

    … Pope Benedict seems to be treating the SSPX with softer gloves than he is Fr Flannery; and the offences of the SSPX against doctrine and church unity seem far worse to me.

    Well, of course they do, Jonathan. 🙂

    I think that what I was trying to do was to paint how the Society perceives the situation. Every time they hear a statement like Fr. Flannery’s, they hammer out the sarcastic refrain: “But at least they are in ‘full communion.'” It is the idea that progressives have been allowed free rein for a few decades, but that *they* faced excommunication, the hammer.

    But that said, I *do* agree that Rome seems open to discussion with the SSPX in a way that it is not with the dissenters on the ‘left.’

    1. @Richard Malcolm – comment #70:
      I would agree with you also. There seems to be intransigence on both sides, but the Holy See is willing to dialogue with the SSPX, but I suspect it is because they are in “technical schism” as they have bishops and thus it is a matter of Church unity to bring the bishops back and thus all of those who are in union with those bishops.
      I would also agree that most on the left are not anti-Semitic or racists or the like as they embrace fully, (usually) the Church’s teachings on charity and certainly they accept Vatican II and post Vatican II attitudes about Jews, Christians separated from the full communion of the Church, other religions and non believers.
      As for the various priest’s groups, it would seem to me that the dialogue should be local with their own bishop first. I don’t see any bishops on the left as bold as Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was in being so deliberate as to defy the pope as he did.

    2. @Richard Malcolm – comment #70:
      Richard, I try to attribute good will and openness to listening to anyone here whose comments I engage with. I trust you are doing the same, i.e. not assuming that I find the SSPX more intransigent than the ACP simply because my general sympathies may appear more “progressive”.

      On the ordination of women: I have heard many thoughtful theologians discuss the issue in a non-militant and open way, even raising it while agreeing that nothing will happen for decades or even centuries. The interview with Metropolitan Kallistos is one example:

      http://www.stnina.org/node/376

      Another example would be the late Mary Douglas (google her name with “The Gender of the Beloved”), who opposed women’s ordination not on scriptural as much as symbolic grounds, but who made a strong case for greater involvement of women in non-sacramental leadership.

      So I think genuine dialogue is possible, dialogue that might bring about positive change in other areas — for instance, could we have a female lay cardinal? Or a woman in charge of a Vatican dicastery?

      Is any dialogue really happening between the SSPX and the Vatican? I hope you are right, and that it is. But it has been so shrouded in rumour, secrecy and innuendo that it’s difficult, from the outside, to work out what is being said by both sides.

  45. Organizationally, the big asymmetry between SPXX and church liberals is that SPXX is a schismatic (I am using that word sociologically not theologically) organization, not under Rome’s control, and church liberals are within the Church and therefore potentially subject to disciplinary action as in the case of Fr Flannery.

    The big negotiation between Rome and the SPXX is about how much independence they will have if they return from schism. SPXX seems to have negotiated a personal prelature that would give it substantial independence from the rest of the world’s bishops (but of course not from Rome which can always remove its prelates!).

    What Rome has also done is to move Di Noia out of CDW into the CDF. That would give the SPXX added independence from the CDW and the world’s bishops in regard to liturgy. On the other hand it would put the SPXX right under the thumb of the CDF! So we now have good cop Di Noia trying to persuade the SPXX to behave and bad cop Muller ready to discipline them if they return to the Church and misbehave.!

    Demographically, the big asymmetry between SPXX and church liberals is that church liberals constitute the vast majority of Catholic laity in Western Europe and North America. Traditionalists supporting the Pope constitute a minority for example in the United States Fewer than one in three (30 percent) says that the Vatican’s teaching authority is very important to them, close to two-thirds (62 percent) indicate support for women in the role of priests in the church

    Rome cannot do much about the two-thirds of Catholics in Western Europe and North America that disagree with them, however they can keep that opposition disorganized by attacking any organizational support that it has among priests (priest’s associations) and religious (the LCWR) which is precisely what it is doing.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #71:
      “Rome cannot do much about the two-thirds of Catholics in Western Europe and North America that disagree with them, however they can keep that opposition disorganized by attacking any organizational support that it has among priests (priest’s associations) and religious (the LCWR) which is precisely what it is doing.”

      Perhaps there are these sorts of tactical considerations that drive how discipline is doled out. It’s not clear to me that these tactics are particularly immoral (nor virtuous). I take it, from Fr. Ruff’s initial post, that he is troubled that discipline is meted out selectively. I’m not sure how to assess the morality of selective discipline. It may serve the interests of justice and order. And mercy (toward those who are passed over for punishment)? Is “selective discipline” another term for “scapegoating”? I’m not sure.

      I suppose the alternative would be a much-expanded policing/enforcement apparatus that would be required to investigate, try and punish every transaction by every transgressor. Yuck.

      1. @Jim Pauwels – comment #81:
        “It’s not clear to me that these tactics are particularly immoral (nor virtuous).”

        Hi Jim,

        As you know there is a strong and deep-seated American principle about justice under the law. Just as there is about being able to face your accuser, and make your defense before a jury of your peers. Selective enforcement of law, based on political aims (to put an organization that seems threatening in disarray) runs deeply against the grain. I know it does for me. And it does seem immoral to most Americans I would wager, given our culture.

        Are you really agnostic about the morality of equal treatment under the law? I don’t want a bigger “police presence” in the Catholic Church either, but… In Iran they just hanged two thieves to discourage mugging. It’s the same sort of tactics, in a different setting. I consider that abhorrent.

  46. Bill @comment 68:

    No, Richard, I didn’t say that. Nor did the Pontifical Biblical Institute when Paul VI asked for a study on the scriptural basis for limiting ordnation to men.

    Let me clarify again: Jim made the statement (no doubt sincere) that to his knowledge, Fr. Pfleger had never engaged in acts of open dissent.

    All I did was point out that Fr. Pfleger had, in the past, advocated for ordination of women. Whether you like it or not, whether you are convinced by its reasoning or not, the Church has defined this as a teaching of the Church, and it has treated public objections to it by clergy and prelates as dissent – though perhaps not always consistently.

  47. Jack @ comment 71:

    I agree with all of your post here on Rome and the SSPX, including the apparent roles of DiNoia and Muller, with one qualification:

    Demographically, the big asymmetry between SPXX and church liberals is that church liberals constitute the vast majority of Catholic laity in Western Europe and North America.

    If by “Catholic laity” you mean every single baptized Catholic, you are probably correct. And genuine “traditionalists” – if defined as those who attend a TLM or even a Latin NO fairly regularly, or would if they had one nearby – seem to be a pretty small (if growing) cohort, say no more than 5% in the U.S. It’s probably not far off to think that somewhere between a third and a half of the same large population might be called “orthodox” or at least “conservative, meaning that they accept all Church teachings. In Europe, that number is almost certainly lower.

    But it is a different picture when it comes to active Catholics, those who regularly avail themselves of the sacraments, and who produce vocations – and this is undoubtedly what focuses perceptions in Rome. In France, only 4.5% of Catholics regularly attend Mass, according to a 2009 survey done by the IFOP Institute, and a large percentage of that 4.5% – hard to determine – attend licit or illicit (SSPX) TLM’s. Likewise, according to at least one measure I have seen, close to one in four priestly vocations in France is some kind of traditionalist. This is due more to the complete collapse in diocesan and reformed religious order vocations than to the growth of traditionalists, to be sure.

    Now, France is the most extreme case, but the larger trends can be seen elsewhere in the West. If only every-Sunday attendees are surveyed, one gets very different results on a wide range of issues. Rightly or wrongly – the character limit here keeps me from delving into that – that affects how some (not all, but some, including the Pope) look at these demographic patterns in the Church.

  48. FWIW – I was not aware of those statements of Fr. Pfleger that Richard Malcolm provided in comment #62. Richard, I’m grateful for the charitable assumptions on your part.

    Were there any repercussions for Fr. Pfleger making that statement? I don’t know. Whose job is it to carry out the discipline? Chicago is a large archdiocese with six vicariates, each headed by an auxiliary bishop, so it’s possible that there were some stern (or gentle) words over the phone from his auxiliary bishop, or a red mark placed on his personnel file, or some such. Or perhaps the powers that be rolled their eyes, extended him a mulligan, and that was the end of it. In a decentralized leadership model like the Catholic church’s, and all its splendid multicultural reality, we shouldn’t be surprised if there is not perfect consistency from one vicariate or diocese or country to another in how these infractions are treated.

    Do the people of his parish, or the people of Chicago, or the church universal, have a right to know that he was disciplined? Again, I don’t know.

  49. Hello Jonathan,

    I’ve enjoyed our discussions here, and yes – I do try to make charitable assumptions about what you write here. My tongue was in my cheek, in part, though the smiley face may not have made that evident…

    So I think genuine dialogue is possible, dialogue that might bring about positive change in other areas — for instance, could we have a female lay cardinal? Or a woman in charge of a Vatican dicastery?

    I suppose…I must say that I remain more skeptical, even as I know very well that there are folks not so persuaded as me that can find ways to assent to the teaching, or remain genuinely open to being persuaded. But the louder voices too often don’t seem to be – they seem too emotive, too post-modern. Too often, demands for “discussion” really are demands for submitting to the ends desired, and not just on this issue.

    But that said, the Church has a duty not only to proclaim its teaching but to explain why. If Church leaders – including the last four Popes – have been reluctant to do so on this issue, I suspect it’s because they make the same assumption as I have about most proponents of women’s ordination – that there’s no convincing them, and that discussions that do not result in capitulation will be denounced. But I don’t think that is sufficient reason not to make the effort to explain it. Inter Insignores (1976) was a good start, but only a start.

    As to your questions: I can’t see a cardinal’s hat, but I have long thought that a few women religious I know of could do quite well heading a dicastery, and I can’t see why that couldn’t or shouldn’t happen. Perhaps one day…

    Is any dialogue really happening between the SSPX and the Vatican? I hope you are right, and that it is. But it has been so shrouded in rumour, secrecy…

    Rome seems to want to keep it confidential, doesn’t it?

    Di Noia seems to be trying, but the Society (based on recent comments by Fellay) seems unwilling to deal now, at least not on Rome’s terms.

  50. One followup on that last point:

    I think that Pope Benedict assumed that a dialogue with the SSPX would fare better away from the hot glare of publicity, which I think was not unreasonable, honestly. So the content of the doctrinal discussions, the exchanges, the proposed drafts of the doctrinal preambles, have all remained confidential, notwithstanding the occasional leak.

    (And that said, the Church really *does* seem to have a deeply ingrained desire for…well, if not “secrecy,” certainly confidentiality. I think it seems excessive (and does not always serve the Church well) to most of us, even if it is often well-intentioned.)

    But if things have really reached an impasse, I don’t see the harm in now making public all the documents and transcripts in question. Whether that will happen – I don’t know. I tend to doubt it. I can’t claim any special knowledge about it all.

    I do think that there was a time when Archbishop Lefebvre would have taken a deal along the lines rumored (key word: “rumored”). But my sense is that the Society has spent a long time inside its fortress, and seems to have grown comfortable inside it – and suspicious of pretty much everyone (including even other traditionalists) outside it. There is, as someone up above said, a considerable spectrum within the Society, and Fellay seems to be at the more moderate end of it. But I think he’s reluctant to venture so far ahead of his troops again. And he’s probably hoping that the current drift to tradition in the Church will continue, and that it will be more propitious to try again with the next Pope, perhaps. But I’m just speculating.

    1. @Richard Malcolm – comment #79:
      Richard, my strong view is that it is nowadays impossible to do anything in secret. All will be revealed, and generally sooner than we expect. What doesn’t work is to try to keep things secret, because there is then question about the veracity of this leak or that. This seems to have happened both within the Vatican and within SSPX councils.

      Better to work the issues in public than to have “confidential” discussions leaked and chewed over in the blogs.

  51. N.B.

    Let it be known that in the NYTimes story, Fr. Flannery is represented as denying that:

    “the priesthood as we currently have it in the church originated with Jesus” or that he designated “a special group of his followers as priests”

    Note: “as we currently have it.”

    There’s a big difference between expressing criticism with the priesthood “as we currently have it” and rejecting the Catholic faith.

    Also, in case anyone doesn’t know this, many reputable scripture scholars have pointed out (accurately) that there is no evidence in the New Testament that Jesus “designated a special group of his followers as priests.”

    The word priest, pertaining to Jesus, is found in Hebrews. Priesthood, in the writings of Saint Paul, pertains to the faithful. Nothing in the gospels records any words of Jesus about ordaining his followers “priests.”

    These are facts.

    1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #80:
      It would be nice to be able to read Fr. Flannery’s complete 2010 essay/article, to have more context (if there is any). What does he mean by “the priesthood as we currently have it”? What aspects of the priesthood is he referring to?

      I am curious as to whether any scriptural evidence in the New Testament would pass scrutiny, if it did exist. Scriptural evidence has been explained away enough times already (e.g Matthew 16:18ff and “church”).

      Perhaps Fr. Ruff’s words from nearly two years ago will have to suffice:

      One is a church teaching, and the other is a historical claim, although they do seem to overlap. A church teaching, no matter how solemn, can’t change the facts of history. A lot of good scholarship has happened since the 16th century. No responsible historian or Bible scholar on the planet today would claim that Jesus instituted 7 sacraments by number, or that the apostles understood that there were 7 sacraments. Nor would any responsible historian or Bible scholar claim that there was a ministerial priesthood for some ordained members of the church, understood as such, in the first decades after the Resurrection – or for many more decades, for that matter.

      If the facts of history are such, or are very likely to be such, that doesn’t necessarily negate that ordination is a sacrament, or that the Church is in error in understanding it to be Christ’s will that the sacrament be understood as we now do.

      But again: solemn teachings can’t change the facts of history. Fortunately, our tradition affirms both faith and reason. This makes possible a continuing dialogue between scholars and the magisterium, and a mutual enrichment between the claims of faith (in their ongoing definition by the magisterium) and the findings of historical scholarship.

      Long story short: believe Catholic doctrine, but don’t be a fundamentalist about it.

      Excitement of doing Catholic theology: living in the interplay between faith and scholarship.

    2. @Rita Ferrone – comment #80:

      Rita, yes, I agree that Fr. Flannery’s quote is amenable to a benign interpretation. However, this BBC article seems to suggest that his alleged sins have been on a wider range of issues and for a number of years now.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21120326

      “For 14 years, he was a regular contributor to the Redemptorist magazine, writing articles on a range of religious matters, in which he publicly opposed official church teaching on clerical celibacy, contraception, homosexuality and the ordination of women.

      “Last year, the CDF instructed him to stop writing for the magazine, leading some commentators to claim he was the subject of a Vatican ‘gagging order’.

      “The CDF instructions were issued to at least five Irish priests, including broadcaster Fr Brian D’Arcy.”

      I had never heard of Fr. Flannery nor, as best as I know, seen any of his writings, until Fr. Ruff’s post. So I am assuming this BBC story is accurate.

  52. Rita – when I said, “it’s not clear to me that these tactics are particularly immoral (nor virtuous)” – I don’t mean to suggest that I view them as amoral, nor that I’m agnostic about equal treatment under the law. It simply means I’m not sure exactly what to think about it.

    There is a strong and deep-seated American principle about justice under the law that one function of punishment is to act as a deterrent to others. I suspect it is not the principle of deterrence to other Iranian muggers that strikes us as unjust about your example, but that they were hanged. Hanging a mugger is disproportionate – it’s unjust whether it is one or 10,000 muggers who are hanged, and it’s unjust whether it happens in the town square or in an anonymous cell in the basement of the police station.

    Fr. Flannery apparently wrote for mass publication, over a long period of time, things that are contrary to what the church teaches, and so the punishment given him was to stop writing. I have to say, that doesn’t strike me as grossly unjust. In the continuum of punishments available to church authorities, it seems rather measured and appropriate. A person abuses a privilege, and so the privilege is taken away. Millions of parents with teens in the house can relate, I’d think.

    I will confess that, on my less-than-better days, I’d like to see many other people be punished who seem to get off scott-free: e.g. Catholic politicians who succeed in politics by promoting abortion. I do think the Church picks its battles, to a certain extent. I believe that happens in secular law enforcement, too. As I say, I’m not sure whether or not that is a problem.

    1. @Jim Pauwels – comment #85:
      Jim – how about these other points:
      – Flannery wrote, published over years – his writings were approved by his proviincial superiors (which means he respected the process that he needed to)
      – *contrary to what the church teaches* – sorry, that is a broad, sweeping statement. If you read his columns, publications he carefully lays out his reasonings, suggestions, thoughts and notes that these positions are arguments that may not be current church statements. He usually makes a case for open discussion. We need to be more nuanced – he writes as a theologian – see Newman’s/Komonchak’s link above #53 about the inherent tension for all theologians
      – CDW notified superior general Jan. 2012 asking that Flannery stop writing, publishing – he did so (but he did continue ACP work)
      – then – one year later with no notice – CDW demand – excommunication threat and yet, he was not notified of this prior to receiving it; he has never been before the CDW; if there were charges – he was not told prior to this.
      – like Bishop Wm. Morris case, some canon lawyers have described that these processes violate *natural law process* with no appeals, no respect for religious liberty of the individual.

      “A human being must always follow the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were to deliberately act against it he would condemn himself.” Catechism of the Catholic Church #1790)

      “We follow church leaders only to the extent that they themselves follow Christ. . . Some situations oblige one to obey God and one’s own conscience rather than the leaders of the church. Indeed, one may even be obliged to accept excommunication rather than act against one’s own conscience.” (Cardinal Walter Kasper)

      “”Over the pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one’s own conscience which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even the official church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism”.

      (Joseph Ratzinger in: Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II ,Vol. V., pg. 134 (Ed) H. Vorgrimler, New York, Herder and Herder, 1967).

      (NOTE – now superior general wants Flannery to obey CDW which contradicts his Irish superiors)

    2. @Jim Pauwels – comment #85:
      Does anyone really know what is likely to happen to Fr Flannery if he fails to sign the statement from the CDF? Expulsion from his order? Laicisation? Excommunication?

      Fr Z, characteristically, says, “Dissident Irish priest about to get hammered into the ground by the CDF” … “good riddance” … “hasta la vista“.

      Can anyone be more specific?

  53. Gosh, this is the extreme of whataboutery. The execution of heretics in the name of Christ leads defenders of More to invoke the abortion industry!

    Thomas Hytton, whom More famously called “the devil’s stinking martyr”, may not have been a peasant, but he was a brave and sincere man, with tender flesh that burned painfully. The aristocratic More was despatched with a clean swipe of the ax.

    The Eichmann defense cannot legitimate the 700 year career of the Inquisition. And the numbers game is obscene. Nor should we forget the evil influence of the Inquisition on those who were inspired by it, notably in the 20th century. There you had numbers galore!

  54. here is a piece on Thomas Bilney http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Bilney

    According to one source “The following, FOR EXAMPLE, took place during the few years that More was chancellor: “Thomas Bilney was burned in Norwich” in 1531; “Thomas Hytton was burned for heresy” in 1530; Robert Barnes was “burned at the stake in 1540”; Richard Bayfield was killed in 1531; John Tewksbury was burned in 1531; James Bainham was “burned alive” in 1532. William Tyndale was burned at the stake in 1536.”

    1. @Joe O’Leary – comment #90:
      Fr O’Leary

      The six men that you’ve cited, including Bilney, were all educated men or clerics (your list is the same as that given by Richard Malcolm), executed in the pursuance of the policy of the state: not the simple peasants that you claimed were burned for merely possessing a book.

    2. @Joe O’Leary – comment #90:

      “William Tyndale was burned at the stake in 1536.”

      We’re getting off topic here, but it should be noted that Thomas More left office in May 1532, four years before Tyndale was burned at the stake. In fact, More was himself executed before Tyndale.

  55. Critics of Fr Tony find a knockdown argument in his statements on the origin of the priesthood. It is worth remembering that many saw Schillebeeckx’s work on Ministry as obviously heretical. But when summoned to Rome and given a chance to air his case, he was allowed to continue unimpeded. Back then we groaned about “a new inquisition” but at least there was an attempt at theological discussion. The origins of the priestly caste is a very obscure issue and the status of the monarchical episcopate and threefold ministry emerging in the second century and held by the church to be established by divine positive law is something theologians fret a lot about. Ministry is dynamic and relational in the NT (“feed my lambs”) but a sclerosis seems to set in in the early middle ages. The statement that “some time after Jesus, a select and privileged group within the community who had abrogated power and authority to themselves, interpreted the occasion of the Last Supper in a manner that suited their own agenda” does pose huge theological problems. What he is getting at could be restated in perfectly orthodox terms and I wish he would do so. He could say that the dynamic and plural conception of ministries in the New Testament became frozen through excessively sharp distinction between a clerical cast monopolizing power and authority and the laity robbed of their voice and charisms.

    1. @Joe O’Leary – comment #92:
      The statement that “some time after Jesus, a select and privileged group within the community who had abrogated power and authority to themselves, interpreted the occasion of the Last Supper in a manner that suited their own agenda” does pose huge theological problems.

      And I’m not sure “abrogate” can be used in that context to mean what I think he is using it to mean: “abrogate power […] to themselves”. Usurp, maybe?

      He could say that the dynamic and plural conception of ministries in the New Testament became frozen through excessively sharp distinction between a clerical cast monopolizing power and authority and the laity robbed of their voice and charisms.

      But that has remarkably little shock value as a sound bite.

      1. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #100:

        I suspect the word Fr. O’Leary meant to use was “arrogated.”

        EDIT: Never mind – I see that by failing to note that there was a second page of comments, I missed that Jim McKay beat me to the punch.

  56. “If you read his columns, publications he carefully lays out his reasonings, suggestions, thoughts and notes that these positions are arguments that may not be current church statements. He usually makes a case for open discussion. ”

    Bill – fair enough. As I say, I haven’t read his writings. I’m relying on news accounts that summarize his views. I’d be interested in reading articles that he has authored, if anyone can provide URLs. I’ve poked around in Google a very little bit but didn’t find anything.

  57. Tony Flannery has just issued this clarification:

    “Since some concerns have been raised by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith over possible interpretations of articles I have written in the past few years. I respectfully take this opportunity to clarify my views and to offer the reassurance necessary to lay those concerns fully to rest. Such words as I have written were written in good faith with absolutely no intent whatever to imply anything contrary to the truths we are all obliged to hold by the divine and catholic faith to which I fully adhere and to which I have always adhered.
    “I believe and accept that the Eucharist was given to us by Christ Himself; that in the Eucharist we receive “the Bread of Life”, which is “the food of Eternal Life”. I not only believe and accept this; over nearly forty years of ministry I have come to know the reality of it through my faith experience and I have been privileged to offer witness to it through my priestly ministry.
    “I believe and accept that the Eucharist cannot be celebrated without a validly ordained minister.
    “I believe and accept that the origins of the Eucharist and the Priesthood can be found in the Last Supper, where, as Sacred Scripture tell us, Jesus gave the command to the Apostles gathered around the table to “Do this in memory of Me”.
    “I believe and accept that the call to Priesthood, indeed to all our Church’s ministries, comes from God through Jesus Christ.”

    1. @Joe O’Leary – comment #94:
      The “I believe” statements were from June 2012; they were accepted as “a fine statement” by Cardinal Levada. But in September, Archbishop Meuller required more of Fr. Flannery:


      Necessary Amendments to the Statement of Reverend Tony Flannery C.Ss.R.
      The following additions should be incorporated by Fr. Flannery in his Statement, which is the basis of the article of clarification that he intends to publish:

      1. Regarding the Church, Fr. Flannery should add to his article that he believes that Christ instituted the Church with a permanent hierarchical structure. [e.g. Lumen Gentium n. 9-22]

      2. Regarding the Eucharist, Fr. Flannery should add to his article that he believes that Christ instituted the priesthood at the Last Supper; that in the Eucharist, under the forms of bread and wine, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained; that the Eucharist is a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross; and that only a validly ordained priests can validly celebrate the Eucharist.

      3. Regarding his statement concerning the priesthood, Fr. Flannery should add to his article that he accepts that the Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and that the apostles did the same when they choose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry; and that the Church recognises herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself, and for this reason the ordination of women is not possible.

      4. Furthermore, Fr. Flannery should state that he accepts the whole teaching of the Church, also in regard to moral issues.

      To this, Fr. Flannery appends his remarks:


      Take note of nos. 3 & 4. These were new issues brought in at this point, – the question of women’s ordination and the ‘moral issues’. (In Church circles today that phrase most usually refers to sexual morality.

      Up to this point I was happy to clarify my position, and give the Vatican the statement they desired, as I had done in June. But it was points 3 & 4 of this document that were the breaking point for me. And that is why I have stated clearly all this week that this is about the issues of womens’ ordination and sexual teaching. And I was told very clearly that the only way I would be allowed back into ministry would be to sign and publish this statement.

      1. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #4:
        “Up to this point I was happy to clarify my position, and give the Vatican the statement they desired, as I had done in June. But it was points 3 & 4 of this document that were the breaking point for me. And that is why I have stated clearly all this week that this is about the issues of womens’ ordination and sexual teaching. And I was told very clearly that the only way I would be allowed back into ministry would be to sign and publish this statement.”

        And thus Father Flannery proves, beyond any doubt, that he is unsuitable for ministry at this time, for he refuses to be in full communion with the Catholic Church:

        “The second proposition of the Professio fidei states: “I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.” The object taught by this formula includes all those teachings belonging to the dogmatic or moral area,13 which are necessary for faithfully keeping and expounding the deposit of faith, even if they have not been proposed by the Magisterium of the Church as formally revealed.

        “Such doctrines can be defined solemnly by the Roman Pontiff when he speaks ‘ex cathedra’ or by the College of Bishops gathered in council, or they can be taught infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Church as a “sententia definitive tenenda”.14 Every believer, therefore, is required to give firm and definitive assent to these truths, based on faith in the Holy Spirit’s assistance to the Church’s Magisterium, and on the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Magisterium in these matters.15 Whoever denies these truths would be in a position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine16 and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church.” (CDF Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei)

  58. The Irish Catholic article, the URL to which was provided by Scott Smith in comment #89, leaves me with the impression that the comparison of this case with the disciplining of the LCWR is apt.

  59. http://bit.ly/W18ENO

    This whole case looks to be steeped in Irish party politics and the reporting we’ve had so far on Fr Flannery’s position does not seem to correlate to the process adopted by the CDF to date.

  60. Jonathan Day : @Richard Malcolm – comment #79: Richard, my strong view is that it is nowadays impossible to do anything in secret. All will be revealed, and generally sooner than we expect. What doesn’t work is to try to keep things secret, because there is then question about the veracity of this leak or that. This seems to have happened both within the Vatican and within SSPX councils. Better to work the issues in public than to have “confidential” discussions leaked and chewed over in the blogs.

    Hello Jonathan,

    I don’t quite agree – law courts and governments manage to keep things secret all the time. Granted, it’s not as easy as it used to be, what with new technology and new media and relatively open societies. And I’m not prepared to say that it would have helped matters if the SSPX-CDF doctrinal talks had been conducted live on TV.

    But that said, they clearly reached their conclusion. I am all in favor of releasing all the documents involved now. I am not sure what purpose their continued confidentiality serves now.

  61. Thank you to Jim McKay and Jeffrey Pinyan for correcting the mistake that has been irritating me since I read the original article. Where are the proofreaders at the Times?

    And thank you Joe O’Leary for bringing to our attention Flannery’s own clarification.

  62. Jim P., thanks for your comments.

    I think it’s disproportionate to deprive a priest of the exercise of his priesthood because he has said things that are at variance with certain current stands of the magisterium, ones which are and would be already plenty controversial without him saying a word. To tell him to stop publishing such opinions is one thing. To not allow him to celebrate the Eucharist, etc., because of this is like hanging him for it. It is, in my view, disproportionate.

  63. Jeffrey Pinyan : The statement from Fr. Flannery is here.

    My God.
    Shame on the CDF.
    I am glad, personally, that Fr Flannery has spoken up, so we can see what the CDF’s “brutality” means.
    Bullies.
    They must be livid that their doings are exposed to the world. In the name of transparency, thank you to Fr Flannery!
    But what is going to happen to him now?
    And what in the name of God is happening to our church?

    Is that what it used to be like to be a priest, say, 60 years ago, or is the harshness of the penalty something new?

  64. Lots of interesting comments already. I’ll just say two things. One – thanks, Fr. Ruff for this post. And two – Fr. Tom Reese once commented about why the Vatican tries so hard with the SSPX but not with liberals …

    “Why is the Vatican putting so much effort into reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X? The real reason is because these men are bishops. If they were simple priests, the Vatican would not give them the time of day. The Vatican is caught by it own theology that sees these men as validly if not licitly ordained. As a result, these bishops can ordain more bishops and the schism can go on forever.”

    In other words, it’s about consolidating power. Priests like Fr. Bourgeois can be crushed without a second thought because they don’t have seminaries in the US, France, Germany, Australia, and (I kid you not) Argentina.

    1. @Crystal Watson – comment #10:

      Why is the Vatican putting so much effort into reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X? The real reason is because these men are bishops.

      Fr. Reese would have to account for the Pope’s decision to remove Bishop Morris of Toowoomba in Australia.

      There *is* something to the reality that the SSPX represents a different ecclesial reality than does a priest or collection of priests does. But that notion can only be pushed so far.

      1. @Richard Malcolm – comment #12:
        The Vatican “ecclesiology” seems to require that a “church” have bishops not just priests. That explains why it is not particularly worried that a group of priests might set up a schismatic church. They would become an “ecclesiastical entity” like Protestant denominations rather than a “church” which could perpetuate itself.

        The Vatican does not seem to be disturbed by the “horde” of would be bishops that claim apostolic succession. Even if their claims might be valid, few of them are likely to establish something that would look much like a “church.”

        However SPXX is different since it has bishops and seminaries and goes back to a Archbishop who was a significant minority voice at Vatican II. They have a good claim to being a significant schismatic church rather than an “ecclesiastical entity”.

        Also the Vatican has engaged in a complicated “on again, off again” dance in dealing with the Chinese situation where it has a similar problem, the possibility of a significant schismatic bishop led Church separate from Rome.

        As a practical matter, it seems that Rome takes much more seriously the ordination of a bishop by a legitimate consecrating bishop even if it denounces that ordination as illicit and excommunicates everyone involved. It still tries to reconcile everyone involved and treats them as bishops.

        However once excommunicated bishops and illicitly consecrated bishops start consecrating additional bishops it seems to regard these new bishops as “invalid” rather than “illicit” ordinations. Maybe that is just politics or maybe there is an ecclesiology behind it?

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #14:

      The new head of the CDF definitely sees himself as the “bad cop” who needs to take care of some things that should not be taking up the time of the Pope.

      And, of course, since he did not get a cardinal’s hat at the last consistory he is on a short leash to get those priests and nuns under control. I think B16 definitely wanted a bad cop at the CDF so he could be a continue to play good cop as Pope.

      1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #15:
        Sorry – got waylaid by the second group of comments on the next page when I posted. Thanks to Rita, JP, others for posting the clarifications and what I repeated.

        There does appear to be a different approach – years ago folks such as Curran, etc. were called before the CDF to answer and discuss/defend their views before any directives were made. Now, we appear to have reverted to silence and one-sided authoritarian CDF actions.

      2. @Bill deHaas – comment #16:
        “There does appear to be a different approach – years ago folks such as Curran, etc. were called before the CDF to answer and discuss/defend their views before any directives were made. Now, we appear to have reverted to silence and one-sided authoritarian CDF actions.”

        Bill – this does start to get at what interests me about this story – well, there are a number of different angles being discussed, all of them interesting, but this particular aspect, of process, seems important.

        One part of this is: what is the CDF process now? What was it before? Why did it change, and is it a change for the better or worse? And what would a better, fairer process actually look like? As I said earlier, I’m all for more transparency and fairness and dialogue, but how specifically could those things be brought about?

        Another part is: when does the CDF get involved, and when does a local bishop, or a national conference’s doctrinal committee, get involved?

        I am wondering if the CDF gets involved specifically in cases of religious orders. The pattern I’m seeing, in addition to Fr. Flannery, is Fr. Reese’s removal from America Magazine (perhaps another apt parallel to the present case), and the CDF’s intervention with the LCWR. Yet I believe Sr. Elizabeth Johnson was investigated, not by the CDF, but by the national conference’s doctrinal committee. (Perhaps this last is not an apt parallel, because I don’t believe any formal discipline was given out in that case). How is the “venue” decided?

  65. How unfortunate to say: “And thus Father Flannery proves, beyond any doubt, that he is unsuitable for ministry at this time, for he refuses to be in full communion with the Catholic Church”

    And again we have that *new* category *definitive* come up (Richard also questioned this). Might want to recall an earlier post on PTB:

    http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2010/02/09/ladislas-orsys-new-book-receiving-the-council-theological-and-canonical-insights-and-debates/

    Some highlights:
    – “….1998 motu proprio of John Paul II, Ad tuendam fidem as well as the commentary on this document supplied by Cardinal Ratzinger, the then Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. It is to Orsy’s credit that the back and forth of their debate is included in the book. Both points of view are given regarding the question of the legitimacy of what some regard as a novelty announced by the motu proprio of “definitive doctrine” i.e., teachings of the Church not included in the creed, nor proclaimed infallibly, but nonetheless considered an unchangeable part of revelation. Though he disagreed with much of what Orsy had to say, Cardinal Ratzinger affirmed that Orsy’s contribution to this debate was “happily written in an objective tone and without polemic” (p. 121). In this, both Orsy and Ratzinger offer us all a model of how disagreement within the church need not include intemperate disparagement and ad hominem attacks.:
    – “Some may be tempted to see in this book what Pope Benedict has criticized in his talk about the reception of Vatican II to the Roman Curia in December of 2005 as a “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” with the pre-conciliar Church. Interestingly, however, Orsy’s chapter on “Stability and Development in Canon Law,” draws criteria for recognizing genuine development versus destructive changes from Cardinal Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine; criteria that emphasize continuity and harmonious progress from older forms to newer forms. He is basically in agreement that there is a need to view the new directions brought by the Council from the optic favored by Pope Benedict-a “hermeneutic of the reform”- that considers these changes as an “organic development” that did not alter the Church’s fundamental nature. The difference between Orsy and the Pope would be in the question of emphasis and direction. Clearly Orsy sees the centralization of the last decade as inconsistent with the teaching of the Council.”

    In essentials, unity;
    In non-essentials, freedom;
    but in all things, charity.

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #21:

      If by definitive doctrine you mean doctrines covered by the second paragraph (“tenenda”), then these doctrines are JUST AS infallible as those belonging to the first paragraph (that is, those things contained in Divine Revelation). The reservation of priestly ordination to men alone is no less infallible than the Trinitarian and Christological doctrines, the difference lies in the theological virtue of faith.

      “With regard to the nature of the assent owed to the truths set forth by the Church as divinely revealed (those of the first paragraph) or to be held definitively (those of the second paragraph), it is important to emphasize that there is no difference with respect to the full and irrevocable character of the assent which is owed to these teachings. The difference concerns the supernatural virtue of faith: in the case of truths of the first paragraph, the assent is based directly on faith in the authority of the Word of God (doctrines de fide credenda); in the case of the truths of the second paragraph, the assent is based on faith in the Holy Spirit’s assistance to the Magisterium and on the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Magisterium (doctrines de fide tenenda).” (CDF Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei)

      All of this of course is contained in LG 25 and citing Vatican I, so I don’t see why any of this is controversial…

      1. @Fr. John Naugle – comment #23:
        Sorry – we will have to agree to disagree. Conflating these two – ex cathedra and definitive- is an unwise and unnuanced theological step. Same goes by trying to link them by saying that there is no difference in the type of assent given. Your example highlights this ……there is a significant difference between Trinitarian/Christological doctrines and whether ordination is reserved to men alone.

        As you quote: “…in the case of the truths of the second paragraph, the assent is based on faith in the Holy Spirit’s assistance to the Magisterium and on the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Magisterium”.

        Canon lawyers and theologians do make distinctions in this area…..both history and tradition have taught us that the Magisterium may be assisted by the Holy Spirit but may not be infallible. As quoted from Newman above in a couple of places….there are infallible doctrines but the human magisterium (whether they may be assisted by the Holy Spirit or not) is not free from sin and some/many would not agree that LG 25 supports your interpretation. Vatican I – infallibility, yes, but the history of that council, that specific pope, etc. seriously impacts that decree. Note that VII council fathers acted in a completely different manner and direction from Vatican I. (earlier council decrees have been reformed/abrogated by later councils)

        Some reminders from history on the *infallible* magisterium:
        – slavery
        – democracy
        – death penalty
        to name a few.

        As Fr. Ruff reminds us from time to time – there is a distinction between the core belief/truth and how that belief/truth is expressed and lived in various cultural time periods. *semper reformanda est*

        Agree – don’t think what Flannery has done is controversial, IMO.

      2. @Bill deHaas – comment #24:
        Second paragraph truths are connected to first paragraphs truth by logical or historical necessity. They MUST be equally infallible, for to attack a second paragraph truth is to also call to question a first paragraph truth. To say women can be ordained implies (by logical necessity) something heretical about the divine institution of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

        There is a difference, as I and the CDF so very clearly state, in the virtue of FAITH; denying a first paragraph truth makes you definitely a heretic while denying a second paragraph truth merely removes you from full communion.

        All of the examples YOU cite are third paragraph doctrines and not infallible or definitive, so I’m not going to be drawn into those arguments.

        How is Flannery violating the Profession of Faith which is required of all office holders in the Church NOT controversial? He broke his word.

      3. @Fr. John Naugle – comment #26:
        Agree to disagree on your two paragraphs.

        In terms of profession of faith – what is the historical tradition of this? Why was this added? You make your commitment at ordination.
        We had a long period of time in which another profession of faith was required to reject modernism. And where did that get us as VII rejected most of the 19th century modernism condemnations – and, thus, those professions meant what?
        If a profession is used as a litmus test or as a means of control, it loses its meaning and effectiveness. No different than some who argue that celibacy is a charism, freely chosen but when required (as it is now) it is no longer a charism or gift – it is an imposition. Celibacy is a man made rule that has only existed for half of the church’s history – some would put it into your second paragraph…it isn’t. This is where your argument leaves me confused.

  66. I think the church is enriched by having points of view as different as those expressed by the Father Flannerys and Naugles of the world. Both make me a bit uncomfortable. I believe that Jesus came to afflict the comfortable, did he not?

  67. In the statement of Fr. Flannery, linked to up above in comment #14 on this page (actually, comment 114 for this topic), he quotes a notification he received from the CDF:

    “The Church’s canon law (c. 1044) calls a priest who has committed the delict of heresy ‘irregular for the exercise of orders received’, while canon 1364 says that ‘a heretic … incurs a latae sentientiae excommunication’. Before imposing the sanctions provided for in the law, it is the practice of the CDF to take steps to restore a priest to the faith, and to ensure that he is not in a state of contumacy regarding the position(s) he may have taken. Only should these remedies fail would the canonical penalties be required”

    Taking this statement at face value (and I do), I believe we should applaud the CDF’s merciful intention “to restore a priest to the faith” before administering any penalties.

    And yet … Fr. Flannery notes: “I am not a theologian, but to me that definitely reads like a threat.”

    I expect that Fr. Flannery is not alone in noting this; I expect that the LCWR viewed its notification from the CDF as a threat; as, probably, did Fr. Reese and Sr. Farley with regard to theirs.

    My view is that the church authorities need to work on this. Without wishing to trim the wings of their authority, they need to try to find a way to go about this in a less threatening way. Naturally, whenever there is an unequal relationship, whether it is parent-child, or supervisor-worker, or CDF-public minister, there is always, lurking somewhere in the background, a threat, because “threat” is a handy way of saying, “you have power, and it can be used against me”, and that is just the nature of an unequal relationship. But assuming the CDF’s sincerity in its invitation to call Fr. Flannery back, perhaps it could find a more inviting way to do so?

  68. The Lefebvrists might agree with Bill about V2 rejecting the modernist condemnations but it seems to me that this claim is too broad. All the participants and periti at the council took the anti-modernist oath and despite those who claimed otherwise reading the council and its footnotes indicates deep continuity there, even reproposals of statements found in the oath. We see many declarations in V2 that modernists would find unpleasant. Examples include DV’s declaration on the historicity of the Gospels (19). Other examples include DV 11, LG 10, 14, 25, and GS 48 and 51.

    1. @Daniel McKernan – comment #28:
      “We see many declarations in V2 that modernists would find unpleasant. Examples include DV’s declaration on the historicity of the Gospels (19). Other examples include DV 11, LG 10, 14, 25, and GS 48 and 51”

      Really – you will have to explain and provide citations to prove your point. Sorry, again, you are in over your depth.
      Modernism (borad term) – e.g. historical critical method of doing scriptural exegesis…..totally accepted now but was rejected by the anti-modernist. Good example of the destructive impulse of the anti-modernist movement and how it had little to do with our faith journey – rather, it was an internal, oppressive papal mechanism.

      1. @Bill deHaas – comment #30:

        Sorry, again, you are in over your depth.

        Is it really necessary to resort to this kind of language, Bill?

        Come on. Let’s try to keep the tone civil around here.

      2. @Bill deHaas – comment #30:
        Okay – this goes into more depth about my earlier mention of the required Modernism Oath:

        http://ncronline.org/blogs/bulletins-human-side/fr-flannerys-grasp-theology-better-his-silencers

        Money quote:
        – “This incident is an early 21st-century reprise of the early 20th-century Roman worldwide crackdown on priests who were keeping up with the new advances in theological and scriptural studies. All priests were forced to take the Oath Against Modernism, the vague catch-all phrase that supposedly summarized the heresies rampant in the new learning.

        In the United States, as historian Michael Gannon has shown in his work on the American priesthood before and after the modernist condemnation, committees of vigilance were set up to monitor and report on what priests were reading. The first American theological journal, the New York Review, was suppressed in 1909, and another did not appear until Theological Studies in 1940. The chaplain of the police department replaced the progressive rector of New York’s St. Joseph’s Seminary.”

        My concerns fall into two related categories:
        – this knee jerk reaction with condemnations that do not allow or are overthreatened by theological research/questions feels like a type of fundamentalism (which is what the anti-modernism movement was)
        – the other category is that the approach, words used, etc. feel more like *cultic* behavior (as in cult behaviors from the mental health world that I work in)

    2. @Daniel McKernan – comment #28:

      Why would a “modernist” object to DV’s statements on the historicity of the gospels?

      It pretty much echoes the “modernist” position and repudiates earlier literalism. Especially when read with the concurrent document on the subject from the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

    3. @Daniel McKernan – comment #29:
      Borrowed from a Rev. Komonchak post at dotCommonweal – addresses the *definitive* teachings of the church (yep, all but infallible):

      This is all about “non-negotiable” teachings. The following list might help people looking for examples of how definitive teachings have proved to be not so definitive after all:

      Academic Freedom
      Animal Rights
      Astrology
      Biblical Criticism
      Election of Bishops
      Canonization of Saints
      Capitalism
      Church and State
      Church as perfect society
      Church can err
      Collegiality
      Communism
      Confession (ways of celebrating the Sacrament of Penance)
      Creation in six days
      Democracy
      Development of Doctrine
      Dissent
      Eastern Schism
      Ecclesiology
      Ecumenism
      Ensoulment
      Error has no rights
      Galileo
      Gospels – authorship of the gospels
      Holy orders – forms of the sacrament
      Inculturation
      Inequality in the church
      Infallibility of Encyclicals
      Jews
      Justice in the church
      Laicization of Priests
      Laity – participation in the church
      Latin – use of
      Local church
      Marriage – Definition of
      Marriage – inferior to celibate life; religious life superior
      Freedom of the Press
      Membership in the church
      Modernism
      Monarchy
      Moses – author of the Pentateuch
      National independence
      Openess to the World
      Original Sin and Monoganism
      Papal Authority
      Papal States
      Pluralism
      Preferential option for the poor
      Religious Liberty
      Revelation
      Sacramental Theology
      Salvation outside of the church
      Sexuality
      Slavery
      Social Classes
      Social Teaching
      Suicide
      Support of Colonialism
      Teaching role of Bishops
      Torture
      Tridentine Missal
      Usury
      Vicar of Christ title
      Women
      Worship – changes

  69. Okay, Richard, sorry. So, in an effort to keep the tone civil around here – this bishop’s diocesan paper column got my attention (he refers indirectly to the Flannery situation):

    http://catholickey.org/2013/01/25/the-bishops-role-in-fostering-the-mission-of-the-catholic-media/

    In earlier comments had not included this bishop’s history so as to maintain a civil tone. He writes:

    “In a different way, I am sorry to say, my attention has been drawn once again to the National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper with headquarters in this Diocese. I have received letters and other complaints about NCR from the beginning of my time here. In the last months I have been deluged with emails and other correspondence from Catholics concerned about the editorial stances of the Reporter: officially condemning Church teaching on the ordination of women, insistent undermining of Church teaching on artificial contraception and sexual morality in general, lionizing dissident theologies while rejecting established Magisterial teaching, and a litany of other issues.”

    Yet, think about it – Flannery is being threatened for what he wrote about issues that are open to discussion in theological circles; (possibly suspension or worse, etc) but this bishop has had no action taken even though he has a civil criminal conviction and is currently in violation of the USCCB Dallas Charter. It appears hypocritical especially if you compare the issue of women’s ordination to covering up and ignoring child sexual abuse.

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