Tuesday, February 5, 2013

On Father Tony Flannery's Silencing: More Resources

A week ago, I reported on the recent Vatican actions against Irish Redemptorist priest Father Tony Flannery. For those who want to continue following this story, I'd like now to recommend several additional resources.

The first is this posting from the website of the Irish Association of Catholic Priests, of which Father Flannery was a founder. This makes available a chain of documents regarding his condemnation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The documents allow readers to see the (implied) charges that the CDF has made against Father Flannery, and his specific response to each implied charge.

The response itself, dated 30 September 2012, has also been published at the Catholic News USA website. As the chain of documents and Father Flannery's response demonstrate, he's correct in his claim that, each time he has sought to respond to the CDF's criticisms of him, the Vatican office has raised the bar. When one reads the whole chain of documents, one cannot avoid concluding that the real goal of the CDF's actions has been all along to silence Father Flannery and to destroy the Irish Association of Catholic Priests.

The CDF attack revolves around claims (these are never specified or corroborated, and this is typical when the CDF attacks a theologian or Catholic leader) that Father Flannery rejects the traditional understanding of the Catholic priesthood as essential to the salvation of lay Catholics through its intermediary role. When Father Flannery responds to the initial CDF suggestion that this is where he stands by making a nuanced, theologically and biblically sound statement refuting the CDF suggestion, the CDF simply ups the ante and comes back with a renewed request that he make a public, written renunciation of positions he hasn't actually stated or taken.

The point, clearly, is to force Father Flannery into a corner, in the hope that he will refuse to swear a public oath of fidelity to the Roman pontiff which would require him to ignore any claims his informed conscience might make on him, and which would require him to ignore those claims of conscience insofar as they contravene absolute, implicit, unquestioning obedience--as if the primary, the sole, virtue for Christians is not listening to our informed consciences, but obeying implicitly, absolutely, and without question any and all directives issues to us by a pope.

But as Father Flannery's final statement to the CDF, which resulted in his being barred from ministry and silenced (and this was the real goal of the CDF all along) says, he can stand only where he actually does stand--with his informed conscience. In venerable, sound Catholic tradition, which has always, at its best, stressed the supreme importance of following one's informed conscience . . . . 

The third resource to which I'd like to point is a radio interview this past Sunday with Father Flannery conducted by Michael Enright of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The Contemplative Catholic blogsite helpfully provides an introduction to this interview.

As you listen to the interview, note Father Flannery's insistence that the way the CDF deals with those it targets is "an extraordinary way" to conduct business in the modern world: the CDF's targets are informed that their Catholicity is defective, but they're not informed in any precise way of what their defects are; they're not given any information about who is making accusations against them or why they're accused of straying from Catholic truth; they've given no chance to defend themselves against any specific charges.

They're only told to knuckle under and obey--or else.

An extraordinary way, indeed, to conduct business in the modern world. Or in an institution that claims to have something to do with Jesus and the teachings of the gospel--or wants to be credible when it talks about religious freedom and human rights, which include the right to follow our informed consciences and the right to defend ourselves in open forums against calumny.

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