Thursday, January 24, 2013

Father Tony Flannery...

...and his disciplining by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is not a subject I am going to discuss any further on this blog. At this point, I see nothing in the subject but a temptation against charity for me.

A lot of traffic to this blog right now is through internet searches for "Tony Flannery" and related keywords. So I do feel called upon to say something; as little as possible.

I am literally unable to understand how the Assocation of Catholic Priests can reconcile their priestly vows and vocation with the agit-prop activities of their organization. I genuinely don't understand how they and their lay supporters can't see the contradiction and the futility inherent to their dissident views.

I am not calling them idiots, but I certainly think they are fulfilling the role of "useful idiots" that Lenin supposedly (and probably apocryphally) awarded to those naive Western liberals who defended the Soviet Union. The journalists and editors who write admiringly of the Association of Catholic Priests do not want to see reform in the Church. They want to see the Church (and Christianity) weakened and destroyed, and they very rightly see the ACP as a useful Trojan Horse to this end.

But then, anyone who reads even a handful of posts on this blog could guess my stance.

It is very easy to rebut the arguments of the ACP. Here two salient points:

1) They consistently appeal to the Second Vatican Council. I recommend anyone who finds the arguments of the ACP convincing to actually read the documents of the Second Vatican Council. They offer little or no support to the dreams of these dissident clerics. Take, for instance, these words from Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution adopted at Vatican Two: "In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church". Do the ACP stand by that?

Those who appeal to the Second Vatican Council as a supposed justification for radical reform in the Church often try to get around the actual words in the actual documents by appealing to "the spirit of Vatican II". But a "spirit" can be whatever you want it to be.

2) They claim to seek radical reform in the Catholic Church as a means to halt the decline in Mass attendance, vocations, and so forth. The argument is that a Church which is more open and more accommodating to the spirit of the age will be more likely to flourish. However, the Church of England (for instance) has embraced pretty much all the reforms that the ACP urge on the Catholic Church-- female ordination, acceptance of contraception, liturgical modernization, and so forth-- but this has led to no revival in its fortunes. In fact, attendance at Church of England services has now fallen below attendance at Catholic Mass in England.

It is not liberal Christianity but evangelical, charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity which is flourishing in Europe and America. And young, passionate Catholics are much more likely to be orthodox than liberal.

I will continue to pray that the members of the ACP have a change of heart. Apart from that, I am going to say no more about the current controversy.


  1. Another salient point could be that Fr Tony Flannery is correct. He reflects what historians and biblical scholars have discovered. Muller appears to be less welleducated.

  2. I don't think you need to be a historian or Bible scholar to see that the Church Fathers and early church undoubtedly regarded the Apostles as having handed on an apostolic succession. When did this Great Apostasy, this fabrication of a sacramental priesthood, happen? Too early to be documented? That is convenient. There is no proof of it at all.

    But leaving that aside, how in good conscience can Father Flannery remain a priest if he believes the sacramental priesthood was simply a conspiracy by some of Christ's followers to consolidate power? If he believes what he believes, the Vatican should not have to discipline him; he should have resigned a long time ago.

  3. Hi Maolsheachlann,
    I know you said you weren't going to post on this topic further, but I thought this link might be of interest to you nonetheless:

  4. Oh, and Fr Z (whom you probably know of) has said, in his post on this article, that the time has come for the media to stop letting Fr F control the narrative on this:

  5. Thanks for both of those! It's a bit like Chesterton said; journalism is people hearing the end (or rather the latest episode) in a story of which they have never heard the beginning. The supporters of dissident clerics like Father Flannery keep saying we need a "conversation" and a "debate" in the Church; they don't seem to realize that the Church has hosted the oldest debate in Western civilization, and perhaps in the whole history of man. But what is the point of a debate that never comes to any conclusions?

    I will look at both those links at leisure!

  6. I'm actually not sure what to make of those two posts. Eamonn Keane points out painstakingly the ways in which Fr. Flannery dissents from defined Catholic doctrine. But I don't think Fr. Flannery and the ACP and their supporters care about defined Catholic doctrine. They are arguing from Biblical criticism and scholarship and they can only be answered in that same way. Although the excerpts from Fr. Flannery's articles seem to show he is pretty much going on internal evidence (as he sees it) in the gospels, and on his own presuppositions. I could be wrong as I have not read his articles; perhaps he makes a very detailed argument from apocryphal gospels, Jewish history, and so forth.

  7. My own thoughts would be that a secular academic can make any argument he likes ... but an ordained priest of the Catholic Church is bound to publicly proclaim and uphold church teaching. It's not a question of whether or not Fr F can make a sustainable argument, it's whether what he argues flies in the face of the doctrine he is supposed to be a guardian of ...

  8. Oh, I totally agree. But I also think defenders of orthodoxy cannot confine themselves to pointing out that dissidents are, in fact, dissidents-- they need to argue they are wrong.

  9. True ... but the arguments have already been made; what these chaps as suggesting is nothing new. It's a matter of asked and answered ... as they already know. That's what makes them dissidents ... they have heard the answers of the Church, answers often go back to the earliest days of the Church, and they just want to go over the same old ground again.

    And I realize there is a certain irony that I am the one who is making this argument!

  10. Sometimes I think the true religious division is between those who take the doctrines of their own faith or denomination (whatever it may be) seriously, and those who don't. Personally I feel more of an affinity with a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness or a Muslim or any other believer who actually subscribes to a definite creed, than a Catholic who goes to Catholic Mass out of some kind of nostaglia or ethnic loyalty, but who dissents from the essential teachings of the Magisterium.