Monday, April 9, 2012

Will Catholicism Run Out Of "Comfy" Chairs For Their Theologians?

 Lately the Vatican and various bishops conferences are dragging out the 'comfy' chair for clergy and theologians who have strayed outside the catechism.  As the in the Monty Python video below, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, and for today's theologians the 'comfy' chair is not so comfy.

In the last few weeks of Lent and even at Holy Thursday events, the Vatican has been cracking down on dissent.  Pope Benedict might have thrown a word or two about 'discussion' in his take down of the Austrian priests movement, but other Vatican actions indicate those words were spin.  What's been more interesting to me is that these actions have finally generated some push back from other clerics and theologians.  The following article is from the Irish Examiner and deals with the support being extended to Irish Redemptorist priest Fr. Tony Flannery, but this isn't the only example.  There is also the group of Spanish theologians who wrote in defense of Spanish theologian Rev. Dr. Andrés Torres Queiruga, who received a notification from the Spanish Bishops Conference at the end of March for views of his which deviated from the Catholic Catechism.  (Special thanks to Rebel girl at Iglesia Descalza for her translation of this Spanish brouha.My thoughts on Dr. Andres Torres Queiruga come after the following:

Silenced priest receives global support 

By Claire O’Sullivan and Jimmy Woulfe - Irish Examiner - Saturday, April 07, 2012 

The Irish priest muzzled by the Vatican for his liberal views has received overwhelming support from colleagues worldwide, with a senior member of the Irish Redemptorist order saying liberal priests are being subjected to FBI-like attention from ultra-orthodox "Catholic agents". 

Fr Adrian Egan, who heads the order’s Mount St Alphonsus monastery in Limerick, went on radio in Limerick yesterday to deliver a stinging attack on the Vatican.

Speaking in a personal capacity and not on behalf of the Redemptorists, he described himself as "dismayed, disappointed, flabbergasted, amazed, and hugely disappointed at the action by the Vatican".

In a forceful interview, Fr Egan claimed priests were being subjected to FBI-like attention from Catholic agents who wanted to silence anyone brave enough to voice their opinions from the pulpit.

Fr Egan said: "The reality is that there are people sitting in churches on a daily basis that are almost listening to hear you express an opinion, that might be seen as dissenting and they will report you."

It also emerged yesterday that Fr Tony Flannery, a brother of Fine Gael’s top strategist Frank Flannery and founding member of the Association of Catholic Priests (IACP), is not the only member of the Redemptorist Order in Ireland who has received a rap on the knuckles.

Fr Gerard Moloney, who edits the Reality magazine in which Fr Flannery’s columns have appeared for 14 years, has also been informed that not only is Fr Flannery’s column to be halted but any content which may run contrary to the Church’s teachings should not be commissioned.

Fr Flannery was first informed of his censure by Rome two months ago and has travelled there to argue his case.

Hailed for religious retreat work, he spent most of Lent on retreat in Galway, Limerick and Belfast.

It is understood that Fr Flannery has been inundated with phonecalls and emails from priests inside and outside the Redemptorist Order.

The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith first contacted the Redemptorist Order in Rome with an order that Fr Flannery no longer be allowed to write in the Irish order’s Reality magazine or on the IACP website.

He was also forbidden to do any media work. The dictat was then passed on to the Irish order.

Fr Flannery is still allowed to say Mass.

Fr Flannery has written several books and been a vocal critic of the Church’s opposition to artificial contraception, the ordination of women, and celibacy.

He also backed Taoiseach Enda Kenny when he made his controversial Dáil speech lambasting the Vatican for its role in covering up the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests.

Just recently, Fr Flannery said that bishops and priests taking part in the Eucharistic Congress next June should wear a modern take on "sackcloth and ashes".

"Bishops and cardinals wearing mitres, surrounded by hundreds of vested priests, will give out the wrong message," he said.

"The celebration would be simple and humble, asking forgiveness not just for the abuse of children, but for the other abuses of power perpetrated by Church people in the past."

Read more:


Pope Benedict and this Vatican sure seem to have a double standard when it comes to dissent. In looking at their treatment of dissenting reactionary Anglicans and the schismatic SSPX the message is loud and clear. It doesn't matter how reactionary you are the Vatican will have 'discussions' with you, but try being even a little bit curious on the left side of things, and some dicastery or another in the Vatican comes after you hard and fast. Just ask Bishop William Morris of Australia who is exhibit number one of what Fr Egan referred to in the above article as "being subjected to FBI-like attention from ultra-orthodox "Catholic agents"."

And speaking of Bishop Morris, it seems his Vatican appointed inquisitor Archbishop Chaput is now claiming he didn't think anything in his report would lead to the sacking of Bishop Morris. I can't help but wonder if this is a case of AB Chaput having conscience pains or reinventing history to make himself look less like Machiavelli. It could be the second because Bishop Morris has never been given Chaput's report to read.

As with Sr Johnson, Fr Queiruga was writing about the possibility that our official definition of God might be lacking. And like Sr Johnson, the Spanish Bishops Conference has not extended much of an opportunity for Fr Queiruga to defend his writing, confront his accusers, nor was he given any advance notice.

It's not surprising that when theologians speculate on a nature for God which develops or is in conflict with our current definition that the Vatican gets defensive and paranoid. What is surprising the level of defensiveness and paranoia. If readers click the link to Iglesia Descalza you can read the points of dispute the SBC had with Fr. Queiruga's writing. I encourage readers to do this because they amply demonstrate how much of Church dogma and doctrine are dependent on a definition of God in which man is corrupt, God is angry about his own creation, and Jesus existed for no other reason than to sacrifice Himself to His Father so that God's creation would not be quite so offensive to God and therefor might possibly be saved from eternal damnation. In this view God is completely outside His own creation. He intervenes in a sort of random capricious way. The Church is the sole repository of supernatural grace and dispenses it through an ordained priesthood. Jesus didn't come to teach us much of anything about human potential or human relationships. He came to die, rise from the dead, justify humanity to His Father, and lest I forget, start the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. One needs a very angry God the Father to hang all that on. Then there is the very important corollary that all of this salvation stuff only works if one is obedient to one's superiors. Just like Jesus was obedient unto death and was rewarded by the Father with His resurrection and His Ascension into heaven. None of this has much to do with love, which is funny since Jesus had a great deal to say about the importance of love and how much His Father loves us all.

The trouble with love is that it's not predictable or controllable and doesn't need a hierarchy to dispense.


  1. To be fair, the Church hasn't been making any doctrinal concessions to SSPX in their discussions. It is looking like a resolution cannot be found after all, but the only accommodations on the table were liturgical and traditional ones.

    Liberals, by contrast, demand doctrinal concessions. Significant doctrinal concessions, of a kind the Church hasn't the authority to provide, and which would - if provided - lead to a very serious and very destructive schism.

    If their consciences demand wives, co-priestesses and contraceptives...why can't their consciences carry them into Anglicanism?

    1. Invictus, the hierarchy in the Church, its leaders, have been in schism a long time, since Constantine, and it has been very very destructive. The welcome of the SSPX back into the fold is proof of that very schism, to be fair.


    2. Butterfly,
      No it hasn't. There was the schism of 1054, but Constantine was not just dead but distant history by then.

      SSPX, along with everyone else on the planet, ought to be welcomed into the Church as swiftly and healthily as possible. The dialogue is an open one in which the Church is seeking to clarify misunderstandings surrounding the Second Vatican Council. In this way, it is no different from efforts to welcome the scattered Eastern Churches, protestant sects and Anglicans, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, as well as less religiously-defined groups like the left, the right, the rich, the poor, the marginalised, the mainstream, and everyone else, as per its mandate from Christ.

      So, no. You would be wrong in your assertion there.

  2. Pope Benedict has made a number of concessions, including lifting the excommunications of bishops. These bishops not only blatantly refused the direct order of JPII not to ordain any more priests, they outright reject Vatican II.

    Liberals are not contesting doctrine with calls for a married priesthood, and some theologians would also add ordination of women here, because this involves Church discipline, not Church doctrine. Birth control, at least for me, is a kind of grey area in which preventing pregnancy (engaging in intentional non procreative sexual acts) by manipulating time is fine, but using matter, is not. I am not quite sure I understand why this is so. Why is preventing conception by manipulating time considered differently than manipulating matter?

    I suppose a person could turn the tables on this whole Anglican thing by suggesting traditionally minded Catholics join the Anglican Ordinariate and leave the rest of the Church to us 'less than perfect Catholics'.

    1. Excommunications are often lifted, that's not an alteration to doctrine, or even to tradition. The contrast with the demands of dissident liberals could hardly be more clear.

      You suppose someone could...but it couldn't really be supposed by a Catholic, could it?

      After all, it's not "traditionally minded" to love and follow the Church. It's just Catholic. It's just the minimum expectation placed upon us.

    2. That's the problem Invictus, following the Church is all about being Catholic and not much about actually being Christian.

      The Anglican Ordinariate is Catholic, my point was that most of the 'dissent' is not about dogma or doctrine, it's about disciplines. The Ordinariate could have their set of priestly disciplines, much like the Eastern Churches, and progressives could have their set of priestly disciplines. It's not like progressive are arguing that Jesus is not Divine, we are arguing that the priesthood is neither Divine nor divinely inspired. Jesus never 'ordained' anyone.

    3. "Christian" is just an umbrella term for anyone who believes themselves to be following Christ. This includes people who can't even bring themselves to agree on such basic things as the trinity, let alone things so besmirched as the sacraments. If one is to follow Christ as fully as possible, then one is to be "Catholic", that is to say one is to follow the only Church on the planet to have an unbroken link back to Jesus, to still say the Mass, to still use the prayers bequeathed to us, to still teach and believe as Jesus and his first disciples taught and believed.

      The dissent of SSPX is dissent about discipline; about liturgical norms, about the perceived soft-treatment of dissidents and heretics, about aesthetics.
      By contrast, as I said above, the dissent of the 'liberals' is dissent about not just discipline (married priests, liturgical dance, etc) but about core doctrines (priestesses, authority, sacraments).

      As I said, these are very significant demands, of a kind that the Church hasn't the authority to provide, and which would - if provided - lead to a very serious and very destructive schism.

      If liberal consciences demand wives, co-priestesses, contraceptives, and abortion on request...why can't their consciences carry them into Anglicanism? After all, 'liberals' don't seem to think that the institution of the Church is really very important, so what would they lose by becoming Anglican?

    4. The Church doesn't have the authority to provide? What ever happened to Jesus's statement to Peter about loosening and binding. Did JPII hear the Holy Spirit tell him that Jesus was wrong? Or was this statement only in effect until the Church determined it had done all the loosening and binding it needed and decided that in the 21st century it would bind only and be done with the loosening.

      If you are going to insist on using the term 'priestess', in my responses to you I will use the term 'warlocks' for priests. I would use the term 'wizards' but too many of our warlocks don't have the ethics or the personal magic to be considered wizards and they turn the Mass into a long drawn out spell complete with magic words.

    5. So, the Church only has the total authority of Christ when you want it to protestantise itself in accordance with your personal sense of entitlement?

      What about when it stands up to your beloved dissenters and continues to affirm the same sound doctrine that it has always held?

      No, no. When it does that it is being fascistic, imperialist, and patriarchal, and needs to "loosen up" and "accept the consensus".


    6. "and continues to affirm the same sound doctrine that it has always held?" Hmmm, there were some very significant changes a long the way and it took dissenters to foster the changes. Slavery, usury, and cosmology come to mind right off the top of my head.

      Can you possibly consider the idea that Jesus meant those words to underscore the fact He knew humanity would learn a very great deal and need to change accordingly? No one is talking about changing His teachings. We are talking about the all the spurious add ons and unnecessary gizmos that seriously undermine the message.

    7. Like what changes? Slavery and usury were never points of doctrine, and cosmology...what are you driving at there exactly?

      I can consider that Jesus knew what he meant. I can consider that he did not lie to us. I can therefore trust that the Holy Spirit has indeed safeguarded the Church from doctrinal error. Trusting this as I do, I have grounds to suspect that dissenters are in grave error.

      You are talking about changing his teachings, and the dissenters you by turns defend, emulate, and lionise do the same. Priestesses were never a part of what the Church believed, so why acquiesce to feminist demands that we invent them? Innocent life has never been up for use as a bargaining chip, so why start now?

      If you want womyn priests and abortions, what is wrong with going over to Anglicanism?

  3. God is good; he is not angry with his creation. He loves it and loves us. He wants us to love each other with the same intensity and unconditionality that his Christ loves us. Because we find it nigh impossible to love as He loves, we turn God into an angry father who requires his own son's broken body to be forgiving towards us. This provides us a way to set up a straw dog, those who r not saved bec of disobedience 2 doctrine. We come 2 believe we r saved because we r "in" & "obedient." I am not sure if God laughs or cries bec of our stupidity, aka our inability 2 see the truth that will set us free. That truth is lI've.

    1. God probably laughs because God knows the after life is all about love and not about hell. Birth is an interesting proposition because we come into this life knowing nothing at all other than to recongize the face of our mother, or primary care giver. I like to say we are born into original ignorance, not sin. The real sins come from people who teach us to revel in our ignorance rather than to question it.

    2. "There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth, and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.”
      GK Chesterton

      John Fremont

  4. Father Flannery's outspokenness and other recent expressions of independence by the people of God in Ireland, may lead us to hope that the Irish church will once again save the church, as it did in the Dark Ages.

    1. You might be right Bill. There are now 800 Irish priests in Fr Flannery's group. That's double from a year ago. Then there is the fact the Irish hierarchy has little or no credibility, and the various Vatican statements and visitations have done little except call for conversion. It will be interesting to see what happens at the Eucharistic congress in June. Since an Apostolic legate was appointed, I think we can safely figure Pope Benedict will not be in attendance. That's a statement in and of itself.