12 April 2012

I am Disturbed by the Views of the ACP

On April 5th, The Irish Catholic ran this story under the headline, Fr Flannery under Vatican investigation:
Founder of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) Fr Tony Flannery is under Vatican investigation for some of his liberal views, The Irish Catholic has learned.


It comes just two weeks after the report of the Apostolic Visitation noted what it described as “fairly widespread” dissent among priests, religious and laypeople from the teaching of the Church.

It is understood that while Fr Flannery has the support of his superiors, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome has expressed disquiet about some of his articles and publications. It is understood that the views which have come under most scrutiny are Fr Flannery’s opposition to the Church’s ban on artificial birth control and his support for the ordination of women.

 In response, this was posted on the Association of Catholic Priests website on April 9th:
The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) is disturbed that Fr Tony Flannery, a founding member of the Association, is being ‘silenced’. We believe that such an approach, in its individual focus on Fr Flannery and inevitably by implication on the members of the Association, is an extremely ill-advised intervention in the present pastoral context in Ireland.

We affirm in the strongest possible terms our confidence in and solidarity with Fr Flannery and we wish to make clear our profound view that this intervention is unfair, unwarranted and unwise. The issues surfaced by the ACP since its foundation less than two years ago and by Tony Flannery as part of the leadership team are not an attack on or a rejection of the fundamental teachings of the Church. Rather they are an important reflection by an association of over 800 Irish priests – who have given long service to the Catholic Church in Ireland – on issues surfacing in parishes all over the country.

While some reactionary fringe groups have contrived to portray our association as a small coterie of radical priests with a radical agenda, we have protested vehemently against that unfair depiction. We are and we wish to remain at the very heart of the Church, committed to putting into place the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

Accordingly we wish to register our extreme unease and disquiet at the present development, not least the secrecy surrounding such interventions and the questions about due process and freedom of conscience that such interventions surface. At this critical juncture in our history, the ACP believes that this form of intervention – what Archbishop Diarmuid Martin recently called ‘heresy-hunting’ – is of no service to the Irish Catholic Church and may have the unintended effect of exacerbating a growing perception of a significant ‘disconnect’ between the Irish Church and Rome.
The lay movement We Are Church Ireland had this to say on April 6th:
'We are Church Ireland' is appalled at the silencing of Fr. Tony Flannery from the expression of his theological views by the Vatican and call on all Irish Catholics to support him at this critical time .

This is not the first time this silencing of theologians has occurred here in Ireland as two years ago Fr Owen O'Sullivan O.F.M. Cap. was effectively silenced by his Capuchin order under pressure from The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith after writing an article 'On including Gays' in the 'Furrow.'

It is especially important that all Fr. Flannery's fellow priests should now publicly express their solidarity with their silenced brother priest against this further Vatican infringement of the rights of Catholics to dissent from man-made canon laws of the church which, under the leadership of Pope Benedict, have become identified in the Vatican as verging on the infallible, a claim we reject.

We believe that the ban on obligatory celibacy and the ordination of women must be removed and as Catholics we have an obligation to follow our consciences and openly dissent from the rigid enforcement of these man- made bans which are slowly destroying our church.

'It is a critical time in the Catholic Church as both the Apostolic Visitation report and Pope Benedict's Holy Thursday's homily are trying to bring our Church back into rigid authoritarian centralised structures where all dissent is dealt with in a ruthless manner but this rigid response won't work as lay Catholics believe that they must now step up to the mark and exercise their God given role as the people of God', stated Mr Brendan Butler, spokesperson for We are Church Ireland
Is priestly celibacy, a male priesthood and the ban on contraception "man-made canon laws"? Some canon laws are man-made, but they are based on divine law, that is, doctrine. Unfortunately, not all Catholic doctrines have been dogmatically defined, and some are a little unclear about whether their definition is canonically doctrinal.

Priestly celibacy is not a doctrine. Never has been and never will be (obviously, because doctrines always have been and always will be). It's not even a law that extends across the universal Church. Only in the Latin Rite is priestly celibacy the norm. (Note that I said, "the norm." There are exceptions, even in the Latin Rite.) However, this tradition follows the example of Jesus and St. Paul, and even if it were to change tomorrow, all who took a vow of celibacy would have to remain bound by that vow. Only men that were married before being ordained to the diaconate could go on to become married priests as they do in the East. And if they become widowed, they would have to remain celibate as St. Paul instructed St. Timothy and St. Titus. This may not be doctrinal (the key word is may), but it is divinely inspired, and even if the Latin Rite adopts the custom of the other Rites, ordain men will never be allowed to marry.

Of course, there is a major problem with priestly celibacy. It attracts men with sexual addictions, particularly with homosexual inclinations, in the hope that the vow of celibacy will "cure" them of their disorders. (This has been made quite clear recently in Ireland.) A married priesthood, however, will not alleviate this problem. Men with the same types of disorders also sometimes look to the marriage vow as a "cure." The additional problem with approaching marriage this way is that a woman is now being used as a "cure" for these disorders and, unfortunately, children will be conceived and possibly, if not, will very likely, also be abused.

There is always some ignoramus that brings up the suggestion that Roman Catholic priests should be castrated when they take the vow of celibacy. After all, with the vow of celibacy, they don't need that part of their anatomy, and castration will keep a lot of young boys and girls safe. I would think that such a policy would attract even more disordered men and make the Church even more unsafe (despite what the secular media says, the Catholic Church is statistically one of the safest places for boys and girls). If you think we have a priest shortage now, imagine how much worse it would be if such a rule were contemplated.

The Sacrament of Holy Orders is very closely related to the Sacrament of Marriage. Although no specific law impedes a man from being ordained that is not physically able to consummate a marriage, it is understood that the same requirements for marriage are also required for holy orders. Some even suggest that this may be doctrinal. Even if it may not be doctrinal, it is theological.

The priest is another Christ, that is, the bridegroom, and the Church is the bride. The act of consecration on the altar is the very same act on the cross in which Christ the Bridegroom consummates His marriage to His Bride by impregnating her by His Body and Blood. This theology, which goes back to St. Paul, and is based on Christ and even Genesis, would exclude from the priesthood castrated men, and, arguably, men that are unable to express heterosexual desires, not to mention women.

I could write a book on this last paragraph (and some have), but suffice it to say that "in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my [Bl. Pope John Paul II] ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I [Bl. Pope John Paul II] declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful." (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis). Since May 22, 1994, this topic has been dogmatically closed without any room for discussion other than the question of if Ordinatio Sacerdotalis met all the conditions of papal infallibility. Regardless of this possible debate, the topic of women priests is closed, and there will never be the possibility for it to be opened.

Likewise, it is impossible for something that has been declared "intrinsically evil" to be exonerated as "intrinsically good." (I know that most translations of "intrinsic inhonestum" in Humanae Vitae read, "intrinsically wrong," but  2370 of the Catechism translates it as, "intrinsically evil," and so I'm going to go with the Catechism.) I could write another book (and, likewise, some have) about the theological reasons why contraception is intrinsically evil (these reasons are almost indistinguishably intertwined with the reasons for a male priesthood), but it is sufficient for this post to state that the Church dogmatically says it is so.

If Fr. Flannery publicly dissents on these three issues, he should be silenced; as should all such dissenters, even if there are over 800 of them in Ireland. There are at least some priests in Ireland that hold to the orthodox catholic Faith. I personally know one of them, who I hold in very high regard, and I'm sure he's not alone. This may seem heavy-handed, but St. Nicholas (Santa Claus is real, and he was a Catholic Bishop) did crossed the floor of the First Nicene Council and strike Arius in the face for publicly dissenting on the fully Divine Nature of Christ. And Arius wasn't alone. Remember what St. Jerome said about that time period, "The world awoke and found itself Arian."

I'm going to give the last word of this post to the Vicar of Christ. This was in his Chrism Mass homily on Holy Thursday a week ago. In case you were wondering, the pope here is not referring to Fr. Flannery or the ACP, but to a group of over 300 dissenting priests in Austria who, among other things, are calling for the ordination of women and an end to priestly celibacy.
Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord.

Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for all true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?

But let us not oversimplify matters. Surely Christ Himself corrected human traditions which threatened to stifle the word and the will of God? Indeed He did, so as to rekindle obedience to the true will of God, to His ever enduring word. His concern was for true obedience, as opposed to human caprice. Nor must we forget: He was the Son, possessed of singular authority and responsibility to reveal the authentic will of God, so as to open up the path for God’s word to the world of the nations. And finally: He lived out His task with obedience and humility all the way to the Cross, and so gave credibility to His mission. Not my will, but thine be done: these words reveal to us the Son, in His humility and His divinity, and they show us the true path.

Let us ask again: do not such reflections serve simply to defend inertia, the fossilisation of traditions? No. Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognise the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit. And if we look at the people from whom these fresh currents of life burst forth and continue to burst forth, then we see that this new fruitfulness requires being filled with the joy of faith, the radicalism of obedience, the dynamic of hope and the power of love.


I looked into it, and I was wrong to say that the catechism translates inhonestum as evil. A correct translation of inhonestum is "dishonourable, shameful, disgraceful, degrading."

It seems the catechism is wrong in what document it is referring to. The reference given is to Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, but the quote, “intrinsic evil,” is from Pius XI’s 1930 document Casti Connubi. In this document, Pius XI called artificial contraception an “intrinsic evil” (intrinsece malum).

Some bishops have suggested that intrinsece inbonestum means something less than intrinsece malum. However, Bl. John Paul II made a critical reply to this suggestion in Reconciliatio et Penitentia.