A leading Irish theologian has criticised Vatican action to silence Fr Tony Flannery and suspend him from ministry, describing it as “theologically inept”.
Augustinian Fr Gabriel Daly examines the treatment of Fr Flannery and three other priests censured by Rome in a new book that focuses on reform in the Church.
Fr Daly highlights an article written by Fr Flannery, a Redemptorist, for the journalReality that was cited by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) as one of the reasons for him being silenced.
In the course of his article, Fr Flannery wrote: “Whatever Jesus intended, I don’t think anyone can credibly claim that he intended the type of system we now have in the Church … I no longer believe that the priesthood, as we currently have it in the Church, originated with Jesus.”
Fr Daly told The Tablet, however, that these views “are both theologically and historically unexceptionable. His attackers have simply failed to reckon with his qualification ‘as we currently have it in the Church’”.
He added that it was “abundantly clear” that today’s Catholic Church is very different from the gathering of disciples around Jesus. The theologian and author said he thought only “dedicated traditionalists” would take issue with what he is saying.
Fr Daly explained that his new book concentrates on the need to reform the CDF and discusses the “meaning of reform in the light of some theological principles and insights”. He said the CDF seems intent on claiming that everything in today’s Church is consonant with the will and intentions of Jesus.
“I can do no more than point out that this cannot be historically true,” he said. “There is a huge difference between the situation as it was 2,000 years ago and the situation as it is today. Much will depend on your interpretation of development.”
The Church: Always in Need of Reform, by Fr Gabriel Daly, is due to be published by Dominican Publications later this year.
The Roman Catholic Congregation for the doctrine of the Faith (CDF) is responsible for the oversight of doctrinal orthodoxy in that Church. This article, in this week’s ‘Tablet’, reports on theologically oppositional comments made by Irish theologian – Augustinian, Fr Gabriel Daly – who criticises the action of CDF in silencing his fellow Irish theologian, Father Tony Flannery, a Redemptorist, whose recent remarks on the subject of reform in the R.C. Church have led to his possible suspension from ministry. Fr. Flannery speaks of the traditional R.C. priesthood, and whether its premises should be overhauled in the light of new circumstances in the Church. Such supposition might well open up, for instance the possibility of married priests, or even women clergy – such as are now employed on the ministry of the Church of England.
Father Daly points to the difference in circumstances between the first organisation of ministry in the days of the Apostles, and the current situation of ministry called for in the world of today. His new book ‘The Church Always in Need of Reform’, is due to be published by the Dominican Press later in 2014. One wonders, in the present climate of nervousness about the trajectory of the Roman Catholic Church under the primacy of Pope Francis, and the reforms he seems intent on making at the Vatican, whether these dissenting voices will continue to be silenced?
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand