Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fr Flannery & the abrogation of power

As  noted yesterday, the issue of Fr Tony Flannery has resurfaced. Many letters in the Times today, for and against. 

So what's going on here? Fr Flannery & his followers see him as a good, faithful priest, facing inquisition level sanctions for merely being honest to what believes. Those against him see him as a man who has strayed so far from Church teaching that he must either comes back onto the straight and narrow or continues on his merry way, which is all the way out of the Catholic Church. Obviously the two views are incompatible.

What provoked this controversy is an article Fr Flannery wrote for the Redemptorist magazine 'Reality.' The magazine is a pay-for-subscription one, so I can't link to to the article. However, the New York Times had a piece  on this a few days ago, which quotes what it says is one of the key reasons why the Vatican ordered action taken against him:

... Father Flannery, a Redemptorist priest, wrote that he no longer believed that “the priesthood as we currently have it in the church originated with Jesus” or that he designated “a special group of his followers as priests.”

Instead, he wrote, “It is more likely that some time after Jesus, a select and privileged group within the community who had abrogated power and authority to themselves, interpreted the occasion of the Last Supper in a manner that suited their own agenda.”

If the NYT are quoting Fr Flannery correctly, it sounds to me as if there are grounds for thinking he is denying some key areas of Church doctrine - the validity of Holy Orders, much of sacramental theology, & the teaching authority of the episcopate and what that flows from that springs to mind. In which case,one can well imagine why the Vatican would wish him to retract his statement ... 

Fr Flannery, however, remains committed to his views on this matter & refuses to be silent any longer. And so this affair will grind on. Realistically, there can be only two possible outcomes: that he ultimately retracts; or he is permanently removed from his ministry. So please pray for him and the Catholic Church in Ireland at this time.

I'd be curious to know what you think on this matter. Specifically, do you think it is possible for Fr Flannery to hold the views that he does and continue as a Catholic priest? 

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