Having read Tony’s book and in particular his engagement with the CDF I would make the following observations. Perhaps they amount to no more than naive idealism but here goes.
1. If the content of a pastor’s writing or activity is felt to be so threatening to the unity, truth and peace of the Church that the Church’s official teachers feel they must intervene, then the case should be handled according to the very highest standards of judicial procedure.
2. The accused should have advance knowledge of the precise gravamen of the case against him or her. They should have the right to organise their own defence and to appoint their own counsel.
3. The trial should be held in open court, so that justice may be seen to be done.
4.The judges should be drawn from as widely representative a section of Catholic theological opinion as possible, so that one theological school may not be permitted to impose by forensic action what it cannot achieve in open honest scholarly debate. (CDF take note)
5. It is very important to avoid anonymous denunciation by persons unknown to those being investigated. (Again CDF take note)
6. I am absolutely of the conviction that open and free theological debate generates its own checks and balances and is the most fitting context for the resolution of theological difficulties. In other words intervention by a body such as the CDF should be very rare indeed.
7. All of this would be considered absolutely normal under almost any fair and just judicial system. Yet is it not strange that it is singularly lacking in the justice system as administered by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith? Is it not fantastic that our Church is in this area at least operating a system which most of us would find unacceptable were it to occur in any secular organisation?
In expressing these views I know I am on a hiding to nothing but I am simply asserting the inalienable right of every person to speak in defence of what they believe to justice and truth.
Signed copies of Tony Flannery’s new book ‘From the Outside’ available.
Forward cheque for €15, payable to ACP, to
Liamy Mac Nally, Sheeaune, Westport, Mayo.