Iggy O’Donovan’s observations after reading Tony Flannery’s book ‘From the Outside.’

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.


Editor’s note:

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. 

Similar Posts


  1. Paddy+Ferry says:

    Iggy, I don’t know why you say you are on a hiding to nothing. One needs only an iota of intelligence –common sense, even,– to know that you are absolutely spot on.

    It is such a sad reflection on the state of our Church that you must suspect there are those who would not or could not accept your very reasonable observations.

  2. Pól Ó Duibhir says:

    I am only on page 21 and progressing slowly.

    From here, this looks like turning into a very inspirational book, theologically and pastorally speaking.

  3. Seamus+Ahearne says:

    Iggy. You have three friends (at least): Joe Biden, Jonathan Sacks and Augustine.

    Joe Biden has won the Presidential election. His campaign was one of decency, empathy, humanity, unity, respect and healing. Those are basic qualities which are expected to be found in Christian communities. They are the essentials in the world of Jesus Christ and Gospel.

    Jonathan Sacks has died. His last ‘Thought for the day’ on Radio 4 in May, spoke of ‘kindness’ (illustrated through the treatment of Naomi in the Book of Ruth). Jonathan was a man of deep faith; a big heart and a great mind. We were blessed to have such a person of faith, in the public Forum. We could be proud of him, as one of us!

    Augustine: So whoever says, “This is not well said because I do not understand it, is criticizing my statement and not the faith; and perhaps it could have been said more clearly. On the other hand, if anyone says, “I understand this but it is untrue,” that person is free to state such a conviction and refute mine. If they succeed in doing so charitably and truthfully, and also take the trouble to let me know, then that will be the choicest plum that could fall to me for these labours of mine. (De Trinitate – Introduction: St Augustine)

    Respect. Kindness. Decency. Empathy. Listening. Humanity. Christianity. All were missing in the treatment of Tony Flannery by the CDF and those who associated with them. (Iggy as you wrote). We (as professionals in the Church) are supposedly purveyors of the higher values. We have to ‘apply’ in life what we preach! Do we? There is sometimes an arrogance, a sense of certainty and even creeping infallibility among us which leads to intolerance and disrespect in religious circles. It is never right.

    Seamus Ahearne osa

  4. Paddy+Ferry says:

    Absolutely superb, Seamus!! So very well said.

  5. Terry Mc Hugh says:

    Greetings, to my old friend, Iggy, from the former capital of Ireland, namely, Drogheda. As a practicing catholic ( I’ll qualify some day) I have always believed that it is imperative to treat our fellow travellers with empathy and justice; particularly where ecclesiastical accusations are concerned. Iggy, himself, has been a victim of this Judge Roy Bean form of justice in the past. I remain a church goer in spite of them, rather than because of them. Well done, Tony Flannery.

Join the Discussion

Keep the following in mind when writing a comment

  • Your comment must include your full name, and email. (email will not be published). You may be contacted by email, and it is possible you might be requested to supply your postal address to verify your identity.
  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger. Comments containing vulgarities, personalised insults, slanders or accusations shall be deleted.
  • Keep to the point. Deliberate digressions don't aid the discussion.
  • Including multiple links or coding in your comment will increase the chances of it being automati cally marked as spam.
  • Posts that are merely links to other sites or lengthy quotes may not be published.
  • Brevity. Like homilies keep you comments as short as possible; continued repetitions of a point over various threads will not be published.
  • The decision to publish or not publish a comment is made by the site editor. It will not be possible to reply individually to those whose comments are not published.