Joe Mulvaney (We Are Church) on the CDF, Galileo and Tony Flannery…

The Roman Inquisition Has Not Gone Away

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) continues the grisly work. If proof is needed, just listen to the Redemptorist priest Fr. Tony Flannery among many others. Read his article dated 17th September 2020 on the website of the Association of Catholic Priests. Check out his 2013 book entitled “A Question of Conscience”. His inquisition without any element of due process is now almost one decade of persecution. Unlike some brave female religious orders, his congregation appears unable to confront the Roman bullies and neutralise their unjust edict prohibiting him from public celebration of Mass and continuation of his excellent priestly ministry. It is little wonder that dictators and authoritarian patriarchs worldwide follow that bad example and continue their abuse leading to huge numbers of refugees. Is it any wonder that millions of Catholics have walked away in disgust from the ongoing echoes of Inquisition?

Like all Catholics, Fr. Tony treasures the core faith doctrines within the Good News of Jesus Christ. However, like many Catholics today, Fr. Tony disagrees with the outdated opinions of a small group of clerics in regard to non-faith matters to do with women and sexuality. The consensus of a majority of Irish Catholics and many pastoral priests in 2020 is that the era of apartheid for women in the Catholic Church and patriarchal domination should have been consigned to the dustbin of history a long time ago. Many Catholics in the developed world have concluded that there must be equality and justice for women in the leadership, governance, teaching office and ministry of the Catholic Church. They are convinced that it is not possible in the developed world to evangelise in the language of sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and patriarchal monarchy. Fr. Tony is being unjustly persecuted for honestly expressing the consensus of many Catholics.

There are eerie parallels between the infamous Galileo case in 1633 and Fr. Tony’s current persecution by the CDF. A big question in 1633 was whether the universe is geocentric or heliocentric. A big question today is whether the Church is centred on patriarchs or the people of God. The accepted wisdom from ancient philosophers together with literal interpretation of Scripture was of a geocentric universe up to the 1500’s. In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish astronomer went against the old orthodoxies and postulated a heliocentric universe. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was an Italian astronomer who used telescopes to verify Copernican theory. This got Galileo into serious trouble with Cardinal Robert Bellarmine of the Roman Inquisition which had proclaimed Copernican theory false and erroneous in 1616. Galileo persisted with his scientific research and published his confirmation of a heliocentric universe in 1632. Accused of heresy and scandal undermining Catholicism in its fight against Protestantism, Galileo was tried by the Roman Inquisition in 1633, ordered to recant his scientific evidence under threat of torture/death and forced to spend the last 8 years of his life under house arrest in Florence. Tragically, the ignorant anti-science position and anti-modern knowledge is still with us under authoritarian regimes worldwide today. Rome got it very wrong with Galileo in 1633 and, sadly, it took 350 years to issue a partial apology.

Most of us lay persons are free to walk away from intransigent clerics and proceed to build up the Kingdom of God elsewhere in Her great world. However, Fr. Tony does not want to walk away since priesthood is his life and treasured vocation This ongoing abuse of a good priest by Roman clerics brings shame and despair on us. It totally undermines our attempts as baptised adults to present credible Good News of Jesus Christ to our young people and to build up the vital parish communities. On Sunday 27th September, we all prayed for migrants and refugees fleeing from medieval regimes. The CDF have exiled Fr. Tony from his public ministry. Their collaborators seek to make refugees of us from our Church family when we confront Peter about non-core matters and plead for urgent reform. It is a glaring injustice and abuse when an elite caste of clerics in so called holy offices persecute honest pastoral priests and double down on apartheid for Catholic women. Those of us Catholics who favour urgent reform and action for justice must speak out and act in any way we can.


Joe Mulvaney

Dundrum, Co. Dublin

September 27th, 2020


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  1. Sean O’Conaill says:

    Joe Mulvaney is quite right about the paralysing effect upon the Irish Church of the mere existence of the CDF – and of Cardinal Ladaria’s understanding of the task of ‘protecting the faith’.

    But this raises another question: was Pope Francis ever informed, by any Irish Bishop, of the context in Ireland in 2012 when the censuring of Tony and others began – and of the coincidence of the acceleration in the drift from Irish Catholic religious practice with the revelations from 1994 of mishandling by Irish bishops of clerical child abuse?

    This speaks to the utter failure of what used to be called ‘ultramontanism’ – the ideology underpinning the CDF – to‘protect the faith’ of Irish Catholic people – and from a much earlier date. As ultramontanism was essentially an obligatory personality cult of popes it was not a celebration of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the counsellor, in every little church, and every sincere child’s heart and mind, in Ireland.

    Surely it was that attitude of awed deference to Rome that ensured that Irish bishops would adhere to the policy of hiding all evidence that ordination did not in fact ensure the impeccability of the ordained in the area of sexuality?

    Certainly it was that policy that ensured an absence of evidence, of shocking revelation, that could be called ‘tranquillity’ by Archbishop McQuaid of Dublin in 1965 – to explain why we didn’t need Vatican II.

    Just imagine the drama of future history classes in Ireland, as well schooled teachers tell of the assiduous ‘protection of the faith’ by the CDF – and its officious delators in Ireland – from 1968 – while meanwhile so much home-made TNT was accumulating in the Irish church crypt!

    That another Dublin archbishop could go to Wurzburg in 2017 and deliver an impressive recent history of the Irish church – without once even mentioning the impact of Humanae Vitae and the CDF here – speaks for itself. History and diplomacy are different vocations, and a truly explanatory history of our present predicament has yet to be wrtten.

    But that in turn means that the present pope may be entirely oblivious of the complete effectiveness of the CDF in ‘protecting the faith’ in Ireland. Will Irish ultramontanism ever be dead enough to allow some future pope to hear that full story?

  2. oliver stansfield says:

    I am not impressed by the sympathetic coverage given to Tony Flannery by the Association of Catholic Priests. I am convinced that the faith of ordinary people has been undermined by the apparent approval of this Association to the views of Tony Flannery. Failure by many priests to try an implement Humanae Vitae has done untold damage to the Church. The floodgates were opened ; the dignity of life and the true meaning of marriage has suffered enormously. Women are treated as things, as objects of pleasure separated from the meaning of marriage. Look how the same people want to change the definition of marriage.We can accept Gay people in the church but we cannot accept that same sex unions constitute marriage. The Lord was so compassionate with all sinners but he did not compromise with sin itself. That’s the reason why he became one of us and died on the cross for us sinners.

  3. Bernard Whelan says:

    May I offer a reply to Oliver Stansfield’s comment? Tony Flannery attracted such sympathy and support not because of his views, which are barely relevant to the case, but because of the way he has been treated by the CDF. It is of the essence of any system of justice that a person accused of wrongdoing should be given an opportunity of answering the accusation. No legal system worth the name lacks this element. When Jesus was brought to trial, both before the Sanhedrin and before Pilate, he was invited to answer the charges against him (Matthew 26, 62 and 27, 13); the first Christian martyr, Stephen, was offered the same opportunity (Acts, 7, 1). It is the shameful failure of the CDF to observe this basic element of justice that has given rise to such support for Fr. Flannery.

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