Justice in the World: Justice in the Church

I must give credit for the substance of this article to a wonderful book recently written by Donal Dorr, Option for the Poor and for the Earth. One chapter in the book deals with the Synod of Bishops in 1971, which has the distinction of being the only synod since their introduction at the Second Vatican Council which had the freedom to write its own report. Since then the reports have always been written after the event by the Pope, a policy which gradually made Synods of Bishops into a meaningless exercise.
Donal’s book gives very pertinent quotes from the final document of the Synod on the matter of justice within the Church.
“While the Church is bound to give witness to justice, she recognises that anyone who ventures to speak to people about justice must first be just in their eyes.”
Then it goes on to speak of the rights of people within the Church. The document recognises “everyone’s right to suitable freedom of expression and thoughts” including “the right to be heard in a spirit of dialogue which preserves a legitimate diversity within the Church.” (JW 44) Furthermore, it insists that “the form of judicial procedure should give the accused the right to know his accusers and also the right to a proper defence” and that the procedures should be speedy. (JW 45) Dorr goes on to comment: ‘In putting forward these principles or guidelines the document was issuing a strong challenge to the prevailing practices and views in the Vatican. This is a challenge that is still very relevant today’.
When I made enquires as to why this statement, which is official Church teaching, was not applied in my case I got this extraordinary answer: ‘This policy applies only to juridical cases; yours is administrative’. I suspect this bit of ‘mental reservation’ has to do with the Vatican’s claim that, where religious are concerned, it is the superiors of the Congregation that take the action, not the CDF. So it is important for me to make two things absolutely clear:

  1. While they describe my case as not being juridical, there certainly were a lot of judgments made.
  2. These judgments were made by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and not by the Redemptorists. In so far as the Redemptorists acted against me, they did so under considerable coercion. It was not their choice, as they have made clear to me many times.

So I am once again left with the conclusion that the behaviour of the CDF is at the very least underhand, that they ignore their own teaching by playing around with words, and that they are happy to ride roughshod over the basic rights of people within the Church. I wonder is there any possibility that this eagerly awaited ‘reform of the Curia’ will deal with this scandal.
Incidentally, for the many people who have suggested to me that I should bypass the CDF and go directly to Pope Francis, I am reliably informed that Francis does not deal with individual cases. I think that is understandable.
Tony Flannery

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  1. Pól Ó Duibhir says:

    I am surprised that there have been no comments on this piece.
    It seems to me to be a very important one and to get to the heart of what is wrong with the Church.
    In my day, the teaching was that error had no rights so if you were adjudged wrong your humanity was irrelevant. I thought Vatican II had moved away from this to an approach more in keeping with the dignity of the human being. I said so in a paper I did for the L&H in the late sixties.
    I now find that the CDF are operating in completely pre-Conciliar mode.
    Surely they should be ex-communicated, or self ex-communicate, or whatever the appropriate term is?
    My paper:

  2. I often ask myself – Is the Church a just society?

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