Rome’s intervention is a sign of fear – Peter McVerry

I am saddened but not surprised that Tony Flannery has been silenced and Gerry Moloney and Reality Magazine reined in. The attempts by Rome to suppress any discussion about issues such as ordination of women and compulsory celibacy are surely a sign of fear. Jesus questioned the religious institution in which he had been brought up, its attitudes, laws and practices, and the understanding of God which those attitudes and practices revealed, a God whose passion was the observance of the Law. He revealed, instead, a God of compassion, who required different attitudes and practices. The God of compassion is incompatible with the God of the Law. He too incurred the wrath of the religious authorities of his time. Perhaps young people today are leaving the Church because they no longer find God there.

Similar Posts


  1. Winifred Collins says:

    Fr McVerry is a great example of Christianity at work and I admire him greatly. However, Jesus, although He showed compassion, he still adhered to the law of God, He did not come to remove one jot. He had compassion for sinners but still hated the sin, “go and sin no more”. Many Catholics in Ireland are living in sin because they are no longer told that fornication, co-habitation, etc. is sinful. They are not preached the Gospel. The Gospel is counter to today’s culture and many priests shirk their duty to evangelise their congregations for fear of being unpopular. We need holy priests who preach and live the Gospel. We have many of them, thank God.

  2. Seminarian II (aka Gearóid Mary) says:

    Is this utopian pseudo church of compassion attracting our youth? It seems to me that it isn’t. So then, what is? To my knowledge the Reality magazine has not been flying off the shelves in Newsagents in recent years. And we are back to the social revolutionary Jesus; what are we intent on making him in our image? The Vatican had had some choice things to say on that in recent years too.

  3. Mary O Vallely says:

    “The God of compassion is incompatible with the God of the Law.” Yes!!! Young people need good role models and no better a role model than Peter McVerry. Fear is so destructive and there is much fear among priests and people. I’ll admit to being a bit fearful myself when I see a kind of smug triumphalism and schadenfreude emanating from certain ardent Catholics over the silencing of TF and GM. The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better and I think of that beautiful Ravensbruck prayer.
    “O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted on us, remember the fruits we have bought, because of this suffering – our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown out of all of this, and when they come to judgement, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness.”
    Ravensbruck concentration camp
    Written by an unknown prisoner and left by the body of a dead child.
    I should hope and pray that out of this present darkness more voices will unite in defence of freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. The qualities of mercy,compassion and love must be our fruits else why call ourselves Christians? Mary V

  4. Christine Gilsen says:

    Fr Peter’s suggestion that perhaps young people are leaving the church because they no longer find God there is true for many young people I know – and many not so young. Recently, one young person described her experience at mass like being ‘stifled’. It would be good if the church could demonstrate in practical ways how God continues to create and build and that God is interested in every individual. A core doctrine of the institutional church is the theological reality of communio (the inner life of God as one God in three persons), that is manifested through unity in diversity and diversity in unity in all God’s people. However, this core doctrine has been stifled in the practical life of the church and this has resulted in dry, androcentric, meaningless liturgies because the magisterium is allowing fear to block the gifts of the Spirit.

  5. Seminarian II (aka Gearóid Mary) says:

    Christine, can you tell me how “the magisterium is allowing fear to block the gifts of the Spirit.” I have heard of many incidents where the Spirit was at work. His work was unfortunately stifled by the ignorance, or lack of discernment on the part of many who hold attitudes that are at odds with the “magisterium”. Their anthropocentricism is blinding them to the true nature of communio.

  6. Chris Gardiner says:

    @ Winifred. Your quote “go and sin no more” is interesting. If you met Jesus personally and he told you to go and sin no more, the chances are you would be so awstruck that you would never consciously sin any more. But we in the modern age don’t have the luxury of personally meeting Jesus and so our human nature falters and we doubt and fall back into sin. To sin again does not mean that now Jesus is finished with us or loses his temper because we sinned again. God is Mercy. Even when he tells us to sin no more he knows that human nature is weak and is always ready to forgive us no matter how many times we fail. You say he “hated” the sin. I don’t think God hates sin I think he feels sorry for us because we are prone to sin. It’s how you view Jesus really. As a loving guardian or judge.

  7. Chris, Peter met Jesus and spent a lot of time with Him. Yet he denied Him three times. Peter also doubted when he was in the boat and was invited to walk on water. So there you are. Peter is little different to us today.

  8. Christine Gilsen says:

    Seminarian II, a good example of how the magisterium is allowing fear to block the gifts of the Spirit is the implementation of Canon 129 which excludes decision making by lay people. It is worth noting that Canon 129 came into being after Vatican II and cannot be grounded in either tradition or dogma in terms of the magisterium or scripture. Furthermore, it disregards Lumen Gentium 12 which states, “The holy people of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office”. It would seem prudent to include the major source of Christ’s prophetic office in all matters concerning the church and thereby reflect the reality of how each person of the Trinity regards the others. Regarding your comment that “Their anthropocentricism is blinding them to the true nature of communio”, I believe that God created anthropomorphs and that the incarnation of Christ occurred because the three persons of the Trinity decided together that one of them should become an anthropomorp. For God so loved the anthropocentric world …

  9. Sean MacArdhail says:

    I am deeply shocked, saddened and disgusted at the Church hierarchy’s treatment of two of the finest priests in service of Ireland today – Tony Flannery & Gerry Moloney. I am a practicing Catholic of 46 years and have struggled to convince my teenage children to keep with the Catholic Church teachings and massgoing. The ONLY religious & spirtual literature they read is FaceUp – an excellent resource for Christian families. Also, I have attended the Redemptorist Novenas in belfast, Dundalk & Galway for more than 20 years. These priests pack our churches with their words and stories. I will stop all financial contributions to the Church of Rome if this slight on our priests is not retracted.

  10. BRIAN GROGAN SJ says:

    What common ground can be identified in order to harness the waves of energy around this debate? I suggest that there is a divine agenda which overarches and embraces all sides; that what God wants us to do is to sit, not on opposite sides of the table, but on the same side, and try to figure out what will best serve the pastoral needs of God’s People. This was the agenda in the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, and the resulting divine-human consensus changed the religious history of the world.
    Right now, the International Eucharistic Congress is engaging a vast amount of creativity, energy, and finance. The intention is to promote the attractiveness of the Eucharist. But at the same time the number of celebrants of the Eucharist continues to decline. So while we foster a holy desire, we must also make provision for meeting it. We need to dialogue on how best to provide for the eucharistic needs of the People of God across the world.
    Jesus did not leave people to starve, nor can we if we are truly a caring Church. The bewildered disciples are told: ‘Give them something to eat yourselves!’ The question is not, ‘Who is right and who is wrong? or ‘Who has the power and who has not?’ The question is: ‘How can bishops, priests and laity search together to meet the needs of God’s people?’
    To discuss this we need a basic level of trust of one another – I need to believe that you, whom I may strongly disagree with, are as passionately concerned for the good of the People of God as I think I am. We need humility, in which we ask the Good Spirit to lead us all into God’s truth which we do not yet know.
    The slogan of the IEC is: ‘Communion with Christ and with One Another’ so let’s sit and pray with one another and look to Christ to show us God’s preferred way forward. Else the use of the IEC slogan is a sham, because our behaviour would show that we don’t believe in it operationally to bring a graced resolution of the present conflict.

  11. Thankyou Brian, really well said.
    I’m just a lay Catholic, but am concerned about why this has become such a news story around Easter time when I believe it started two months ago? Also, in light of the Eucharistic Congress, and my love for the Church, it’s Priests and central to all of us, the Eucharist and Communion – I wholeheartedly applaud what can only be constructive dialogue as opposed to an, us and them approach that can only cause wounds. I love God, I love my Church and I trust that like any other time in her history that good men, our Priests and the Universal Church can sit and talk with the intention of feeding Jesus sheep and trusting in God’s will, God’s truth and with a spirit of humility.
    I’m praying for our Priests, I looked on as some renewed their vows on Holy Thursday when they washed the feet of the congregation – What a beautiful faith we have, ‘Communion with Christ and One Another’ couldn’t be a more meaningful and timely message.
    God Bless.

  12. Soline Humbert says:

    Brian, is the abuse of power,the institutional spiritual violence of silencing, the refusal of dialogue,compatible with communion? Is fear compatible with love? Is the slogan of the Eucharistic Congress” Communion”a reflection of the reality of life in our church, or is it a sham ( to use your word)? Those of us who have been forced into the ecclesiastical basement of silence ( Mary Mc Aleese’s expression for women like me)do think it is a sham.Archbishop Diarmuid Martin recently described the Congress as a”showcase for what is best in Irish catholicism”.Where does this leave the Reality Magazine, Tony Flannery and Gerard Moloney? No room for them in the showcase on display for our guests?

  13. Gabrielle says:

    Dear ACP,
    What I cannot understand is why Reality and the Redemptorists take any notice when the Vatican tries to give them the belt of a crozier! Why don’t they follow the example of several well-known founders of Catholic movements, such as Dorothy Day, Mary Ward,St. Mary MacKillop and St. Joan of Arc? Their heartfelt defiance of Rome because of conscience, resulted in Rome getting egg on its face some time later when they saw fit to declare them to be role models worthy of emulation by the rest of us! Such is the function being declared “venerable” or even a saint. It might just take a century or two, but I doubt it. My advice? Write, publish, preach, and be damned! Whatever you do, “Be not afraid”!

  14. Mary Burke says:

    Winifred Collins, two points:
    First in the Sermon on the Mount you will find three examples of where Matthew’s Jesus in fact breaks with the law. The formula is: “You have heard that it was said….but I say to you…..”
    Secondly in comparing the two issues of artificial birth control and women’s ordination to the actions of those to whom Jesus said “Go and sin no more.” you have already prejudiced the conclusions you reach without any evidence or argument.

  15. Ruthaliencorn says:

    Fr Grogan,
    You write that the aim of the IEC is “to promote the attractiveness of the Eucharist”. A less nuanced reading could interpret this as a type of holy marketing. And there you have it, because for Rome, Catholicism is a global and lucrative brand.
    The Vatican’s Easter grenade proves there is no place for Fr Flannery et al at the ‘communal’ discussion table. It’s put up or shut up, literally. As for the laity? Sure aren’t we grand when we’re good little (obedient) Catholics in by the wall. Its views on women? Three words: the new Missal.
    The CDF’s move against the two men seems decidedly calculated. And calculated not to persuade but to threaten. It’s intriguing, really, because the Pope himself has long given up on the difficult, antsy Catholics of Europe and North America. The man who declared himself at his election to be “a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord” quickly became a corporate raider. One who looks at the emerging, heaving Catholic markets of Asia, Latin America and Africa and like a holy Man from Del Monte – ‘he says YES’. And for now, at least, there’s the comfort of knowing the new recruits won’t engage in much dissent.
    We know that people are being deprived of the Eucharist even here in our own country. We know our priests are to the wall with work and overwork. If the CDF are that concerned about the faith in Ireland, I suggest they get out of the palace and in with the people. They could leave off the immaculate soutanes, ditch the Gucci shoes, the aperitivi and the expensive Roman haircuts, throw on a good Dunnes Stores pants and a jumper and get out there to people’s homes and communities.
    What’s a day poring over canon law compared to being with the brokenhearted in their kitchens and in the queues for MABS and the dole? If the CDF could rouse themselves to doing a decent day’s work over here with, and for, the People of God, it would greatly help the overworked priests and raise Catholic spirits.
    Personally, I’m dreading the IEC. Too Potemkin altogether.

  16. May I support Gabrielle’s call to follow the way of ‘those gone before us marked with the sign of faith (and courage)’. Sadly, we are in a polarised situation: all participants have, I believe, a love for the Church at heart. This is what unites all in these responses to Frs Flannery and Maloney’s censure by the CDF. Some see the Church in terms of a passive organisation to which one simply obey’s and gives assent of mind and will. Others see the Church as a gospel community seeking to obey in the literal sense of the word , ‘audere’ = to listen. Meanwhile, the majority of christians try to seek meaning to their lives, and some of these look to this same polarised Church for guidance. Can their questions be listened to by the first group who believe that passive obedience is all that is required to find the meaning to their respective questions? I am reminded of Friel’s lines in Philadelphia Here I Come: ” You could translate all this loneliness, this groping, this dreadful bloody buffoonery into Christian terms that will make life bearable for us all. And yet you don’t say a word. Why Canon, arid Canon? Isn’t it your job ? To translate.” Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero, Blessed John X111, Edmund Rice, Nano Nagle, Patrick Galvan, Mary Aikenhead, Catherine McAuley and others…all ‘translated’ what they saw and heard…and paid a price for their gospel-courage. Let love for the radical Gospel not silence those whose call it is to walk the lonely path of ‘translating’. May these men and women be Tony and Gerry’s companions at this time. You are in my prayer. “Be not afraid”.

  17. I enter the debate only to recall someone more enlightened than myself and who may be acceptable even to the ACP given his own experience, Karl Rahner:
    “I know, and I hope this knowledge will grow ever stronger and more vital in me, that Your freedom can NEVER BE WON THROUGH PROTEST AGAINST THE AUTHORITIES WHO DERIVE THEIR POWER FROM YOU…
    (Encounters with Silence, page 38 – my capitals).

  18. Mary O Vallely says:

    Oh well said, Brother Jude and so many others! It is not just those of us in the north who are slow learners as can be seen in how long it took us to getting to dialogue round a table. We are all learning that it is ok to criticise in charity and to express a differing viewpoint and not be always on the defensive. There is a great example recently from Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna who, when confronted with allowing a pastor’s decision to prohibit a gay man in a registered domestic partnership to serve on a parish council, asked himself, “What would Jesus do?” Well, Jesus would have met this man, shared bread with him and this is what the bishop did. He learned a great deal from the encounter too. It opened his mind, eyes and heart in a way that NOT meeting with this person would never have done. Isn’t all the outpouring of emotion recently not exactly that, a crying out for the need for dialogue in our Church?
    I came across a most frightening phrase today, “Sentire com ecclesia.” I just cannot imagine Jesus saying that. Would anyone? Hitler was surrounded by Yes men. Just imagine if they had said NO. I don’t mean in any way to equate the present Holy Father with Hitler but a blind unquestioning obedience and passivity is a dangerous state of mind. Mary V (Armagh)

  19. Christine Gilsen says:

    Brian, how can bishops, priests and laity search together to meet the needs of God’s people? Through prayer yes but through dialogue it seems not. Although priests and people are willing to pray, meet and discuss new ways of making provision for the Eucharistic needs of the people of God, the hierarchy are not willing to engage in this topic.
    How can people like Soline, Tony Flannery, Gerard Moloney, priests and bishops meet together and live out the slogan of the IEC, ‘Communion with Christ and with One Another’?

  20. I agree with Fr Peter Mc Verry. Let us live and take example from the life of Jesus. He was not afraid to go against the law at the time. Let us stand up with faith and courage

  21. It might be helpfull to read what Blessed John Henry Newman wrote on the matter of authority in his Apologia.
    ”The simple question is, whether authority has so acted upon the reason of individuals, that they can have no opinion of their own, …….
    It is hardly necessary to argue out so plain a point. It is individuals, and not the Holy See, that have taken the initiative, and given the lead to the Catholic mind, in theological inquiry. Indeed, it is one of the reproaches urged against the Roman Church, that it has originated nothing, and has only served as a sort of remora or break in the development of doctrine. And it is an objection which I really embrace as a truth; for such I conceive to be the main purpose of its extraordinary gift. (Authority)”.

  22. The theologian, Adrian Van Kaam, defined obedience as openness to reality. Jesus get quite frustrated at his disciples’ failure to read the signs of the times. He also emphasised that his kingdom was ‘not of this world.’ The Vatican sovereign State with its palaces and men in fine robes bears no resemblance to the humble Nazarene. So its not surprising that they would fear anyone who would MERELY ASK FOR DIALOGUE about issues on which they believe only they possess the truth. Some of the above comments, e.g. Gabrielle, Ruthaliencorn and Br Jude have lifted my spirits after the depression that set in following the Vatican move to silence Frs Flannery and Moloney. Thanks to Fr McVerry and significant numbers of people who support a genuine search for truth and justice. I am trying to view this whole scene as not one of taking sides – followers of Christ are all on the same side – but see things differently. Hence they need for dialogue. I met Fr Tony recently at our parish mission in Limerick. You – and your brother Redemptorists – have my wholehearted support and prayers.

  23. It’s now June 17th. and I’ve come to this conversation late, by way of a search on Fr. Peter McVerry, whom I met at his inspiring talk last night at the I.E.C last evening. As I told him, I long hesitated about attending the Congress, but was drawn, not by the marketting ‘circus’ of it all, but simply to listen to him.
    But my wariness was confirmed, after all. I spent all Frid.16 there, for which I paid €35 (why were ‘pilgrims’ required to pay at all?!; and €7 per CD for recorded talks/’workshops’). All in all, my sense was of a cozy, comfortable and nice fuzzy feeling, with much of the easily-impressed-devotonalism, with its individualism and clericalism (why were clerics seated in their own exclusive block, instead of mixed with the congregation?).
    This may seem harsh, but we must be honest and acknowledge that it seems many Irish Catholics are quite happy to remain unchallenged and leave unchallenged their leaders. At least Fr. McVerry continues to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.

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.