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The Inquisition by any other name

David Quinn, writing in the “Irish Catholic” on August 27th, informed us that “Fr. Flannery does not share Pope’s vision of the Church”, asserting that the present pope has said that the issue of women priests is “closed “and, quoting Quinn, the Pope does not believe that the priesthood ‘as we currently have it in the church’ was hijacked by ‘a select and privileged group’ etc. The catalyst for Quinn’s article was the news that the bishop of Cloyne, Dr. William Crean had barred Fr. Flannery from addressing a parish group in Killeagh parish.
The initial ban on Fr. Flannery came from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2010 and is still in force. The former head of the Congregation, Cardinal William Levada, writing some time back accused Fr. Flannery of heresy over the issue of priesthood.
In Canon Law, both the actions of the Vatican Congregation and of the most reverend bishop are within their rights. The problem is that there is a considerable disjunction between the Church’s Canon Law, including its most recent revision, and the teaching of the New Testament. The exploration of that disjunction and its implications constitute the substance of this article.
Fr. Karl Rahner S.J. one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century once said; “the church is always under the judgement of the New Testament, not the other way round”. The church’s teaching has been modified and changed over time with the growth of knowledge and investigation. For example, prior to Vatican II the dominant model of the church was pyramidal with truth and authority descending from the summit downwards. Vatican II reversed that declaring that the church is the People of God, the repository of Christian revelation and truth.
There is no doubt that Christ at the Last Supper instituted the Eucharist and that he did say “do this in memory of me”. The Gospels speak of “the twelve” as sharing in that celebration. Equally the gospels accept the twelve as the “foundation of the New Israel” i.e. the church supplanting the twelve tribes of Israel, the foundations of the old Israel. But, were there only twelve at the last supper? Mary, his mother was at the Cross next day on Calvary, the Jewish Passover was a family meal so the question is valid, was she at the supper? On Easter Sunday the two disciples on their way to Emmaus recognised Jesus in the “breaking of bread”, one is named Cleopas, not the name of one of the twelve so if they were not at the supper, how did they recognise him in the “breaking of bread”? More seriously, St. Paul was definitely not at the last supper, his conversion came much later. It was three years after his conversion that he “went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas” i.e. Peter (Gal 2; 18). Nowhere in the New Testament is there a record of him being ordained by any of the apostles, yet it is he who mentions in letters to Timothy and Titus the appointment of “elders” (Gk. Presbuteroi) and “bishops” (Gk. Episcopoi). Does that mean that all ministries he established in the churches he founded were invalid?
Fr. Flannery never denied the validity of priesthood in the church. The crucial phrase in his exposition was “priesthood AS WE NOW HAVE IT”. Yet it is so easy to point out crucial difference between priesthood as we have it now and what it was in Jesus’ time. In Canon Law, priesthood is now a separate category from that of the laity, but in his earthly life Jesus was not a priest, he was a rabbi in Jewish society, but a layman. There is no gospel evidence that Jesus intended his twelve apostles to have separate categorization after his resurrection. Another difference: The early church approximated to our idea of a democracy. After the death of Judas, Peter suggests the need to replace him and names the qualities required, but it is not he but the community that “cast lots” (Acts 1:26).That community was made up of the eleven “together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14). Equally at Antioch, when it came to choosing Paul and Barnabas to begin the first missionary journey, it was those at “the church at Antioch” who “laid their hands on them and sent them off”. Today, it is the Vatican which selects every bishop throughout the world, individual bishops may offer suggestions but the laity is never consulted.
It was Pepin the Short, King of the Franks and father of Charlemagne, who was duped by a forged document into granting territories to the Pope (752 ad.), thus giving rise to the Papal States over which the pope ruled for over a thousand years as an absolute monarch until the unification of Italy and the fall of Rome in 1870. But in the same year that Pius IX lost the Papal States, he persuaded the remaining bishops at Vatican I to declare the Papacy as having “supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church and he can always freely exercise this power” (Canon 321). This is the definition of an absolute monarch and a far cry from the Christ who said “the foxes have dens and the birds of the air nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”. The effect is to validate a monarchical power structure in the church. So, just as the Pope has universal power, the bishop has monarchical power in his diocese under the Pope. So both the ban by the bishop and that of the Vatican are legal in Canon law.
It was also when the papacy was at the height of its political power, claiming the right to depose kings, that the Inquisition was founded (1232), establishing the right to torture and kill heretics. The current Congregation which has suspended Fr. Flannery is that same congregation with a cosmetic name change. Its record both on doctrine and on punishment is not impressive. One example of the former: Slavery was abolished both in the U.S. (1865) and in England (1833), yet in 1866 that Congregation issued a document saying that “slavery itself…is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law”. Slavery was condemned by the Second Vatican Council.
Examples of the Inquisition’s punitive powers: Padre Pio, now St. Padre Pio was silenced (1931 – 1933), Henry de Lubac O.P. one of the major theologians whose works underpinned Vatican Two was at one time also banned, historically Galileo only swore on his knees that he would “abandon the wicked heresy of claiming that the earth went round the sun” after the Pope, who was his supposed friend, gave permission for him to be tortured if he failed to recant. Joan of Arc (now St. Joan of Arc), patroness of France was put to death at the age of nineteen by the British but she was tried by the court of the Inquisition, condemned, and ordered to be burned alive (1431). Giordano Bruno, a Dominican scholar accused of heresy and tried by Cardinals in Rome, was also burned alive in Rome (1600). Rome had an index of forbidden books from 1549 until the second Vatican Council. It was abolished by the Vatican after the Council but what was swept out the front door publicly, has crept in quietly by the back door. Today, any priest who writes something of which the Vatican does not approve, is either banned or put under a censor who decides what he or she can and cannot write for publication.
Today, in Western Society, it is accepted that justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done. So an accused is entitled to a fair and open trial, the right to a defence and to an appeal. None of this applies in the Inquisition. A process is already in an advanced stage of development before the subject is made aware of what is going on. At the opening of Vatican II Pope John said speaking of dissent in the church: “Nowadays the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than of severity. She considers that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations”.
When Cardinal Levada retired, Pope Benedict appointed Cardinal Müller another German, as head of the Congregation. The latter tightened the screws on Fr. Flannery insisting that he must accept all Vatican teaching including the prohibition on ordination of women. (Pope John Paul II said it was a closed issue and we were not free to discuss it). Fr. Flannery was unable to accept this order. (It was not put in writing, the Redemptorist superior general in Rome was ordered to communicate this to Fr. Flannery). Recently a well-known English theologian, Fr. Nicholas Lash wrote that in his view, the issue had not been sufficiently discussed in the church to enable any pontiff to declare it a closed question. I do not know if Fr. Lash is or is not now also censured? Unfortunately Pope John XXIII is long dead. The silencing of Fr. Flannery continues and a younger generation is increasingly rejecting this model of Church.
Jesus said “I am among you as the one who serves” (Lk 22.27). “I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learned from my Father” (John 15.15).”As he sat at table… many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples and the scribes and the Pharisees ….said to his disciples, ‘why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners’? (Mk 2.16). Judas was one of the twelve, St. John tells us that he was a thief and was helping himself to the funds of the apostles (Jn.12.6), yet Jesus never expelled him from the group.
The Second Vatican Council, in its declaration on religious freedom declared that “it has always remained the teaching of the Church that no one is to be coerced into believing”. If the Congregation on Doctrine is convinced that any position is at variance with the teaching of the church, clearly it has a right to say so. But IF the declaration on religious freedom is to be heeded, clearly it is the right of the individual believer to consider that teaching and either accept or reject it. Any use of coercion by the Vatican does not accord either with the teaching or the example of Jesus Christ. Additionally, it only draws attention to a past which is an embarrassment to the institution. If today Pope Francis as Vicar of Christ is the “velvet glove”, the Inquisition by any other name, by its present conduct is still the “iron fist in the velvet glove”, and the Canon Law that enshrines it, is a counter witness to the message both of Jesus Christ and of his Church.

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  1. Christine Gilsen says:

    As the Gospels insinuate that Jesus addressed only twelve men at the Institution of the Eucharist, perhaps it would be prudent to exclude women from this sacrament?

  2. Thank You for this article. I always ask myself: if the Eucharist was installed at the last supper, and if there were only males present, why is it. that women are allowed to receive the Eucharist at all?

  3. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Christine Gilsen@1 and Harry@2 wrote almost identically at 10:22am and 10:27am this morning. Rarely do we find such near-simultaneous unanimity on this site. Clearly the Holy Spirit is at work – but what delayed Her for all of 5 minutes?

  4. declan cooney says:

    The Gospels do not insinuate. They proclaim the Truth and that truth is Jesus Christ. Respect and obey Him and His Church.

  5. but in his earthly life Jesus was not a priest, he was a rabbi in Jewish society, but a layman.
    Is there an typo error above? Should it read not instead
    …. he was not a rabbi in Jewish society, but a layman ?
    Excellent, informative article, Joe

  6. Christine Gilsen says:

    Eddie Finnegan@3. The Holy Spirit is amazing, comforting, encouraging, inspiring ….
    Declan@4. May we deduce that you would be in favour of excluding women from the Eucharist?

  7. declan cooney says:

    A strange deduction !!! Anyone who is in a state of mortal sin should not receive (I will look at my own conscience as I have not time to examine others…) and in humility beg forgiveness from Jesus, the fount of mercy.

  8. “There is no doubt that Christ at the Last Supper instituted the Eucharist..”
    I would respectfully suggest that that is a rather misleading statement arising from an inadequate Tridentine theology of Eucharist. That inadequate theology also sees the Last Supper as the first Mass and the calling of the apostles as their ordination to Catholic priesthood, as understood today.
    Eucharist, as also the death of Jesus on the cross, must be seen as part of the total Pascal Mystery, as an organic whole within the totality of the life of Jesus the Christ. Without Resurrection and the sending down of the Holy Spirit there would not have been Eucharist. Eucharist celebrates the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and all His followers. Eucharist was instituted the moment Jesus the Christ was conceived and gained its full meaning and implication throughout His life, death and resurrection, being given its full salvific power with the descent of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus the Christ (Epiclesis).
    Thus, what is received in Eucharist is the resurrected, and thus spiritual or heavenly body and blood of Jesus the Christ. It is not His human and physical or material body and blood. The latter would be cannibalism, which the Church has always taught against. At Eucharist, where the presence of the risen Christ is real, what we see with our physical eyes and taste with our physical tongue is bread; what we experience with faith is the real, saving presence of Jesus the Christ.
    The Holy Spirit brought the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ into a redemptive unity. That same Spirit continues His/Her dynamic and salvific action in His/Her Church and Eucharist. At Mass the congregation becomes present to the totality of the Pascal Mystery, to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and to the descent of the Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide them to go forth and spread God’s Kingdom of Unconditional Love.

  9. Just a thought and maybe an answer to a question.
    In the article ‘The Inquisition by any other name’ it is stated that “on Easter Sunday the two disciples, one named Cleopas, not the name of one of the twelve, so if they were not at the supper, how did they recognize Jesus in the ‘breaking of bread’ ?”
    Perhaps, the answer is simply that one of those present at the Last Supper told Cleopas and his companion about the ‘breaking of bread’ by Our Lord or perhaps the unnamed companion of Cleopas was actually at the Last Supper himself.
    After all, it is known that not everything that happened is recorded in the Gospels.

  10. The duty of the Church authorities is to teach the truth and give instruction to the flock.. this must include removing those who would lead the innocent astray… wasn’t the REAl reason Tony Flannery is “no longer in ministry”,is because he tried to change the teaching on the Real Presence in the Eucharist ?

  11. Fr P, John Mannion says:

    A reply to Aidan
    My purpose in writing was not to develop a theology of the Eucharist, but to draw attention to the disjunction between the Gospels and current Canon Law. To charactrise it as “misleading arising from an inadequate Tridentine theology” is to make an assertion not based on the facts. What Aidan seems to be missing is the fact that in the celebration of the Eucharist, the issue is not one “of eating etc”. Christ is one and indivisible, now immortal and eternal, outside of space and time. He is not divided up in Communion, rather the participating faithful are drawn into union with the immortal, eternal God by means of the mystery of His incarnation in the glorified humanity of Jesus Christ. I am not sure this could be characterized as “Tridentine theology”.

  12. Michael C. says:

    Mary @ 10
    In the guise of a question you again make a very serious charge against Fr. Tony Flannery.
    If you wish to make such a serious charge you must provide the evidence of where in his writings “he tried to change the teaching on the Real Presence in the Eucharist”.
    You need to provide precise quotations by Fr. Tony making such clear statements or withdraw your charge and seek his forgiveness.
    The real reasons “he is no longer in ministry” (though very active ministering to people in very real ways) are to be found in his excellent book and rest with the CDF and Cardinal Levada, who recently has had his own legal problems with the civil authorities in Hawaii.

  13. A reply to Father P John Mannion
    I accept what you say about the main thrust of your article being about the disjunction between the Gospels and current Canon Law. That important point was well made.
    My comment concerned your expressed view that Christ Jesus ‘instituted’ Eucharist at the Last Supper. If that were so, when Jesus said “..this is my body..” what body was He referring to – His then human and physical body or His not-yet risen and ascended spiritual/heavenly body?
    Many Catholic Scripture and Liturgy scholars would now say that the way the Last Supper is described in the Gospels and Letters of Paul, and the exact form of words reported as spoken by Jesus, are in the liturgical form and language of a later time in the development of Eucharist by the early Christian communities, a time between 30 to 60 years after the ascension of Christ Jesus. And our understanding and appreciation of Holy Eucharist will continue to develop as the Spirit continues to work in His Church.
    The point I was making, and perhaps badly, was that Holy Mass is not just a ‘remembrance’ (anamnesis) of the Last Supper but of all the Sacred Mysteries (plural) – of the total life of Christ Jesus. It encompasses all the Sacred Mysteries of His life, death and resurrection and His sending of the Holy Spirit on His earthly community. It is not a remembering of just the Last Supper and a seeing of that meal as the time when Eucharist was instituted as His eternal presence among us. Those Sacred Mysteries include what happened at the Last Supper but are not limited to it.
    Exactly what happened at the Last Supper and the exact words Jesus used by Jesus we will never know. What we can say is that it was another seminal moment for all those present who soon repeated, in various forms, what they had experienced (and remembered) as a means of making the risen Christ Jesus and all the Sacred Mysteries of His life, death and resurrection present among them and effective within them.
    In addition I would respectfully disagree with you when you say the issue is “not one of eating”; it is precisely that. The apostles remembered Jesus giving them bread ‘to eat’ and His blood ‘to drink’. So ‘taking and eating’ and ‘taking and drinking’ the transformed bread and wine were what caused the risen Christ Jesus to be really and truly present in what they were doing and to be really effective in transforming their lives. We must also be aware of the other important presence of Christ in every one of those present, and throughout the whole of creation.
    I’m not sure what you mean by Jesus being incarnated into a ‘glorified humanity’. If you mean the incarnate Jesus was both fully human and fully divine I would certainly agree fully with that. If you mean His humanity was different from our humanity by being linked to His divinity I would disagree with that. In His humanity Jesus was exactly the same as us in every way but sin. However I accept the divine mystery of not knowing how that was possible.

  14. Fr P, John Mannion says:

    I am glad to note the reply to Mary given by Michael above. The Vatican never accused Fr Flannery of denying the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. That lie is widespread and is technically calumny, a falsehood in regard to another individual which is widely disseminated. It needs to be squashed and its perpetrators need to rethink what the phrase “God is Love” means. In the year of mercy I pray that the good Lord will forgive them and lead them to repentance.
    John Mannion

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