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The need to grow in Wisdom and Mercy

Tim Hazelwood

Homily given in Killeagh-Inch parish on the 28th Sunday of the Year.

“I prayed, and understanding was given me; I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.”

Today’s first reading gives us a lovely account of the gift of wisdom.  Where does wisdom come from? We often hear people saying if I only knew that about things that happened when they were younger.  Wisdom is firstly a gift that comes from God, it comes from gaining knowledge but it is also something that we can learn from experience.  This leads me to speak today about our SpiritFest about the events that caused such publicity.  Many of you don’t know the facts and I want to put them before you.  The Spirit Fest was a success in as much as anything spiritual can be gauged in success or failure.  People engaged in different events and the seeds of what was planted will hopefully grow in the future.  

And following on from that lead I want to need to address the invitation to Fr. Tony Flannery, to explain what really happened and answer some of the comments and criticism that were made.  The idea of The SpiritFest originated in the Pastoral Council, not from me personally, as was suggested, so I cannot take the credit ,but from a member.  The person felt that we should try something new.  I am reminded of the words of Pope Francis last week that we are not to be a museum of memories but try to be a source of inspiration. That sums up the motivation behind holding the event and sums up the reason for Spirit Fest. We said we would begin with a keynote speaker. There were three names mentioned, two were not available but Fr. Tony was.  As a group and a parish we were delighted because he was well known in the Parish from previous visits giving missions etc.  I must mention also, not everyone on the Pastoral Council was not happy about him coming but we spoke about it and came to a consensus and it was decided that we would continue with our plan. 

The first indication that there might be a problem was when I met with the Bishop with regard to a letter of complaint about me from a group of “concerned Catholics”, a self-appointed vigilante group who oversee orthodoxy in the south of Ireland.  They were complaining because I said I was voting “yes” in the recent referendum.  A covering letter with the letter of complaint complained about the “dissident Priest” Fr. Tony Flannery being let loose on Killeagh-Inch Parish.  Sometime later the Bishop sent for me again and after a conversation requested that our invitation with Fr. Tony Flannery be withdrawn.  The invitation came from the Pastoral Council so I said I had to consult with them.  I met with the pastoral council and after lengthy deliberations replied stating that out of respect for our relationship with him, the bishop, we would move the venue to the local village hall.  We value the freedom of speech and wanted to hear what Fr. Tony had to say so we continued with our plan.  The Bishop promptly replied repeating his request and eventually I invited him to come and meet with us in Killeagh.  

We met and a very open, respectful and frank discussion took place.  We put our points across but the Bishop remained adamant that he would prefer if the invitation was withdrawn as Fr Tony was “out of ministry”.  When the conversation had ended we agreed to withdraw our invitation to Fr Tony. These are the facts of what happened and the reasons why we made the decisions we did.  I personally look to the famous American philosopher Kenny Rogers whose words of wisdom have stood me in good stead in over thirty years of pastoral ministry.  He said “You have to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run”.  That time had come.  

Our very purpose is the spiritual good of the parish and we felt that the possible ramifications of a standoff with the Bishop would not be in anyone’s best interest. That is why we withdrew the invitation.  

The reaction has been interesting.  In particular I want to mention two articles in the print media, firstly by Mr. David Quinn in the Irish Catholic and the second by Margaret Hickey in the Irish Examiner.  Both were ‘very Catholic’ in what they wrote but not very Christian in my opinion.  Let me explain. Neither contacted me or any member of the Pastoral Council to find out what happened or to enquire to the reasons for how our decisions came about.  Surely when putting forward a strong view as they did, the first step is to gain the facts. I would call it lazy journalism and putting forward one’s own person agenda, something the Catholic Church often criticises the secular media for and here they are doing exactly the same.  Also in their view and in many other reactions the incident was seen very much as a black or white, win or lose situation, yet again not a Christian approach; reacting from a place of fear and not of love.  We believe in discussion, dialogue and engagement with the issues and try to reach consensus or compromise when necessary.  

Some people have been critical of the pastoral council for a) For inviting Fr. Tony and b) For not standing up to the Bishop.  I believe that the Pastoral council gave a great example of courage and of how to engage in a Christian way. We didn’t get our way and we invited the Bishop to our final event Songs of Praise, which he duly attended and was warmly welcomed.   

Wisdom (she) is gained not magically but with work. Would she say Fr Tony was invited in all sincerity and maybe cancelled in the same vein? What would she say about lazy journalism and misjudged words?

This leads me to quote a letter we received from Fr Des Wilson, a man of proven courage and wisdom that has meant so much to me and to the members of the Pastoral Council.

It is only by discussing our differences that we are able to hone and shape our own ideas….  If we have no opposition then we lose our sharpness and are of no benefit to the church”.

He also said “We all share the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit……. yet what a strange irony to tell each other to keep quiet”.

As for Fr. Tony Flannery, I believe that not being allowed come to the Parish was more beneficial for him as it highlighted a terrible injustice that is being done to him. Shortly we begin the Year of Mercy, how fitting it would be if one of the first acts of mercy were to reinstate Fr Tony and the other priests who are being treated in a shameful way because they feel they have something to say and will not stay quiet.

 I loved her more than health or beauty, preferred her to the light, since her radiance never sleeps. In her company all good things came to me, at her hands riches not to be numbered.

 Together may we try to listen to each other, with love and respect and as a consequence grow in wisdom?

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  1. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Sincere thanks to Tim Hazlewood for making us all part of his and the Killeagh-Inch Pastoral Council’s, and Tony Flannery’s recent experience.
    If there is a steep learning curve in all of this, it should be Bishop Crean’s. Since his main or sole objection to inviting Tony, even to the village hall, was that Tony is a priest “currently out of ministry”, the Bishop’s next exploratory step seems obvious. His ‘Statement regarding the Killeagh-Inch Spiritfest 2015′ on the Diocese of Cloyne website (21st August) gives added context to his involvement.
    To speed up the restoration of Tony Flannery and other Irish priests “currently out of ministry” at the start of the Year of Mercy, as Tim Hazelwood hopes, couldn’t Bishop Crean ally himself with three or four other amenable bishops, and Tony’s Irish Redemptorist superior, to place an item on the Bishops’ Conference December Meeting? Like the Great War, it could be all over by Christmas. A man called Crean from Tralee, if not Annascaul, should be up for steep learning curves, exploratory sortees, and dogged persistence, under his motto “Croí le Brí Nua”.

  2. Donal Dorr says:

    Thank you, Tim, for your wise article.

  3. Mary Vallely says:

    Thanks to Tim Hazelwood for his open and honest account written, it seems to me, from a place of love. I’m afraid that many of the comments and letters I’ve read from ‘Concerned Catholics’ appear to me to come ” from a place of fear and not of love.” It is fear, or so it seems, that prevents our bishops from discussing, dialoguing and engaging with the ACP and their supporters. Tony Flannery’s recent call for an Irish Synod seems to have fallen on deaf episcopal ears also but why not have a synod here? What is there to fear?? That’s what I fail to understand.
    Let us continue to pray that the Holy Spirit breaks down these barriers of fear to allow wisdom to shine through. There is so much that could be gained by honest and open discussion and a genuine sharing of thoughts and indeed fears. Blake’s poem comes to mind about what fear can do.
    “I was angry with my friend;
    I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
    I was angry with my foe:
    I told it not, my wrath did grow.
    And I water’d it in fears,
    Night and morning with my tears:
    And I sunned it with smiles,
    And with soft deceitful wiles.
    And it grew both day and night,
    Till it bore an apple bright.
    And my foe beheld it shine,
    And he knew that it was mine.
    And into my garden stole.
    When the night had veiled the pole;
    In the morning glad I see,
    My foe outstretchd beneath the tree.”

  4. The logic of all this is that no lay person could speak to the parish council since that person was not “in ministry”. Nothing could be done by the parish council unless the bishop approved. As regards the “benefit” to Tony Flannery which he gained by being banned – well you could in similar way show the manner that refugees (or black people, or gays) are discriminited against by publicly discriminating against a refugee. The bishop produced weak arguments and the parish council did not have the wit to produce better. The bishop did not have vision and neither did the parish council. No example shown here that anybody should follow.

  5. roydonovan says:

    Well done to Tim and Pastoral Council who behaved honourably.
    I am sure Bishops get many letters but why do they take the letters from the below group so seriously? I quote from Tim’s homily – “with regard to a letter of complaint about me from a group of “concerned Catholics”, a self-appointed vigilante group who oversee orthodoxy in the south of Ireland”, who wrote a letter (s) to Bishop Crean.
    I am sure Bishops get many letters but why do they take the letters from this group so seriously? Did he not treat the ‘vigilante group’ more seriously than the Pastoral Council? It appears more like Jesus giving into the Pharisees which he never did! Of course, Jesus was always getting into trouble! He seemed to be under constant ‘hostile observation’. Of course, the bottom line is, we don’t want any trouble and it is best to abide by the rules!!

  6. Willie Herlihy says:

    I completely agree with the sentiments expressed by  roydonovan @5.
    The  self-appointed vigilante group, would appear to have a direct line to the CDF in Rome and consequently, put the fear of God  into the  Bishops.
    To me, the year of mercy is a smoke screen,because the self appointed vigilante groups and the CDF as the saying goes  “still rule OK “.

  7. The CDF in Rome reminds me of the impression I have of mediaval Royal Courts where treachery and intrigue are rife. The three people I feel sorry for are Pope Francis,(who I do believe actually knows what goes on in the real world, ) Marie Collins who is looking for answers re the sex abuse issues ( most of the cover ups were directed from Rome?) and Tony Flannery ( a good man who has been treated disgracefully) As for Bishop Crean, he has shown his hand (play safe and you won’t get into trouble).Tony Flannery was speaking in a venue near where I live last year and I wasn’t able to go .I would love to hear what he has to say. I did read his book ,a question of conscience.

  8. At least there is a parish council to discuss the matter. With the arrival of a new parish priest our Council was closed a couple of years ago, along with other valued parish groups so now there is no effective way to discuss issues, let alone invite guest speakers to our community. A pity but there it is.

  9. John Kelly says:

    The discussion on Killeagh-Inch is refreshing because it appears to be done in good faith by all. It allows some light to be put on the realities of the issue. It honours the importance of debate in Christian spirit. Tim’s description of the journey is wise and kind to all involved. It takes the path of reconciliation having aired the differences. It honours Pope Francis’ call for dialogue. Well done to all concerned.

  10. Hi,
    could someone please tell me if, the reason Tony Flannery is “no longer in ministry”,is because he tried to change the teaching on the Eucharist ?

  11. Thank you Tim for such an honest account of the events. If more PPCs and priests were involved in such dialogue and not afraid of what might happen, we would have a more honest church engaged in respectful dialogue and working from a place of love and not fear.

  12. John Hayes says:

    Thanks Fr. Hazelwood for clarifying events. In my humble opinion it was poor judgment on the part of the parish council to invite Fr. Flannery. There is a reason after all that he is out of ministry. I am open to correction, but from reading some of Fr. Flannary’s articles, interviews etc., I understand that he questions the validity of the instituted priesthood and of the Eucharist. I also read during the abortion debate that Fr. Flannary said the bishops and Church had no place commenting on such issues. I find this very difficult to accept. Surely the Church’s role is to preach the Gospel in every part of society. Regardless of any of Fr. Flannary’s past statements I think it is a great suggestion that the year of Mercy is used to try to help reinstate some of these priests. If Fr. Flannery genuinely seeks mercy and now sees the truth in the teachings of Christ’s Church then of course he should be welcomed back. Let’s not succumb to the popular view however that Jesus was all about love and acceptance. That he was, but he always siad ‘go and sin no more!.’ As a sinner myself I acknowledge I am in need of God’s mercy, but I always approach his mercy in the sacrament with the genuine desire to ‘go and sin no more.’ Bishop Crean showed great leadership in this situation and I hope and pray that other Bishops will show leadership and mercy to any repentant sinner especially those shepards who have lost their way.

  13. Chris McDonnell – Dissolving of parish Council : In the
    early church when there was persecution the members continued to meet – in secret. The apostles preached openly. One wonders what one has to fear these days – that a pestilence would be sent?

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