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We cannot lose heart, writes Seamus Ahearne

‘We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song.’ Augustine was and is right. We cannot lose heart. We cannot be dragged down by ‘protectionist policies’ in Rome. I feel sad about Tony Flannery. He has been a breath of fresh air in the Irish Church. The ACP has lifted the spirits of priests in Ireland and given them a space/forum to work together as Church people. This is then a difficult time and a wearying moment. That Summary report (from the Visitation) said very little but it probably said too much. And this may be an indicator of how it sees the way forward for the Renewal of the Church in Ireland. This method breaks the hearts of those of us who try so hard, to make sure the Word becomes Flesh daily in Ireland.
The action around Ton reminds me of an article written by Bernard Haring (many years ago). He wrote of how he was treated by the Nazis and wrote of how he was treated by the Vatican. He said that the treatment by the Vatican hurt him much more. It tore his heart apart to think of such people (his companions in faith) savaging his efforts to make sense of the living Gospel. That was a strong comment.
Anselm gave us that memorable phrase – ‘fides querens intellectum ‘ (faith seeking understanding) as the way of life for the thinking Christian; the struggling prophet; the active priest; the searching theologian. Was Tony condemned for this? But then – do we know the actual charge? Is it specific? Will it be made clear? That aspect too is serious.
I believe in our Church leaders in Ireland. They have had to cope with very troublesome times. I hope they too will fight for Tony and others, in our country and all who try to make sense of God; of Christ; of the Good News in these time. Silence is failure. May they have the gumption and the guts to be the leaders they are called to be. They are called to be strong and not to bow to those who are distant and fearful in Rome. The Gospel asks no less.

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  1. Dairne Mc Henry says:

    Yes, as Seamus says, this is a difficult time and a wearying moment. But surely it is a time for laity and clergy to stand together and speak out respectfully but firmly, in face of a system which considers dissent as disloyalty and orders silence when asked for dialogue.
    The first reading in the Mass of this coming Saturday 14th April (from Acts Ch. 4, vs. 13 – 21) tells how the apostles were commanded by their reigious leaders to be silent and not to speak. Nonetheless they continued to speak – an act of ‘disobedience’ put before us, presumably for our admiration and imitation.
    Hopefully, the gathering in the Regency Hotel on 7th May will be an opportunity to come out from ‘locked doors’ and speak openly of our concerns and hopes for our Church today.

  2. Gavin Crowley says:

    Nevertheless, as I read it, the apostles defied the leaders less from a sense that they themselves were leaders (that came later). They defied as good followers. Good following is the nursery of leadership.

  3. I posted a message of support for Fr Flannery on my blog the other day. An American Theologian, William D. Lindsey, posted this response which I thought deserves a wider reading.
    “When I think of Peter, the rock on whom Christ founded his church, I think of a man whom Jesus gave a chance to apologize for his triple betrayal–by asking Peter three times if Peter loved him.
    And I think of a man whom Jesus gently chided for his obtuseness at comparing himself to John and wanting his future and John’s to be identical to each other.
    And I think of how Paul had to set Peter right on the issue of ritual purity laws and the early church.
    When I think of the biblical testimony about the first pope, I think of apologies in abundance–and I think of how grace abounded precisely in proportion to the ability of that good man to admit when he was wrong, and to apologize for his wrongdoing.
    How far we’ve moved from Jesus and the biblical foundations of the church, it seems.” – William D Lindsey

  4. Joe O'Leary says:

    A facebook friend comments: “It’s about what you can get away with.” As in former East Germany, Catholics test the limits of what can be said, in fear of being zapped at any time.
    Note that all talk of lay participation, dialogue, consultation, listening to victims, etc., in such a regime is nothing more than cynical window dressing. To take it seriously would be a big mistake, just as it would be fatal for someone in the USSR to take seriously the window dressing noises about democracy and the people that the regime sometimes made.

  5. Ruthaliencorn says:

    Excellent post as is Nick Young’s. Thank you for both.
    In this, silence, is indeed failure. I’m amazed and encouraged by how many priests are standing behind the two men involved and doing so publicly and with such spirit, eloquence and heart. I hope more will do likewise.
    I imagine there are many lonely priests in equally lonely presbyteries and rooms privately giving thanks for the witness these two men are bearing at the moment.
    As to the “window dressing”, indeed. Vaclav Havel New Year’s address to the nation in 1990 has chilling parallels for Catholicism as curently constituted.
    “The worst thing is that we live in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill becauase we became used to saying something different to what we thought.”
    I remember reading somewhere that in the early Church in Ireland, the difference between the Irish bishop and his Roman counterpart, was that the former saw himself as the shepherd of his flock and the latter as some kind of princeling over his territory.
    It goes on.

  6. Soline Humbert says:

    The first session of “Towards An Assembly Of The Irish Church” on May 7th is “NAMING THE REALITY”. The censorship of the REALITY magazine is now part of this Reality: Secretive,abusive,oppressive and corrupt.
    Unlike Seamus I do not believe in our church (official)leaders in Ireland.My own experience has been that they have never stood up to their superiors in the Vatican to defend victims of abuse, spiritual as well as sexual.
    However I do believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to raise new leaders from among the people of God.

  7. Jim Stack says:

    I am a traditional Catholic, not a priest. I logged on to your website after reading Patsy McGarry in today’s Irish Times.
    It is obvious from the contributions posted so far that many priests feel a deep sense of grievance at fellow priests being silenced, but I have no sense at all that any of you realise the hurt and disappointment you cause to traditional Catholics by your utterances and behaviour. Consider the people in front of you at daily Mass, say, rather than Irish Times readers – the stickers rather than the quitters. Many of them carry burdens which make problems associated with celibacy, say, pale into insignificance – but they loyally carry on, with quiet dignity and determination. I know that you have devoted your lives to serving these people, and I thank you for it, but you come close to stabbing them in the back by watering down the teaching of the Church. They know that commitment to Christ includes its share of pain and self-denial, and expect the same attitude from their priests.
    You are too selective in your Scriptural references – e.g. no mention at all of “Thou art Peter…” and no appreciation that Jesus founded a hierarchical Church which, according to Acts, convened councils and articulated doctrine from the earliest days. You have the right, indeed the duty, to contribute to debate, but if you go beyond that and actively undermine Church teaching, it would seem to me that neither Scripture nor Tradition supports your position.
    God bless you all

  8. Brendan McCarthy says:

    Jim Stack cannot say that he and those who think like him speak for the “stickers rather than the quitters”. Most life-long Catholics would differ sharply.

  9. Hi Jim, I’m a traditional Catholic too, also not a priest. Ive come to almost the exact opposite conclusion. These men’s committment (even when I disagree with the argument) gives me hope! The reason the early church convened councils was precisely because they were all fighting! The Nicene Creed is the result, not of hierarchical obedience, but of a fighting people who were willing to stay the course of the arguments.
    I agree however that parishioners on the pews need far more than the weak gruel currently served, so I ask our priests, parish councils & parishioners to ‘be not afraid’ of discussion, of learning together, of arguing over things of God. Silence has not served us well. Lets talk & walk the Emnaus road as one.

  10. Jim Stack says:

    In reply to Brendan McCarthy: my reference to quitters was to lapsed Catholics who write in to the Irish Times telling those of us who are still practising how inferior we are. They have been doing it for years, and in my opinion get far too much attention, including from ACP.
    As for his assertion that “most life-long Catholics would differ sharply” from me,all I can say is that I gave my honest opinion, that the people who are most hurt by all this dissension are the really committed ones who attend Mass frequently, through thick and thin. I have no idea if I am in the majority or minority in holding this opinion.
    If I caused offence, or was presumptuous, then I apologise.

  11. Jim Stack says:

    In reply to Noirin: thank you for your comments. I share your admiration for the commitment of priests, and that includes those with whom I might disagree. Also, and I tried to make this clear first time out, I regard discussion as healthy and indeed necessary.
    My point is that open defiance of the Church, conducted for the most part through media that are overwhelmingly hostile to the Church, can be extremely demoralising for the rank-and-file members of the Church. Most of the contributions on this site represent the Vatican as a bully and the outspoken priests as martyrs, and I was trying in some small way to restore some balance. I also thought the Scripture quotations were highly selective and in need of augmentation.
    I see my fellow-Catholics struggle with things such as bereavement,bad health, bad marriages, delinquent sons and daughters, poverty and unemployment. Their commitment to their faith, in the midst of all these troubles, is quite extraordinary. Without wanting to be in any way judgemental, I would ask the rebel priests, who serve these people on a daily basis, to put their own concerns in perspective and to follow the heroic example being set by their parishioners.

  12. You mention you have faith in church leaders. I have no faith in them whatsoever. Admittedly Diarmuid Martin is outspoken enough but the Hierarchy stays quiet and does what its told by Rome. It isn’t church leaders you should be looking to for guidance but the groundswell of public outrage against Roman dictatorship.

  13. Chris Gardiner says:

    One point to Jim. I am not a priest either. Just an ordinary Joe soap. You mention the “really committed ones who go to mass” Can I just say I do not go to mass anymore but I am a committed Christian. I pray to God in my own way and do my best. It is unfortunate that I have witnessed “really committed” mass goers among the greatest hypocrites in the church. My mother in heading toward 80 and so is my father and they agree with Tony. The MAN MADE LAWS need to be sifted from the truth of the gospel.

  14. Jim Stack says:

    Reply to Chris Gardiner: My point about regular Mass-goers was that these were the very people who are being ignored in this debate. Many of them would be my age (65) or your parents’ age. We grew up in a Church with very clear teachings and practices, and we continue to try, however unsuccessfully, to live by the standards and doctrine that were set before us as children.
    Brendan McCarthy rightly pointed out that I might not be speaking for the majority of Catholics, so I will switch to the first person singular for the rest of this reply. I still have huge respect for the priesthood, scandals and dissension notwithstanding. I have great regard, too, for all the individual priests who have stayed the course, and in particular for those who continue to serve despite difficulties they might have with authority etc. People like you feel they can be Christian without being Catholic, and people like your parents are happy with women priests and married priests, but people like me (who hold none of these positions) are the ones who have remained loyal to the Church, and have supported priests financially and with our prayers – and we are being ignored in this debate.The ACP does not seem to know who its friends are. If you alienate us, will there be any Church left?

  15. Barry Despard says:

    Thank you Jim Stack!!

  16. Sean (Derry) says:

    Jim Stack, you certainly are not alone in your beliefs and opinions, please continue you to comment on this site (but you will be in the minority).
    God bless you.

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