Sunday, November 2, 2014

2014.11.02 A Roman Catholic Priest Speaks Out—of Turn:)

To hear a “silenced” RC priest speak out was, to be honest, a pleasure. Tony Flannery, a Redemptorist Father and a native of Galway, Ireland, is on a speaking tour in the US, having refused to be silent about reforms in his Church. The group that arranges such reformist speakers is called Catholic Tipping Point. This event was sponsored by three organizations: Dignity, Call to Action, and Spirit of Life Organization.

In 2012, the Congregation of Doctrine of the Faith was “unhappy” with Flannery’s views, chiefly on the origins of the all-male priesthood, in part because of economics but mostly because of institutional misogyny and the necessity for collective discernment on matters of faith and morals. He declined to recant, was forbidden to minister as a priest, and silenced. His non-confirmity is, he said, “a question of conscience,” the title of his new book.

Jean Marchant, a  woman Roman Catholic priest, introduced Flannery—with joy in her voice. I felt the lilt and remembered the joy so many of us felt when our Episcopal church finally deigned to ordain women as priests in 1976. We are a smaller and more limber institution, but, believe me, the issue of women’s place in the church is not settled. Women do not enjoy equity.

Tony Flannery spoke for an hour with Irish charm, humor, and little bombast. He is the founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, which, he quipped, is “not exactly al-qaeda.”  He feels sad about what has happened to him— but not defeated. The Spirit will be alive in the Church if we get certain basic items understood, he told his listeners (perhaps 100 people, most RCs, I’m sure.)

Flannery believes that two very basic modus operandi must change in order for other things, such as women’s ordination and the rethinking of Catholic teachings on sex, will flow from these changes. They are:
       1) Centralized authority: decisions can be handed down without processes of discernment. “When the church centralizes too much it loses its ability to listen. No conversation is possible. Centralized authority is the scourge of the Church.” He called the infallibility doctrine a “millstone” for popes who are, after all, human men.


(No woman can be chosen for this office, but I do wonder if she would accept it anyway. I think women in church politics will slowly change the way things operate.)

       2) The Magisterium: Who exactly IS this magisterium, this teaching authority? The Vatican II Council reminded the Church that this authority is not just the Vatican’s, but rather the sensus fidelium, that is, the conscience of faithful people. Flannery cited the way Pope Francis presided over the recent Synod of Bishops, asking for discussion, input, feedback and discernment. Francis encouraged speaking without fear and offered his own willingness to listen, even though the final decision will be his. This is a conciliar model. Flannery called this “hugely important” and an openness for the voice of the Spirit.

Flannery said he wasn’t sure of many things about God, but said: “I am sure of the  Holy Spirit—or we wouldn’t have a Francis.”

I believe that women hold up half the sky, over half the church, and half the divine image. (Genesis 2:27)

[I find it ironic that the originator of the idea that women hold up half the sky was Mao Tse-Tung, First Chairman of the Communist Party in China, and a dictator who, despite his progressive reforms, also oversaw many human rights abuses.]

Nothing, and no one, is pure. AMEN.