A leading Irish theologian has criticised Vatican action to silence Fr Tony Flannery and suspend him from ministry, describing it as “theologically inept”.
Augustinian Fr Gabriel Daly examines the treatment of Fr Flannery and three other priests censured by Rome in a new book that focuses on reform in the Church.
Fr Daly highlights an article written by Fr Flannery, a Redemptorist, for the journal Reality that was cited by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) as one of the reasons for him being silenced.
In the course of his article, Fr Flannery wrote: “Whatever Jesus intended, I don’t think anyone can credibly claim that he intended the type of system we now have in the Church … I no longer believe that the priesthood, as we currently have it in the Church, originated with Jesus.”
Fr Daly told The Tablet, however, that these views “are both theologically and historically unexceptionable. His attackers have simply failed to reckon with his qualification ‘as we currently have it in the Church’”.
He added that it was “abundantly clear” that today’s Catholic Church is very different from the gathering of disciples around Jesus. The theologian and author said he thought only “dedicated traditionalists” would take issue with what he is saying.
Fr Daly explained that his new book concentrates on the need to reform the CDF and discusses the “meaning of reform in the light of some theological principles and insights”. He said the CDF seems intent on claiming that everything in today’s Church is consonant with the will and intentions of Jesus.
“I can do no more than point out that this cannot be historically true,” he said. “There is a huge difference between the situation as it was 2,000 years ago and the situation as it is today. Much will depend on your interpretation of development.”
The Church: Always in Need of Reform, by Fr Gabriel Daly, is due to be published by Dominican Publications later this year.