‘I suppose I am now experiencing something of a crisis of faith’
‘I will have to decide if I wish to stay in religious life’
’The closer you get to the Vatican system, with all its power struggles and careerism, the more disillusioned you can become.’ Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
People regularly ask me how I am? The answer to that is complex, and
I do not usually burden or bore my questioner by going into details about it. It is
more than a year since I was forbidden to minister as a priest.
I miss being able to celebrate the Eucharist and I miss being able to preach. I know I can say Mass privately, but I seldom do, since I regard it as a community exercise. I mostly attend Mass with the people.
Having been out of ministry and in conflict with church authorities for an extended period of time has had a significant impact on my perspective on the church, but more fundamentally on my faith and my life.
I have come to know a great deal about how the church operates, particularly in its management structures and methods of decision making, that I would probably be better off not knowing.
Sadly I have found it to be true that the closer you get to the Vatican system, with all its power struggles and careerism, the more disillusioned
you can become. I know that faith in Jesus Christ is more important than any of this, but while I can accept that totally at an intellectual level, it is much more difficult to deal with my emotional responses to it. The church introduced me to Christ, and for my whole life my faith has been lived out within the church, most of it within religious life. So I suppose I am now experiencing something of a crisis of faith.
Even while attending Mass,
as I do regularly, I sit there listening to the priest struggle with the new translation of the Missal, especially with the opening prayers and prefaces, and I know that whoever was behind this new translation was not motivated by desire
to make the Eucharist more meaningful for the people,
but instead was driven by a rigid ideological stance that had little or nothing to do
with the teachings of the Gospel.
I wonder at times if some of the people in high positions within the church are more motivated by personal ambition and the pursuit of power than by a commitment to the message of Jesus.
‘Stream of corruption’
Pope Francis’s statement that there is a “stream of corruption” within the curia seemed to confirm what I suspected. I don’t know where all of this will lead me. I am reasonably at ease with it, and willing to let it take its course in my life, if I am given the time to work it out. And if not, then let what will be happen.
In the meantime I have some major decisions to make. I will have to decide if I wish to stay in religious life for what time is remaining to me, while not being allowed to do any form of ministry. I do not know what effect that would have on me long term, but it may be difficult. The alternative would be to move out on my own and try to make a life for myself, but this is, quite frankly, frightening. Would I be able to cope, after living almost my whole life in an institutional setting? Who would look after me in my old age? Would I be very lonely? What about the financial side of it all? These are the real and hard questions that are occupying my mind at this time.
I will face into the future with as much energy and life as I can summon up, and I will make whatever decisions I need to make as I go along.
More than anything else I do not want to waste much more of my time attempting to deal with the Roman authorities in the way I have been trying to do for the past 18 months.
I have seen other religious being broken down and becoming embittered by
their experience. I will try not to let that happen to me.
I hope that my faith in a loving and gracious God will survive and that it will bring me to a place of peace and tranquillity.
This is a resume by Fr Tony Flannery of the final chapter in his book A Question of Conscience which will be launched by broadcaster Bill O’Herlihy at 6.30pm on Thursday at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Ely Place in Dublin