Theologian claims there is 'ominous divide' in church


AS CONTROVERSY over the silencing by the Vatican of Redemptorist priests Fr Tony Flannery and Fr Gerard Moloney grows, an Augustinian priest has written about “an ominous division” in the Catholic Church.

Theologian Fr Gabriel Daly has said “one party is now in control and is presenting its views as ‘the teaching of the church’.”

He continued: “Its more voluble members dismiss those who differ from it as ‘a la carte Catholics’ – a witless enough phrase in a legitimately diverse church.”

Fr Flannery, a founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, has had his monthly column with Reality, the Redemptorists’ monthly magazine, discontinued at Vatican direction, while Fr Moloney, the magazine’s editor, can no longer write on certain issues.

Both priests hold liberal views on contraception, celibacy and women priests.

Writing in the current issue of Doctrine Life magazine, Fr Daly said the secular press unwittingly encouraged such “bad theology” by identifying the Vatican’s Curia and even the bishops, with the Catholic church “thus failing to recognise the role of the people of God and legitimate differences in the church.”

He recalled how at the end of the second Vatican Council in 1965, “power once again devolved to the body which was most in need of reform, namely the Vatican Curia, which has slowly but inexorably been re-establishing its former authority.

“The control it exercises is systemic, structural and fiendishly difficult to reform.”

Aided “by secrecy and the unchallenged exercise of power, the Curia has established effective control over the whole church”. Fr Daly observed that “there is little or no concern for those faithful Catholics who are quietly appalled by what is happening. They are seen as simply wrong,” he said.

Most churches and religions had “a fundamentalist wing that sees itself as the sole possessor of authentic truth that has to be proclaimed and defended firmly against challenge. It would appear that there has to be an enemy that one can condemn to be assured of one’s own orthodoxy.”

Much fundamentalism “simply proclaims, as distinct from arguing a case. It counters opposition with a sort of contempt and regards it as self-evidently misguided: indeed it seems argument as unnecessary, since the matter concerned is already decided. It simply condemns, as the most efficient course of action, writings or publicly expressed views of which it disapproves,” he said.

Meanwhile a slew of priests have publicly asserted their support for Fr Flannery and Fr Moloney in comments on the Association of Catholic Priests website.

Included are Monaghan priest Fr Jimmy McPhillips, Redemptorist priests Fr Adrian Egan, Fr Tadhg Herbert (in Brazil), Fr Seán Duggan, Fr Ciarán Callaghan, Fr Michael Dempsey, Fr Brian Nolan, Fr Michael Forde; Dominican priest Fr Wilfrid Harrington, Dominican nun Sr Maeve McMahon, Canon Stephen Neill, Church of Ireland rector of Cloughjordan, Tipperary, and Co Galway parish priest Fr Declan Kelly.

As Fr Seán Duggan wrote on the website last Saturday: “First they came for Tony and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Flannery. Then they came for Reality and I didn’t speak out because I don’t read it. Then they came for Moloney and I didn’t speak out because he is well able to speak for himself. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”