SIR – The recent visit to Skibbereen of the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, was a joyous one. In his homily at mass, he brought to us a message of hope and encouragement. He acknowledged the overall practice of the faith in Ireland has declined, but if we are steadfast in the truth and live with faith and conviction we are in a new era and the future is ours.
In contrast, Fr Tony Flannery, founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, one week later, was peddling his message of gloom and doom on the airwaves (Miriam O’Callaghan Show, RTE Radio 1). People are leaving the church in droves, he tells us. Vocations are down to a trickle. Terminal decline is all we have to look forward to.
If he is referring to the Universal Chuch, he has got it all wrong. I take Russia as an example. The Catholic Church was persecuted for seventy years. Churches were demolished or ‘turned’ to secular use on the orders of the Communist Regime. Priests were sent to prison.
The aim was to wipe away all traces that the church ever existed. This did not succeed, the church is now stronger than ever. Churches are overflowing, the seminaries are overflowing with men training for the priesthood.
The same is true in other parts of the world, in Africa, the Far East, and in the Southern States of the USA of all places, they are talking about a boom in vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Either I am living on a different planet to Fr Flannery or his horizons are somewhat limited. They do not go as far as Skibbereen, which is a vibrant parish, confident in the future.
Fr Flannery is convinced the fundamental teachings of the church must be reformed, drastically. Among other things women must be ordained to the priesthood. It has been stated emphatically time and time again that the church has no authority to do this, but it appears equality must override everything.
If women are second class citizens in the Kingdom of God, it seems odd we have so many women saints. Women have always made a vital contribution to the life of the church.
I take one example from our own time; the late Mother Mary Angelica founded the Eternal Word Television Network. From small beginnings in Alabama it now broadcasts all over the world a daily mass and programmes designed to instruct and inspire believers. Its emphasis is on traditional teaching, its message is think truth, think catholic.
Mother Mary Angelica, I’m sure, never had thoughts of becoming a priest, if she had have done they would be followed by her familiar chuckle, ‘Me a priest? What a laugh!’
She knew she had a commission from Christ, a job to do, and she did it ignoring all discouragement and never taking no for an answer. She has gone to her eternal reward, an example of what a woman can achieve.
I feel a certain sympathy for Fr Tony Flannery despite our differences. I hope the ban on his public ministry is soon lifted. I would not venture to give him advice, but I would suggest he examines the concept of equality very carefully. All are equal but some are more equal than others.
A concept that can throw up such an enigmatic statement must have its profound difficulties. Equality has a sting in its tail and can lead to all kinds of absurdities; same sex marriage for example.
Also, I think he should consider the times we live in. The liberal secular agenda dresses up falsehood as the truth, and we as catholics must hold steadfastly to what we know to be the eternal truth of our faith.