The Rise of Priests Who Encourage Sins Against Faith

Though the 24-hour news cycle has long moved on from applauding the Irish referendum in favor of same-sex “marriage,” this catastrophe for the Church and future of Ireland should still be the focus of thoughtful reflection by faithful Catholics.  Just as outward physical symptoms reveal the presence of disease and disorder  throughout the body, the abandonment of the Faith in Ireland is the outward manifestation of a virulent spiritual disease infecting the entire Church in the West.

This deadly disease infecting the Church in Western society has three inter-related symptoms — heresy, apostasy and schism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church classifies heresy, apostasy and schism as sins against the Faith. These are three expressions of the culpable personal fault of incredulity, which the Catechism describes as the “neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it” (CCC 2089).

Since the close of the Second Vatican Council the Church has been plagued by clerical and lay groups that advocate both the neglect of revealed truth and the willful refusal to assent to revealed truth. Even though the Code of Canon Law clearly identifies these three manifestations of incredulity as grave offences against the faith and the Church (Can. 751), the serious canonical penalties are rarely, if at all, threatened, let alone consistently applied. I’m certain that this failure to confront heresy and apostasy with the full force of canon law is a contributory factor to the collapse of the Faith in Ireland and the rest of the Church in the West.

A Network of Disobedient Priests

During the reign of Pope Benedict XVI we witnessed the tragic spectacle of European priests not only publicly refusing to assent to revealed truths but forming associations to encourage sins against faith. Such disloyal groups included The Austrian Priests’ Initiative, the Irish Association of Catholic Priests and the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests. Pope Benedict XVI took the unusual step of challenging the disobedience of these groups of priests accusing them of seeking to desperately change the Church according to “their own preferences and ideas”:

Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church?

The Irish Association of Catholic Priests

Members of The Irish Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) committed sins of omission and sins of commission during the campaign that resulted in the large “yes” vote. The ACP, which claims to represent a third of priests in Ireland, took a neutral position regarding the Same-Sex “Marriage” referendum. A statement issued by the leadership team of the ACP exhorted priests “not to direct their parishioners to vote Yes or No.” However, members of the ACP leadership team then went on to prominently advocate support for a “yes” through the media. Father Flannery explained why he would be voting “yes” in an article in the Irish Independent in early May. He wrote:

Having considered the question that is being presented to us on this occasion, and after having listened to the debate so far and given it a great deal of thought, I will be voting Yes. I do not consider this decision to be in any way in conflict with my faith, or with my position as a priest.

Priests Who Acted Against the Pope and Bishops

Both the statement of neutrality and the active campaigning for the “yes” vote were not only contrary to the guidance of Irish bishops, but also against the conclusions of Pope Francis and the world’s bishops at the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family that reiterated the Church’s rejection of same-sex “marriage.” The Synod’s Final Report summarized the Church’s teaching: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family” (55).

It is instructive to examine statements made by members of ACP’s leadership since the “yes” vote from the perspective of Pope Francis’ analysis of apostasy in the light of Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World. In these statements we find elements of apostasy: arguments for the abandonment of the Church’s traditions and identity out of a preference for worldly proposals, and a sense of adolescent progressivism. It appears to me that these statements from these priests suggest a single and faulty solution to the situation of the Church in Ireland that is entirely lacking in the one thing necessary — the Catholic faith. Consider the following.

Teaching Sexual Morality

Father Tony Flannery of the ACP proposes that the Irish Church must abandon teaching young people about the Church’s doctrines on sexual morality for “at least a generation” because of his experience of giving school retreats at which young people told him they were “tired of the Church always saying NO when it came to anything to do with sex.”

Father Flannery is right to criticize the reduction of the Church’s sexual ethics to only a list of negative prohibitions, but in response to the young people’s objections, did he present the positive YES to sexual continence and chastity found in the Theology of the Body? Is he seriously suggesting that adults responsible for education and formation deny young people the wisdom and richness of the Church’s sexual morality for a generation?

The Worldly Proposals of Modernity

Father Brendan Hoban of the ACP concludes that the overwhelming “yes” vote shows that the Church “is very much out of sync with the temper of its people.” According to Fr. Hoban the Church lacks “the confidence to engage with modernity” and above all is “trailing too far behind its people.” He sees the “worldly proposals” of modernity represented by same-sex “marriage,” abortion, contraception and divorce as an unstoppable force. “Trying to keep out the tide is always a failed enterprise. When will we learn that simple truth?”

However, St. Paul warns of the danger to Christians of abandoning the Faith handed to us from the Apostles for modern fads and fashions: “The time is sure to come when people will not accept sound teaching, but their ears will be itching for anything new and they will collect for themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes” (2 Timothy 4:3).

The Spirit of Secularism

Both Fr. Tony Flannery and Fr. Iggy Donovan appear to suggest that the Church must adapt its teaching to the “spirit of worldly secularism” because, according to them, the people are no longer receptive to the doctrines of the Church. Father Flannery writes, “The people are no longer willing to listen to speeches and sermons on morality from the Church,” and Fr. Donovan says, “The church has to realize ordinary people are not listening to us any more.”

But the question must be asked: With the catastrophic collapse of catechesis in Ireland over the past 50 years, have ordinary people been given the opportunity to listen to God’s life-giving truths?

Now, more than ever, it is essential that we pray for these priests who have so tragically lost their way. And from a great love for our priests let us pray for these chosen men who daily enable, through the miracle of the Blessed Sacrament, Our Lord Jesus Christ’s entry into our fallen world. May these priests again feel in their hands and hearts the eternal Truth Who does not waver or desert His people but transforms our world.

This draws on an article originally published in the Catholic Voice Ireland.

Follow Deacon Nick on Twitter: @ProtectthePope

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16 Responses to The Rise of Priests Who Encourage Sins Against Faith

  1. “But the question must be asked: With the catastrophic collapse of catechesis in Ireland over the past 50 years, have ordinary people been given the opportunity to listen to God’s life-giving truths?”

    The question must also be asked: With the catastrophic collapse of catechesis EVERYWHERE over the past 50 years, have ordinary people ANYWHERE been given the opportunity to listen to God’s life-giving truths?

    The answer, sadly, must in most cases be, “No.” That is why, in my opinion, apostolates like ChurchMilitant.com are so important.

  2. ginnyfree says:

    Well, another thing to think about is this: there was a time when politicians feared the power of a single priest in his pulpit on Sunday. Why? Because if he got up on a Sunday and said, “So and so is a louse and no one should vote for him,” no one would. There wouldn’t be an endless debate, he wouldn’t have to give a long debate or explain why so and so is a louse and it would be a give that if there were 300 voters in that place, they’d all be voting which ever way Father said to without batting an eye. Obedience was a virtue that all practiced, Priests, religious and laypersons. They were fearless and trusting because of it too. Not so today, not so and until the virtue of obedience is re-discovered, the benefits of it many blessings will be visibly missing in our society as a whole. Just my two cents worth. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  3. ginnyfree says:

    I really like CM and am a recent member there. The team there is great and his guests are awesome too. Would that more Catholic media sources were as brave and zealous for the Truth as Mr. Voris and his staff. They are a blessing for our Church. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  4. Robert says:

    Well perhaps Leo XIII vision of a Permission given to Satan to attempt the destruction of the Church has something to do with a Masonic Curia since 1960

  5. johnhenrycn says:

    Deacon Donnelly (very good article, as usual) states that the disease infecting the Church has three inter-related symptoms: heresy, apostasy and schism. I would add to that list the attitude of indifference many Catholics have in relation to moral issues. I’m not talking of Indifferentism, which is a formal heresy, but which unlike mere indifference at least has the advantage of having been thought about on a philosophical plane. No, the prevailing attitude of indifference I refer to is summed up by the word ‘whatever’. The many Catholics and other Christians who embrace that attitude are just as responsible as their clergy for leading society to the precipice from which it now hangs by its fingernails.

    We say that marriage is meant to combine the unitive (love) and procreative (children) essentials of life; but we enjoy the freedoms offered by contraception and no-fault divorce, and we are not about to give them up. Back in the day when we – meaning pretty well all Christians – disapproved of contraception and divorce, it was logical to deny marriage to homosexual couples, because they have no role to play in the raising of their natural children (since they have none) and because we used to insist that on account of the needs of our children, divorce was not permissible.

    But for more than two generations now, heterosexual couples have separated marriage from the needs of society for children and from the needs of children for stable families. Now, it’s all about the paramount needs of adults for freedom and self-fulfillment . Our priests and ministers are following our lead. It’s not right that they do so, but for them to be discouraged almost to the point of surrender at the prospects for bringing us back into proper relationships with our wives/husbands and with our children/children-to-be is understandable. Why do we think our priests and ministers are stronger than we are? As a general rule, they are just as weak and sinful as the rest of us.

    Likewise, we have brought the scourge of same-sex marriage upon ourselves. When we decide, as a society, that the procreation of children and the needs of children for stable families are trumped by the needs of adults for love, romance and freedom, is it any wonder that homosexuals want a piece of the action, and is it unreasonable for them to be given it?

  6. toadspittle says:

    “Because if (a priest) got up on a Sunday and said, “So and so is a louse and no one should vote for him,” no one would…. …they’d all be voting which ever way Father said to without batting an eye.”
    Regardless, presumably, of whether the politician really was a louse, or just someone the priest didn’t agree with.
    That’s not obedience – that’s blind imbecility.

  7. Michael says:

    Amen to all the above – particularly your last paragraph. One question that always floats to the forefront of my mind when I read about priests who openly flout the teachings of the Church is, why do they remain Catholic? I know that there has been some pretty poor catechesis over the last few decades, and that the general atmosphere in the Church has allowed those proposing attitudes/ideas contrary to Catholic truth (particularly in the realm of sexual ethics) to act with impunity for a long time, but the actual teaching on these matters is still very clear, as is teaching re authentic development of doctrine and papal/magisterial authority.

    If the clerics who have embraced secular ideas about (amongst other things) sexuality and the family want to see those ideas affirmed institutionally, it is very easy to drop their arms and become Anglicans – then they would be in an environment where the ‘fruits’ of endorsing artificial contraception and all-but accepting the validity of same-sex unions is there for all to see, and they could continue to experiment with Christian doctrine to their heart’s content. And yet they stay – why?

    A common answer to this question is that they know the Eucharist is ‘especially present’ (or some other ghastly ecumenical phrase – they wouldn’t want to give the impression that other churches don’t actually have valid sacraments) in the Catholic Church. But if they believe this, then implicitly they must believe the Church to have the authority to consecrate, that she receives this authority from Christ Himself, and that it is an authority that is permanent, extending to the most essential matters of Christian life (like sexual ethics for example). Bizarre.

    As for Anglicanism/Episcopalianism itself, well, the wonders never cease:

    http://creedalchristian.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/episcopal-church-bishop-says-god-has.html

    I think Tony Flannery would be very happy there.

  8. John A. Kehoe says:

    The collapse of the faith in Ireland is hardly a surprise given the extent of clerical scandals revealed in The Ferns Report, The Murphy Report and the Ryan Report. The scandal is not merely historic. Only this week we have had Irish Archbishop Burke admitting in the High Court his consensual sexual relations with an African woman who also gave evidence in the High Court concerning this. How the times have changed. O Tempora, O Mores

  9. Michael says:

    Here is a helpful supplement to Deacon Donnelly’s words from Msgr. Pope. It is sobering and comforting in equal measure:

    http://blog.adw.org/2015/06/in-times-like-these-a-scriptural-guide-to-for-those-who-live-in-troubled-and-confused-times/

  10. Magdalen says:

    It is a time of trial and testing. Those clerics who go along with or promote the evils in the culture are at risk for eternal damnation—yeah, many do not believe there is anyone in hell but that is not what Our Lord said. We must pray for these hell bound prelates: for their conversion and repentance for they lead thousands to perdition with them.
    It is also a time for SAINTS! Let us do all in our power to be in that company, no matter the cost. Seek holiness! Frequent the sacraments, ramp up your prayer life; cling to Jesus and Mary!

  11. Ever mindful says:

    Amen…well said.

  12. Tom Fisher says:

    I think it was absolutely terrible that, as you rightly say, many people would once vote exactly how their priest told them. As a separate issue, were people to fall back into that kind of laziness today, they would probably vote ‘progressively’ given the opinions of most aging priests.

  13. Tom Fisher says:

    I think it was absolutely terrible that, as you rightly say, many people would once vote exactly how their priest told them.

    By which I mean, voted a particular way simply because they were instructed to by a particular parish priest. Organised crime (both Irish and Italian) wasn’t unaware of the power of the pulpit when it came to buying local elections throughout much of the 20th Century.

  14. ginnyfree says:

    Hello Tom. So, are you saying that the progressives and the liberals who are Catholic in name and culture only who elected like minded individuals to offices all through our government who if they acted with a Catholic mind and ethic, certainly wouldn’t even consider homosexuals unions as a marriage, that we are somehow better off with these men and women? Surely you jest. Did you see our President thank a Sister for her help with passing the HHS Mandate. I did and in his little speech he was very sure to add, “we couldn’t have done it without you Sister.” He wasn’t lying at that point, though he frequently does. Sister beamed and bowed humbly to the applause she received. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  15. kathleen says:

    Re Michael’s link: one can only pity these poor deluded Christians (new revelations, my foot!) who, once they have left the Rock on which Our Lord Jesus Christ built his Church, open the doors to proliferating numbers of heresies and errors.

    That is not to say we members of Christ’s Church do not have plenty of our own problems within our gates however!
    When priests and even bishops flaunt the Church’s eternal teachings on Faith and Morals and promulgate these teachings from the pulpit, the ‘bad fruits’ and confusion they spread go very deep. Did not Our Lady warn us at Fatima, La Salette, (and Garabandal, for those who believe in the apparitions there), that “many priests, bishops, and [even] cardinals are on the path to Hell [through the sins and errors they are preaching to the faithful] and taking many souls with them”? Why have we not listened to Our Blessed Mother’s forewarning?

    It reminds us of the terrifying revelations of Bella Dodd in the 1930s, and the satanical plan for communist infiltration and subversion of the Church by her enemies. We are tragically seeing how the results of this “infiltration” is still working out among the apostate priests in the Church today.
    http://www.fatimaperspectives.com/cs/perspective235.asp

    The vast majority of our priests are, of course, good and holy men, carrying a heavy cross in these times of either total indifference or outright disobedience to God’s Laws and the Magisterium of the Church. Making sacrifices and praying for our priests has never been as of such vital importance as it is in these current times.

  16. ginnyfree says:

    Thanks Kathleen. I enjoyed the link. Good stuff. God bless. Ginnyfree.

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