The Statement from the Head of the CDF, and my response to it.

This response from Cardinal Ladaria came as a result of a question asked by NCR reporter, Joshua McElwee at a press briefing this morning in the Vatican:

“If we have some advice to give to Fr. Flannery, we will give it to Fr. Flannery. I believe that out of respect for everyone [involved] and in particular for him, it is better to give this advice in private rather than in public.

“We have done everything possible to dialogue with Fr. Flannery. It has not always been easy. We have done everything possible. On some points, we have had to take some measures, which were never a judgment on the person, because this is left only to Our Lord, but [a judgment] on his teachings or his behavior.

“We have tried always to maintain our respect towards Fr. Flannery, but the duty that we have, according to the arrangement of the church, is to protect the faith and therefore to indicate some things that do not conform with this faith.

“This is a responsibility that is very unpleasant for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Very unpleasant. But it is our responsibility and it would be a lacking on our part if we did not exercise this responsibility, if we pushed it to the side and did not say something when some times, sadly, you have to.”

I wish to respond to a number of points in this statement from Cardinal Ladaria.

He says that imposing penalties on me was “very unpleasant”, and that dealing with me has not always been easy. ‘Unpleasant’ would be a mild word to describe the upheaval their action caused in my life, and certainly my dealings with the CDF have been anything but easy. I don’t feel sorry for the ‘unpleasantness’ he has had to endure.

“We have done everything possible to dialogue with Fr. Flannery”.  How could he possibly say that? The CDF, under him or his two predecessors, never communicated directly with me. How do you dialogue with someone when you won’t speak to them?  Cardinal Ladaria is a religious, a Jesuit, and presumably fairly contemporaneous with myself. So, like me, he lived through the renewal of religious life after the Second Vatican Council. One of the big features of that renewal was a new understanding of the role of authority. The autocratic exercise of authority prevalent in previous times was replaced by an authority based on respect for the individual and their opinions, and the making of decisions based on discussion and dialogue. Or, if you are a Jesuit, you would say ‘discernment’.

The CDF only communicated with the Superior General of the Redemptorists. If any dialogue took place at that level, I am totally unaware of it. All I ever got were demands for statements and signatures, and lists of punishments meted out to me. In fact the very first I knew of the whole process was, in 2012, when I was presented with two documents, outlining my ‘heretical’ writings, and the sentence being imposed. And the Cardinal says they have done everything to dialogue with me.

He also says they have always tried to maintain ‘respect’ for me. The essential basis for respect would be to recognize me as a person in my own right and to talk to me. How do you show respect for someone that you don’t even bother to meet, which you are turning their life upside down?

The Cardinal says they have to protect the faith by indicating things that do not conform to it. I wait to see what action he will take against Cardinal Hollerich of Luxembourg, or a number of German bishops who have spoken about their openness to the ordination of women, and on issues around homosexual teaching. Will we see one Jesuit, Cardinal Ladaria, censoring another Jesuit, Cardinal Hollerich? I don’t think so.