Home > Tag Archives: C.S. Lewis

Tag Archives: C.S. Lewis

April 6th, 2017

Fr Tony Flannery: an Up-to-Date Modernist

A look at Redemptorist Fr Tony Flannery’s website will give you a depressing sensation of déjà vu. There you will find quite a few of the ideas condemned by St Pius X early in the 20th century.

Fr Flannery says, for instance,  that Catholic doctrines on the Trinity, God and Our Lady come from a time when  “there was a very different understanding of the world and of humanity”, and he insists that doctrine must adapt to “science”. This could be straight out of the thoughts of  the original Modernist Abbé Loisy.

But Fr Flannery takes it further. I don’t know quite where he picked up the idea that in Catholic thinking, God is “a male individual”.  The Daughters of the Holy Ghost taught me at the age of seven that  God is Spirit—so by definition does not have a sex, or as forward-thinking people nowadays  insist on our calling it, a “gender”. Later the Benedictines told  me exactly the same, although they went into the matter in more detail. (I was glad to hear that Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin has told his priests that only words have a gender, while people have a sex. Quite right.)  On the other hand, Jesus is God, and Jesus is Man as well as God, and is therefore, as touching His human nature, male. Surely Fr Flannery was taught this in school, if not in his Redemptorist novitiate?

The fact that Jesus told his disciples to address God as “Father”, not as “Mother” should be a bit of a problem for  Fr Flannery, but he  doesn’t address that one. Of course, we have a “Mother” as well—our Blessed Lady. But Fr Flannery regards Marian teaching as  “maybe the most problematic area of all Catholic doctrine”. He wonders “how many of us really believe in the nativity stories and the virgin birth, and that Mary remained a virgin all her life and had no other children?” Not he, obviously.

Fr Flannery also goes on about how, in “the traditional understanding” God is “resident in the heavenly realm in the skies” . Once again, the good nuns taught me that God is everywhere. That’s in the old penny catechism too. I think it’s about time Father refreshed his memory.

He thinks that making the Trinity a dogma was  “a big mistake” Instead,  we should view God as  “the spirit/energy/consciousness/presence in the whole of creation; a being that is in, and with all, aspects of creation including all humanity”. That doesn’t come near it. As someone in one of Bruce Marshall’s novels says, I’d sooner worship a bowler hat. Surely it’s far healthier, spiritually, to picture God the Father as an old man with a white beard—the biblical Ancient of Days.

Quite a few people are asking why, if Fr Flannery no longer believes Catholic doctrine, he doesn’t leave the Church, or at least resign from the priesthood. C.S Lewis is pertinent in this, as in so much else: This is his message to Dissenting Priests:

It is your duty to fix the lines (of doctrine) clearly in your minds: and if you wish to go beyond them you must change your profession. This is your duty not specially as Christians or as priests but as honest men. There is a danger here of the clergy developing a special professional conscience which obscures the very plain moral issue. Men who have passed beyond these boundary lines in either direction are apt to protest that they have come by their unorthodox opinions honestly. In defence of those opinions they are prepared to suffer obloquy and to forfeit professional advancement. They thus come to feel like martyrs. But this simply misses the point which so gravely scandalises the layman. We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing in your ministry after you have come to hold them. We always knew that a man who makes his living as a paid agent of the Conservative Party may honestly change his views and honestly become a Communist. What we deny is that he can honestly continue to be a Conservative agent and to receive money from one party while he supports the policy of the other.
―from God in the Dock, pp. 89-90

May 14th, 2016

Pandaemonium and Priestesses

Pope Francis has promised a group of elderly progressive nuns that he’s going to look into the question of “ordaining”  women deacons (something definitively ruled out by Pope St John Paul II). The possibility of Communion for unrepentant adulterers and now this! Pope Francis certainly doesn’t let the grass grow under his feet.

Can anyone doubt that women deacons are merely a stalking horse for priestesses? Pope Francis may not think so , but you may be sure those nuns do.  The blog Ignatius His Conclave imagines how C.S. Lewis’s devil Screwtape might react:



The Pandaemonium Club
666, Pall Mall
London, SW1Y 5EP

Your Holiness,

May we at the Pandaemonium Club express our heartfelt admiration at the progress of your pontificate?  We had not hoped for so much in so short a time. Yours is a ministry of surprise and spontaneity, which we at the Club can only applaud.

Doctrine in the Catholic Church has always seemed to Club members to be weighed down by tradition and overly concerned with consistency. Your Holiness, in throwing caution to the winds and speaking from the heart without fear or premeditation, has opened a new era in relations between the Holy See and our own scarcely less venerable Society.

After ‘The Joys of Sex’, the ordination of women deacons! Things are certainly on the move.

I have been asked by the Committee, to offer you Life Membership, as a sign of our apprectiation.

Should you honour us by your acceptance, a chair by the fire will be reserved in the smoking room for your sole use, where I am sure you will feel completely at home.

Jeremy Huntingdon Screwtape, KCMG


March 18th, 2016

Screwtape Assesses Francis

Fans of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis will, I think, l appreciate this letter from a senior devil to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. I got it from the blog “Ignatius His Conclave” of  ex-Anglican Dr Geoffrey Kirk of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

 Dear Wormwood,

Congratulations ! I thought you had bitten off more than you could chew this time, but I am delighted to be proved wrong. You are making remarkable progress with Francis – who is not the easiest Patient, in more ways than one. But you have got it absolutely right: spontaneity is the key! Humans invariably confuse the extempore with the sincere. Soundbites on aeroplanes. A masterly ploy!

Speaking from long experience, if you want to be thoroughly successful in undermining the teachings of the Enemy, I suggest you encourage your Patient in a threefold approach:

First he must be seen to affirm the Enemy’s teaching  in all its clarity and rigour: No abortion! No divorce! No gay marriage! It is essential that he is to be seen as thoroughly orthodox (perhaps even a little bit ‘old-fashioned’).

Next he should compassionately embrace the difficulties and complexities involved. How hard to follow such precepts in a world which has changed so much! How can one know what it is like until one has experienced the pain? ‘Let him who has not sinned cast the first stone.’ (A particular useful saying of the Enemy, now that we have succeeded in virtually eliminating the concept of ‘sin’)

Thirdly, your Patient must appeal to the individual conscience. Humans nowadays (thanks to hard work on the part of our colleagues) think almost exclusively  in terms of autonomous individual choices (which are all equally valid). One size does not fit all! The key themes here should be Mercy and Tolerance, not Righteousness and Justice. The media, of course, will lap it up.

If you can get your Patient to follow this simple ‘one-two-three’ paradigm, the original teaching, which was so roundly affirmed to begin with, will, almost imperceptibly but very effectively, have been undermined. And our job will be done.

Collaterally, the Patient will have gained in general popularity (a thing we should always encourage wherever possible), and so be well positioned for the next attack on the Enemy.

Yours in Diabolo,

Fr Hunwicke wonders if  the Holy Father  will  respond by sending a crack hit-squad of aged Jesuits to attack Fr  Kirk with their zimmer frames. Which prompts the question: how many any Jesuits  are now left who don’t  need zimmer frames.

Vatican spokesperson Fr Frederico Lombardi may be a bit cross too.  Fr Kirk  quotes him as saying:

Not all pronouncements of His Holiness are binding upon the faithful. There are three kinds of pronouncement: those which are ex cathedra (as defined by Vatican I – andpope_plane_3574057k personally I don’t think this fellow is going to risk that sort of thing); solemn pronouncements in Encyclicals (like Laudato Sithough the faithful were somewhat puzzled over what actually to do about it); and declarations ex aeroplano which (in Church parlance) can be taken cum grano salispope_plane_3574057k


October 27, 2015

More about Joanna McCann

Many thanks to  the dozens of people who sent Mass cards and messages of sympathy on the death of our dear daughter Joanna, and those who travelled long distances to be present at her funeral in Dalkey a week ago yesterday.

The Novus Ordo funeral was very well done, and Fr Declan Gallagher PP deserves our particular gratitude. There were four priests in the sanctuary. The coffin was carried out on the shoulders of husband Johnny, son Stephen aged 15, brother Joe, brother-in-law Maurice, daughter Nikki’s boyfriend Andy and close family friend Dave. It would be an exaggeration to say  there was not a dry eye among the congregation of 400-plus,  but  certainly a fair proportion of them were in tears. Joanna’s body is now in Shanganagh cemetery awaiting the Resurrection.

C.S. Lewis said that grief produces the same symptoms as fear. I haven’t found that: it  just makes me feel tired and listless, which is why I haven’t done any blog posts for 10 days or so.

There were two eulogies, but as they were delivered  after the Mass that was quite acceptable even to a hidebound old trad like me. Here’s one of them, by Joanna’s best friend Alexia Kelly which I think may be appreciated by most:

I have had the privilege of knowing Joanna since we were both seven years old and standing here today, I feel immensely honoured to represent all of her friends who loved her.  I know that I am speaking to so many of you who have their own dear memories of Joanna, a treasure trove of them.  

Joanna was my friend, but I was only one of an abundance of friends in her life, so very very many.  In our class of 48, Joanna was liked universally.  She was one of those very few that everyone got on with.  She could just take up where she left off. Happily reminiscing over school day shenanigans with glee with so many of us at our recent class reunion.

When we were young, we spent lots of innocent wonderful times in each other’s houses.  I have such happy memories of afternoons spent doing arts and crafts in Villarea Park……collecting rocks with Joanna on Killiney beach and painting and varnishing them, to be paper weights and door stops for my own parents.  They were long happy hours in the Lowry home.  A home full of warmth and love and Joanna so loved her parents, brothers Joe and Luke and big sister Paula.

Joanna was funny funny funny.  She was responsible for snorting guffaws in the classroom.  She was a loveable messer and luckily for me, I got to be in her class for almost every subject.  Harmless messing that was so frustrating for our teachers, but never held any malice or meanness, just infectious hilarity.

She was so creative with language, artistic and imaginative. a very talented writer.  I’ve lost count of the number of messages that she has sent me over the years that have literally caused me to crease with laughter.  She had a wonderful sense of the ridiculous.  A witty description that might take some three sentences, Joanna would nail in three words.

As a teenager, Joanna had successfully navigated the worst of the angsty phase and managed to become quite cool, without alienating any of us who still hovered on the fringes, The Pierrot club, Scotts in Dun Laoghaire, a boyfriend with a motorbike!!  I was reminded over the weekend of a group of us schoolgirls warming our backsides on a classroom radiator and Joanna taking out a photo-booth strip of a mullet haired boy, whom she proudly boasted held more than a passing resemblance to a member of Duran Duran.  This was of course Johnny, her best friend and destined to be the love of her life

Joanna often talked to me about how blessed and lucky she was to have married her best friend.  She texted me recently and described how happy she was to still be so happy and in love after 32 years.

We became mothers within eight months of each other.  While most of our friends were enjoying their carefree early 20’s, it felt like we were pretending to be grownups and that some day we’d be found out.  We used to meet up when Nikki and my daughter Sarah were small; we would dress them up, go on little day trips to Powerscourt, take photos and marvel at how clever we were to have produced the most beautiful babies in the world.  And when Stephen came along, we got to do it all again as our youngest were the same age, this time with a little more confidence.  

Joanna was immensely proud of Nikki and Stephen.  She spoke to me often about their progress, her concern but also her confidence in their futures and how she loved them so much.  She would often marvel at their school reports and achievements in areas where she felt she had never excelled…….. We shared a complete bafflement over anything mathematical.

Joanna told me recently that she was so thankful to me for including her in a lunchtime game of ‘Jacks’ one day when we were little….she described herself as the shy child with the dodgy fringe and glasses that no one had asked to join in and I had.  How could she remember it that way when I don’t?  That was typical of her….making me feel really good about myself, telling me how much she loved me.  She was so very generous with her love

Joanna’s laugh was contagious and warm and instinctive.  She found humour in almost every moment of seriousness and when that seriousness became about her illness, she never allowed it to consume her, never wanting to be sad in front of her friends, always finding something to smile about, to chuckle about.  She said recently, “I was really trying to be miserable today but I keep laughing.”

She was truly one of a kind, a source of endless fun, warm hearted, effervescent. She had a wicked irreverent sense of humour, had a great memory and was a wonderful mimic.   She had an incredibly sharp wit – and yet she was never remotely intimidating. She never had any sense that she was better than anyone else. She was warm and generous and put people at their ease; She never excluded anyone. She was always ready to laugh at herself – and always free with compliments for her friends.   You relaxed when she came in to a room.  No need to pretend to be anyone other than yourself, no attitude, no front.

We have each been given a wonderful gift by knowing her.  I, like all of you, will always carry a little piece of Joanna in my heart forever.  

Alexia is a nursing specialist in rheumatology at St Vincent’s Private Hospital, Dublin. She is  the daughter of  the late John Kelly, lawyer, politician and author of the standard work on the Irish Constitution. He had also been a don at Trinity College, Oxford.  I well remember Joanna telling me that  Alexia had announced on their way to school when they were both very small that “Daddy’s been made Eternal General” in Dr Garret Fitzgerald’s government. As Attorney-General, Kelly had a mind of his own, and a good turn of phrase. He defended the wording of the Amendment banning abortion, dismissing the notion that it was constitutionally  flawed as “piddling and perverse”. Like most of us, he could not foresee that the Supreme Court would become corrupted. I have it on  strong authority that when it was decided to attempt to water down the original wording  a furious Kelly referred to the Taoiseach as “that  b******s FitzGerald”.

After the funeral we repaired to the Killiney Castle Hotel for refreshments. I am indebted to my grandson Francis Hand, late of the Irish College in Rome and now at Glasgow University who straightaway said “Grandpa, you need a drink”, and brought me a large Jameson. He actually elicited a guffaw from me when we discussed the hymns at the funeral Mass which were, shall we say, of mixed quality. I like the “Pie Jesu” but can’t stand the Newchurch favourite “On Eagles’ Wings”. Francis treated me to his own version of that:  “I will feeeed  you up, On Chicken Wings!”

I think I may be beginning to get back into my blogging stride…