Rite and Reason and Reality. Tony Flannery C.S.S.R. Redemptorist

Father Tony Flannery has been in the media over the Easter season. And it’s due to more than a telling off or a slap on the wrist he got from the pope. In fact, it has to do with a serious investigation that will commence immediately in the Vatican because of what is seen as very radical views taken by the Redemptorist priest and founder of the Association of Irish Priests.
Father Flannery told TheJournal.ie that the Vatican has contacted him to inform him of the investigation.
The pope is showing his full authority and is apparently going to lay down the long arm of Canon/Church law.
The latter is also very angry with Ireland I would surmise, as it appears too that he will not be going to the Dublin Eucharistic Congress to be held in June 2012. According to Irish Central, anyway. Or, as Colm Kelpie says:
– “We cannot have any event (the Eucharistic Congress) dominated by a phalanx of mitre-wearing bishops surrounded by large groups of clergy.”
Hell hath no fury than that of a pope being disobeyed. Dissident priests keep your distance.
Father Tony Flannery, a Catholic priest who has been outspoken in his criticism of the abuse crisis in Ireland, has found himself under investigation by the Vatican for his liberal views.

Father Flannery is to cease writing his monthly column in the Redemptionist Reality magazine. Well, well, well – I find it rather ironic that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome that has expressed disquiet about some of his articles and publications, did not have anything to say about the Irish Times Rite and Reason article that Father Tony Flannery wrote in August of 2006 where he said

Is it not strange that we are devoting so much energy to inquiring into the abuse of children half a century ago when there is so much that is unsavoury in the lives of children today,“

How come this view and others pertaining to said abuse in the article [printed in full below photo of priest] did not come under the Vatican radar? Then again, institutional child abuse was/is a ducking and diving game played expertly by the church. It’s such a pity that it did not take precedence and come under scrutiny more quickly than it did with the Vatican. Survivors had to go screaming and roaring to the church and the Vatican to be heard.

Suffer Little Children to come Unto me. What a load of baloney. Children in the past at Goldenbridge were kept hidden away with index fingers held on lips. They were sat on wee plastic potties till their entrails came falling out. They simply had to keep quiet about it as adults. The church tried to suppress them all it could. Now it has the audacity to investigate same priest, who moaned about those survivors, for views held on artificial birth control/women priests, etc. The same church that did not give a damn about babies and toddlers who were incarcerated for generations in industrial ‘schools’. So utterly hypocritical.

Last year, Father Flannery welcomed Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s hard hitting criticism of the Church’s decades long mishandling of the child sex abuse scandals in Ireland.

He jumps from one camp into another. Yes, you find his kind in all walks of life! Especially when they’re trying to sell books.

The pope is worried about theology of sexuality! Well – maybe he should be more worried about the theology of children, the theology of love; the theology of abuse and the theology of real life. Most importantly too the theology of getting its own house in order before it points the finger at the servants and everyone else.

Read the rest here at butterfliesandwheels and also here at Clerical Whispers.

I’m posting here the full Irish Times 2006 Reality article by Redemptorist priest Father Tony Flannery C.S.S.R. due to its age and possible difficulty in sourcing it into the future.

                      Kicking the church more fun than facing real problems
Rite and Reason: Is it not strange that we are devoting so much energy to inquiring into the abuse of children half a century ago when there is so much that is unsavoury in the lives of children today, asks Fr Tony Flannery. The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse looked a serious and formidable gathering in the brief shot on RTÉ’s Nine O’clock News a few months back, as they inquired into treatment of children at a Newtownforbes orphanage in the 1940s. Apparently the children were poorly fed and subject to physical abuse in those years. The Sisters of Mercy, who ran the orphanage, apologised yet again for their failures of the past. If we had enough inquiries we would discover that there was a lot of hunger and physical abuse, suffered by the children of Ireland in those far distant war years. The stories from the orphanages could be replicated in many homes and schools of the time. A great deal of apologising would need to be done. Two disturbing reports in relation to current abuse of children were made public recently. We had the Prime Time investigation of the sex trade in Ireland. It would appear to be thriving in most of our cities, and many of those exploited are adolescent girls and boys from eastern Europe. It made for unpleasant viewing, and I was surprised at the relatively limited reaction to it in the following days. The second report was into personnel from various NGO and UN agencies working in Liberia and other African countries. Apparently some of them are exploiting the local children for sex. The report did not point at Irish people, but since we are noted for the numbers of NGOs and UN people we send to Africa, I was surprised that it did not get more notice and response here. After all we have been through in recent years we should be sufficiently realistic to suspect that if this abuse is going on, Irish people are as likely to be involved as anyone else. There are other ways in which children are neglected in modern Ireland. The lifestyle forced on many young parents makes it almost impossible for them to give sufficient time and attention to the rearing of their children. Because of the enormous price they have to pay for their house, they are burdened by a mortgage that makes it essential that both parents continue to work outside the home, and the child is very often left in a crèche from early morning till late evening, five days a week. What the long-term effect of this on our children will be can only be guessed at. The debate on that continues. Our modern lifestyle is also putting great stress on marriage. More and more marriages are splitting up, and new relationships being formed. As a consequence some children have to deal with a number of different adults acting in the role of parent during their upbringing. This must be very confusing, and again its long-term effects will only become apparent later. Another difficulty with children nowadays is that they are sexualised at a young age. It is not uncommon to have children’s discos at First Communion time. Little girls who receive this sacrament are becoming like mini brides, with the hair-dos, the manicures and the fake tans. Apart from the materialism that is directly contrary to the meaning of Eucharist, these girls are being given a message that how we look defines who we are, and we wonder why teenage girls sometimes become anorexic. Today’s parents are the first generation in this country who, in many instances, can give their children whatever they ask for in material goods. If they feel guilty for not spending enough time with them, there is a great temptation to shower them with possessions instead. Grandparents can be also to blame here. Indulging their grandchildren is easy and tempting for them, too. As a consequence children are growing up without ever coming to know how to wait for anything. In this they are failing to learn what is possibly the most important lesson for life – the ability to say “no” to ourselves.How will they manage when life, as it does, presents them with situations in which they cannot have everything they want? The high suicide rates and the prevalence of binge drinking are indications that all is not well with our young people. The common assumption today is that the experience of sexual abuse does almost irreparable damage to a child, which will impact on their whole life. It would appear to be classified as the worst form of abuse. But can we be sure of that? How does one measure the damage done to a child by one form of neglect or abuse more than another? Does it strike anybody that it is a bit strange that we are devoting so much time, money and energy to inquiring into the abuse of children half a century ago when there is so much that is unsavoury in the lives of children today? The other obvious anomaly, beginning to be highlighted by some commentators, is that all the inquiries are into the behaviour of Catholic Church institutions and people, even though their abuse, dreadful as it was, is only a tiny fraction of all the abuse of children that happened in the past.From where I stand it seems that we are taking the easy way out on two counts. It is much simpler to delve into the failures of the past than the present. As a society we still have an adolescent obsession with the Catholic Church, even though its traditional power has long since been eroded. It is much more fun to keeping kicking the church than to face the real problems of today. Fr Tony Flannery is a Redemptorist priest and columnist with Reality. His book Keeping the Faith was published last year. The Irish Times
I rooted out the following draft e-mail. It was written in Sept 2006. I would have sent a corrected version to Gerard Maloney C.S.S.R. of the Redemptorist Order. He is editor of Reality and Face Up magazines, among other publications. It concerns itself with the opening sentence of a paragraph that leapt out at me from the above article by Father Tony Flannery in the Reality section of the Irish Times 2006,
 “Is it not strange that we are devoting so much energy to inquiring into the abuse of children when there is so much that is unsavoury today”?
Gerard Moloney: I am sending the following for it to be passed on to Father Tony Flannery.
Uneducated victims/survivors voices will be kept silent. I’ve already preempted this so hence the e-mail.
Father Tony Flannery – you will never begin to know where the likes of us are coming from.
Have you ever sat down with survivors – whose lives have been damaged as a result of so-called care?
I spent 10 months on licence from Goldenbridge institution to a family who lived in a tenement house. I never once experienced hunger. I could go on ad infinitum giving examples of how different things were in comparison to the institution.
I would rather have walked the roads in bare feet, and to have suffered hunger than to have spent time in that cold, dark, dank, inhospitable, rigid; miserable, hell-hole called Goldenbridge.
It was a refuge initially used to house convicts. It never changed, even into the 60s. You cleverly honed in on the half-century bit so as to remove the reader from the reality.
Whether it was 80 years or not nobody forgets pain or the timelessness of pain. Pain, if it occurred, it occurred. It is no respecter of time. As it comes from the brain which works while we are alive.
Survivors like us mostly yearn to leave the world to be rid of the gnawing pain in our heads. Survivors mostly don’t enjoy life.
Survivors desperately want to enjoy life, but they can’t, as the self-nurturing mechanisms needed for this are too frayed and worn, and only waiting for articles such as yours to trigger them off again.
Survivors could have aspired to becoming professionals like yourself, but were never given the opportunities.
Survivors spent most of their lives institutionalised that they are of no use to anyone.
They never caught up with the rest of society.
It’s people such as you who make derogatory remarks that send them into the quagmire of their deepest traumas.
The great Russian Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn who, through his often-suppressed writings, helped to raise global awareness of the gulag, the Soviet Union‘s forced labour camp system, would empathise with us, as his people too had to endure inordinate amounts of suffering.
The holocaust victims too, especially those who went into the labour camps as children, as their minds were not developed enough to comprehend the anguish.
Hitler had a better earlier start in life than us.
You see, It isn’t all about just beatings and going short of food or suffering ‘abuse in day-schools’. Children in the outside world would have had mentors of some description to identify with to some small degree. Nuns never nurtured us emotionally, mentally, aesthetically; educationally, artistically or in any other way.
What you sow is what you reap.
Love was a word that sprung up out of the missal in red letters. It never meant anything.
One could move mountains, one could move the earth, one could bear children, one could have a family; one could live in harmony, one could achieve something in life, one could be at peace. However, because survivors never experienced the red letter word called love they are stuck forevermore.
The legacy survivors received from having grown up in Goldenbridge is PTSD, DESNOS, Depression, OCD, personality disorders, stomach disorders. A lot of survivors became alcoholics, prisoners, criminals, prostitutes, as well enduring long-term homelessness.
There are survivors who managed to hang on, but only just.
To conclude: When some survivors found out about their backgrounds they discovered that they came from professional people just like yourself.
The family who took me out had one son who is also a Redemptorist priest.
I too could have been lucky with a chosen career had I been allowed to stay with them?
Unfortunately that chance to succeed became a definite no. As the damage had already started to ripen at 9 years of age.
Next time you want to harp on indirectly at vulnerable survivors of institutional abuse, I’ll continue to give you information concerning Goldenbridge that you won’t find in the media.
We survived on three slices of bread for 3/4s of the day as well as one cup of sugarless cocoa. With that godforsaken measly diet we worked each day in a sweat shop producing rosary beads for Mother Ireland. Irrespective of how we felt. We equated mother and father words with floggings. We hollered out these words in pain when the stick was habitually rained down on us by the cruel nuns. Those unidentifiable words meant sorrow and pain. Do you get my gist Father Tony Flannery?
You can’t even begin to imagine what survivors had to endure. Survivors who grew up in Goldenbridge and other industrial ‘schools’ suffer from every conceivable personality disorder known and those not diastostically acknowledged. Prisons are rampant with ex-detainess.
6 inmates this year alone have died, that wouldn’t be the same amount in relation to age with the Sisters of Mercy. 75 all-told have committed suicide since the outset of the commission to inquire into institutional child abuse. So, please, will you spare us from yet more suffering. I’ve been so upset with reading your insensitive article. We are still trying to find our identities.
Again – I’m only going to give a snippet of information.
Dear Editor,
Following on from Father Tony Flannery’s article of Monday 7th August 2006. Part of headline stated
“Is it not strange that we are devoting so much energy to inquiring into the abuse of children when there is so much that is unsavoury today?”
My answer – quite emphatically, to this is NO – ‘it isn’t strange in the least as to why so much energy is being presently concentrated on children’ who were after-all incarcerated in institutions by the State.
Children in these institutions such as the notorious Goldenbridge were on a daily basis systematically psychologically, emotionally, mentally, physically and to a lesser degree sexually abused.
Father Tony Flannery you are missing the point here. The State and the religious were utterly 100/% responsible for the children in their care. To reiterate so as to spell it out succinctly… the State was acting in loco-parentis.
You also referred to Newtownforbes as being an orphanage, I beg to differ. Goldenbridge, Newtownforbes and other child prisons of these ilk were indeed Industrial *Schools*.
Children as young as 3 were held in these gulags and have as a result criminal records, so please don’t undermine our detainee status of these orphanages. 
By the way, for the life of me, I can’t seem to get my head around the fact that we were called orphans. A vast majority of us discovered in later years, to our chagrin that in essence we had one parent or other who was alive. Unsurprisingly, though, we were told by the nuns that our biological parent/s were dead when they were fully alive, so what else should one expect from the religious, I ask?
The aforementioned abuse in connection with the commission to inquire into child abuse is only the tip of the iceberg. There are untold sordid stories that’ll never be heard.. But someone like you obviously hasn’t got a clue from whence we are coming when you so blatantly equate our suffering with that of the general public. I don’t mean to denigrate or take away from the pain of others, as I’m speaking here only from within the context of industrial ‘schools’.
We were the most vulnerable section of Irish society who were locked away without our personal/solicitors’ consent. The judiciary, religious and the State virtually threw away the keys. We were the forgotten lost children who were also used for slave labour despite capitation grants being paid to the management of the religious orders. You’ll undoubtedly be privy to the final commission to inquire into institutional child abuse  report when it is published in 2007. Doubtless, you find that it’ll make for very tragic and harrowing reading. I won’t gloat here about our pain of nearly “half a century” as you so glibly put it. Pain, like glue sticks, and the longer it remains the uglier it gets. Because of the early onset of abuse in industrial ‘schools’ the brains of survivors have split.
“The keys of the kingdom of Heaven” are already ours.
People of your mindset/standing will have to travel a life time the long lost road to come next or near us in the suffering stakes. We have served our time by God and mans’ standards and by the standards of this beautiful nation of ours; one of whose leaders once said, having made a visitation to one institution; “get me out of here quickly” Only he wasn’t as genteel with his wording. He wasn’t terribly enamoured by what he saw in the respective institution.
Father Tony you will have to pray for a very long time to be even worthy of such heavenly keys judging by your ‘put down’ attitude………………………..To conclude
Campaigners such as Christine Buckley should be contacted by you. She [Christine]
in my estimation would gladly give you a few lessons in how to seek rights for the rest of the sad and broken children of our society.
Incidentally, because of what happened to us “half a century” ago, quarter of a century ago, a decade ago, laws are being changed not only in this country but in other far off distant lands. Not bad, don’t you agree, when one of the causation factors stemmed from the brain-child of people like Christine Buckley, who was with me behind closed doors day in and day out of our young lives; who sat in a yard as Christine quoted ‘where the sun never shone’, who worked every God-given hour from very young ages.
In the meantime stop subtly compounding the abuse by metaphorically kicking victims/survivors’ of institutional abuse. Am just Blatantly Mirroring you.
I remain,
Yours sincerely,
Marie-Therese O’Loughlin.
Clonskeagh Road,
P.S.: Geraldine Kennedy, Editor – you never seem to publish letters from ordinary people such as myself who were in institutions as children. What is your reason for this? We never received proper education in these places. It took some of us a life-time to learn literary skills. So to be seen to be knocked for two by learned people such as yourself. is definitely not on at all. Has it anything to do with your affiliations to the PDs, I wonder?
We never had voices as children, but now we have.
Editors such as your good self seem to want to deny us our free democratic expression.
So it appears anyway from my standpoint.
See also:
Russel Shorto  Catholic Ireland 14/2/11
Re: Russell Shorto’s NYTimes a comment piece of mine on The Irish Affliction, 14/2/11 February 10, 2011 at 2:41 pm @ B&W

“The Rev. Sean McDonagh, a leader of the Association of Irish Priests, which formed last year after the reports were published, suggested that to get at the root of the problem, the team of investigators “should begin by scrutinizing Rome’s own handling of sex-abuse allegations.”

Father Sean McDonagh, Society of St. Columban Fathers (SSC) should also look to some of the priests within the newly formed Irish priests association to get to the nub of the grossly biased thinking on child abuse that they hold, specifically regarding child institutional child abuse.

For example, I read in the Irish Times, Monday, September 6  2010 that Father Flannery was part of the association. I once had a very grave reason for writing to the Irish Times.

The opening lines of letter went…

Dear Editor,

Following on from Father Tony Flannery’s article of Monday 7th August 2006.

Part of the headline stated:

“Is it not strange that we are devoting so much energy to inquiring into the abuse of children when there is so much that is unsavoury today?”

My answer – quite emphatically to this is no, no, no it isn’t strange in the least as to why so much energy is being presently concentrated on children who were after-all incarcerated in institutions at the pleasure of The Irish State.

The last three words being the operative words.

Children who were incarcerated into these institutions, namely, notorious Goldenbridge, Artane, and Letterfrack were systematically psychologically, emotionally, mentally, physically and sexually abused on a daily basis.

Father Tony Flannery, you are missing the point here. the State and the religious were utterly 100/% responsible for the children in their care.

To reiterate in order to spell out succinctly, the State acted in loco–parentis.

You also referred to Newtownforbes as being an orphanage.

I beg to differ. Goldenbridge, Newtownforbes and above mentioned child prisons were indeed Industrial ‘Schools’ not orphanages.

So stop using this euphemism.

The letter was never published in the paper, so I wrote personally to Father Tony Flannery. I never got a reply.

These are the priests who want to get to the root of the child abuse and they haven’t even got the decency to deal with someone who was habitually on the receiving end of institutional child abuse.

I certainly hope he learned his lesson from reading what the author Russell Shorto of the article called the so-called report.



Letter written Irish Times in 2006.

To: Geraldine Kennedy,

Editor: you never seem to publish letters from ordinary people such as myself who were in institutions as children.

What is your reason for our exclusion?

We never received proper education in these institutions and it took some of us a lifetime to learn literary skills.

We certainly do not need to be knocked for two anymore by learned people such as yourself.

I wonder… have these omissions possibly anything got to do with your affiliation to the PDs?


The Irish Times does not mainly – or fairly speak survivors of my ilk – who spent our whole childhoods’ in institutions.

We are the ones who have been mostly bypassed by the last government, the church, and prominent survivor groups, hence our enragement and desperate need to express ourselves in high profile situations.

If we were recognised by the church, the high profile survivors and the government, we wouldn’t have the need to continually hijack publicity stunt agendas.

If indeed they were genuine there would be all inclusiveness and dialogue between church and ALL survivors not ONLY the crème de la crème survivors.

Isn’t it about time that the high profile survivors passed on their brotherly/sisterly love to those who are not perched on high in government funded ivory tower seats.

The same priest who did not even bother to acknowledge a letter from a survivor of institutional child abuse is probably all upset now that he is effectively being silenced by the Vatican. My heart sincerely goes out to him. However, what goes around comes around.

I commented at the Association of Irish Priests blog. It has gone into moderation. I don’t expect it to be accepted, despite not being out of order in any way. So, just in case, I’ll paste it here for future reference.

  1. Marie-Therese O’Loughlin Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    April 9th, 2012 at 1:07 pm. I just posted a comment. Alas, it disappeared into oblivion. It may be that it got gobbled up owing to an added link. So here, I’ll go again and try to add my penny-farthings worth minus the link to see if it will solve the problem. However, it can be viewed at link attached to my name. So no worries on that score. @Annraoi O’Diothaigh April 8th, 2012 at 4:03 pm. I was thoroughly impressed with your observations. The church indeed has been very good at silencing survivors that it feels it must silence in order to try to save face. The pope tries to silence ‘his’ priest servants. Then the priest servants in turn do the pope’s work by trying to silence survivors of clerical and institutional abuse. They seemingly got away with it in the past and old habits die hard. The church is expert at silencing and hoodwinking those it deems are a threat to its very existence. Father Tony Flannery, how about replying to a comment you made in 2006 about child institutional abuse survivors? For more details refer to link attached to my name here. It’s better late than never. If you want sympathy from survivors for the present predicament that you find yourself in, you have to be prepared to afford survivors the same dignity by not ignoring them, again. As it too can be just as bad as silencing. I know a shut mouth gathers no flies, but an open one can oftentimes be respected, if it appears to be trying to make an effort, irrespective of past blunders. Thanking you in advance. I abhor what is presently occurring to you. I appreciate the stand you are taking. I wish you only the best in the future.

The Ryan/Laffoy Report

Residential Institutions Redress Board

Goldenbridge Industrial School, Inchicore, Dublin 8, Ireland by Goldenbridgeinmate39 

Goldenbridge – Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

Priests’ group expresses concern over Vatican’s treatment of Fr Tony …

Priests warn Vatican over gag move

I’ll leave with some lasting words by Colm Kelpie.

“Many of us priests are very frustrated with the way the Vatican conducts its business.”

– “To hear someone in the position of the Taoiseach speak so strongly, so eloquently, and with such dignity, in challenging the Vatican was good.”

– “Many reforms are needed in the church, and there is little or no discussion allowed at any level.”

I tried to post this comment at Andrew’s Rugged Wagon, but has difficulty, so will post it here.

Andrew – I’m so thoroughly glad to know that you felt the same way about the damning Rite and Reason article way back then in 2006. I was so livid upon reading it, that I too wrote a letter to the Irish Times, and it refused to publish same. I also wrote to Geraldine Kennedy in the aftermath giving out yards to her for not allowing a right of reply. It went on deaf ears as per usual. The media only wanted to listen to the self-appointed survivor voices that were moulded and shaped by the whole pathetic set-up in place. Individual institutional survivor voices like ours, were and still are, kept on the periphery. The media, the church; the government, the judiciary all seemingly appeared to want to box survivors together and listen only to representatives of survivors groups. There is evidence of this sort in abundance from survivors that I’ve listened to over the years.

It goes on ad infinitum. For example, I just recently posted a comment at the site of the association of priests – who are rightfully getting a raw deal from Rome. It was in connection with the aforesaid letter I sent in 2006 condemning him for the diabolical way he wrote about those of us who were cooped up in institutional care all our young lives. Unsurprisingly, it was deleted. See here: http://t.co/6tnY6nTs where I subsequently placed it, knowing only too well, that it would vanish into the thin blogosphere priestly air. It would perhaps be seen as off-topic? If that’s the case, they need to get their priorities right. I hope they don’t consider what’s happening to THEM is more important that issues of past institutional child abuse?

There appears to be double standards at play. I wish I were wrong in saying this, but nobody has come back to say that they got in wrong with publishing that article. Silence is golden.

The priests are infuriated at the way they are being treated for voicing their honest opinions about the church. Nonetheless, by the same token, Father Tony Flannery and his cohorts treat survivors of institutional abuse with distain, not only in what he wrote, but, also in the way that he refuses – even now, after all these years – to have an honest discussion pertaining to said article. I know that he has since spoken out favourably about child abuse, however, he has not addressed the important issues that you, Andrew, have so very eloquently outlined here, and of which I won’t even attempt to rehash upon, as you have said it all with such real conviction and clarity. Shame on the church. Shame on Father Tony Flannery and his side-kicks.


One thought on “Rite and Reason and Reality. Tony Flannery C.S.S.R. Redemptorist

  1. Thanks, Andrew, for update on Father Tony Flannery. I retweeted something pertaining to him today, but never got around to reading same. Will do, now that you’ve reminded me. Expect it’s controversial as per usual.

    I think it was over me creating a post on him, that I was blocked by Sinead O’Connor. Obviously, I can but speculate, as I’ve no concrete evidence, except to say that the blocking appeared to be coincidental in timing vis-à-vis this post. Anyway, it’s all over and done with, the singer must have gone through a lot of Twitter accounts since then. Besides, I forgave her because she was going through a tough emotional period.

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