Irish priest fears excommunication

‘Huge support’ for silenced priest Fr Tony Flannery in Limerick

Fr Tony FlanneryFr Tony Flannery

By Alan Owens
Published on Saturday 14 April 2012 14:00

THE HEAD of the Redemptorist Order in Limerick has said he is “sad” and “disappointed” at the action taken against fellow priest Fr Tony Flannery by the Vatican.

Fr Flannery – who was himself rector in Limerick for six years in the mid-90s – has been silenced by the Vatican for his outspoken views on reform in the Catholic Church. The Athenry-based priest, who wrote a column in the Redemptorists’ Reality magazine for 14 years, has now been advised to go to a monastery and “reflect on his situation” for a six-week period.

Rome had earlier put an end to Fr Flannery’s monthly column in Reality, which is edited by Doon priest, Fr Gerry Moloney, who is also allegedly the subject of scrutiny from the Vatican. Fr Moloney is believed to have been told not to print any articles on celibacy, the use of contraception and the involvement of women in the clergy, for an unspecified period.

While stressing that he was “speaking on my own behalf”, Fr Egan told the Limerick Leader he was disappointed at how the situation had been handled.

“I am sad to see what is happening because Tony and also Gerry Moloney in Reality – although their situations are different – I have lived and worked with them, prayed and studied with them, given missions with them. They are two very fine priests, very compassionate men, very pastoral men and excellent preachers who have given their lives in this work and service and done a huge amount of good for thousands of people,” he explained.

“To see that being called into question now is very disappointing and unfortunate and not necessarily the way I would want things to happen.

“However, there would be some who are glad to see what is happening to these men because there is an element within the church that feels that we need to return to orthodoxy and a black and white, non-questioning, non-challenging position, and that is reflected a bit in what is going on.”

Fr Egan added that he has received an overwhelming amount of messages of support both for Fr Flannery and the stance he has taken in support of his friend and former colleague.

“In terms of the reaction, it has been, from the vast majority of people, very supportive, people calling, ringing, sending emails, stopping you on the street. That has been very encouraging,” said Fr Egan. “And then there are a small few others who would be quite critical of Tony and others like myself who are supporting him and have said they are glad that there is an investigation going on.”

Asked about the fall-out from such a situation, Fr Egan said it was “hard to know” what it might be.

“I think it does, whether it intends to or not, generate a sense of fear that if you question anything, especially headings such as the role of women in the church, the church’s teaching on sexuality and the way it is governed and the issue of celibacy – they seem to be areas that the church would prefer that there wouldn’t be much debate around.”

Irish priest fears excommunication

Last Updated: Sunday, January 20, 2013, 11:26

An outspoken Irish Catholic priest has claimed he has been threatened with excommunication for suggesting that women might become priests in the future.

Fr Tony Flannery said he is being forced to choose between Rome and his conscience and revealed he is taking legal advice under canon and civil law to help defend his rights as a member of the church and as an Irish citizen.

The 66-year-old, who joined the Redemptorists in 1964, said he has been told by the Vatican that if he wants to remain in the church and in his congregation he must stop any involvement with the liberal Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), which he founded.

The author, who was stopped ministering as a priest for most of the past year, said he has also been ordered not to engage with the media or publish any books or articles.

“I have served the church, the Redemptorists and the people of God for two thirds of my life,” said Fr Flannery.

“Throughout that time, I have in good conscience raised issues I believed important for the future of the church in books and essays largely read by practising Catholics, rather than raising them in mainstream media.

“I’m hardly a major and subversive figure within the church deserving excommunication and expulsion from the religious community within which I have lived since my teens.”

The priest maintains the actions were instructed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and described them as “frightening, disproportionate and reminiscent of the Inquisition”.

Fr Flannery claimed he will be allowed back into ministry only if he writes, signs and publishes an article – to be pre-approved by the CDF – accepting the Catholic Church can never ordain women to the priesthood and accepting all church stances on contraception, homosexuality, and the refusal of the sacraments to people in second relationships.

“I could not possibly put my name to such an article without impugning my own integrity and conscience,” Fr Flannery said at a press conference he called in Dublin.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is orchestrating all this while refusing to communicate with me. I have had no direct communication with them. I have never

been given an opportunity to meet my accusers, or to understand why this action is being taken against me when I’ve raised the same issues, consistently, for decades.”

Fr Flannery was last year silenced after a complaint about his views on the church’s ban on artificial birth control and support for the ordination of women made its way to the “Vatican civil service”.

He claimed he was told by his superior that the latest orders, and typed A4 page with no letterhead or signature, came from the CDF – the Vatican office responsible for preserving Catholic doctrine and evaluating according to canon law the warrant for disciplinary action against clergy.

The cleric questioned if the threats are a means, not just of terrifying him into submission, but of sending a message to any other priest expressing views at variance with those of the Roman Curia.

“Submitting to these threats would be a betrayal of my ministry, my fellow priests and the Catholic people who want change,” he added.

@AndrewSB49 You wouldn’t have the link handy, by any chance? It’d save me having to search for same. Thanks in advance.

I posted about Father Tony Flannery in the past here

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4 thoughts on “Irish priest fears excommunication

  1. Will I ever forget, Andrew. I was so utterly incensed that I took it upon myself at the time to write a reply to the Irish Times. It was ignored, which I had expected, then I wrote to Geraldine Kennedy, it was the self-same scenario.
    I’ve just pasted the Limerick Leader & the Irish Times articles, and still haven’t got around to reading contents, except to note that the threat of excommunication is looming largely.

  2. Andrew, I think this bit in the LL article is absolutely hilarious.

    “The Athenry-based priest, who wrote a column in the Redemptorists’ Reality magazine for 14 years, has now been advised to go to a monastery and “reflect on his situation” for a six-week period.”

    Isn’t that the sort of thing that was advised for paedophiles. ‘Get thee to a monastery and repent.’ In other words, go off on a retreat and hopefully in six weeks time you’ll have changed your ‘dangerous’ mindset.

    To think that the Vatican also had the power to silence him, with respect of ‘Reality’ magazine. Rome is all too powerful, and it can squash him to bits.

    I think the Vatican has it in for Ireland because the latter has at last awoken, and will not be dictated to, as it has done so since time immemorial.

    Blimey, I see too that ‘Fr Gerry Moloney is also allegedly the subject of scrutiny from the Vatican. ‘Fr Moloney is believed to have been told not to print any articles on celibacy.” The Pope is definitely clamping down on them all. Hell hath no fury than that of the pope not being obeyed.

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