Father Flannery on Ryan Report

Media Coverage of Ryan Report Not Objective, Priest Claims

The Irish Times – September 23, 2009 by Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondence.

 THE MEDIA has been criticised for being “clearly not objective” in coverage of the Ryan report on child abuse and of being “not at all interested” in the religious congregations’ side of the story.

The criticisms, made and reported by author, commentator and Redemptorist priest, Fr Tony Flannery, appear in his introduction to the book Responding to the Ryan Report (Columba), which he edited.

He writes that, on publication of the Ryan report: “I found myself getting more and more irritated by the majority of the media coverage . . . Too many of the regular media commentators were clearly not objective, but rather had obvious agendas of their own.”

He continues: “In order to get a very necessary perspective on what had been revealed, I felt we needed some really independent, dispassionate voices, people who were genuinely knowledgeable and could help us get our minds around a situation which is deeply complex.”

Fr Flannery noted that “the other absent voice, of course, was that of the religious, who lost their nerve and were not willing to go public”.

Some of the religious told him “they were afraid they would not be listened to and that they would be savaged by more professional and media-savvy spokespeople. Some of them believed that the media were not at all interested in hearing their side of the story and that if they had gone on air to tell it, the response would have been ‘there they go again’.”

He says that “the effect of the shortage of genuinely knowledgeable and objective comment was that as the days went on the debate narrowed, and the problem was more and more laid at the door of the church and the religious, until eventually it got to the stage where it was being demanded that the Catholic Church and religious be removed from all involvement with the care of people”.

An “underlying assumption developed that abuse was a problem almost exclusively associated with priests and religious and that if they were removed from the scene it would be solved”.

The book, he says challenges such assumptions as “that a large proportion of priests and religious are child abusers . . . that Catholic Church teaching on sexuality is a true reflection of the teaching of Christ, and is adequate for the present age . . . that the Catholic Church’s zero tolerance policy of treating all errant priests and religious in the same fashion is either fair or just”.

Contributors to the book include theologians Fr Seán Fagan, Fr Donal Dorr, Mercy nun Sr Margaret Lee, academic Dáire Keogh, communications consultant Terry Prone and law lecturer Tom O’Malley.


Bishop of Galway Stands Firm

Irish Times, last updated Sunday, December 27, 2009, 12:22 by LORNA SIGGINS, Western Correspondent

Bishop of Galway Dr Martin Drennan “does not intend to resign”, according to his diocesan communications manager Fr Seán McHugh.

The bishop has been under mounting media pressure since four of his colleagues mentioned in the Murphy report on how allegations of child sex abuse were handled in the Dublin archdiocese have tendered resignations.

However, Dr Drennan is “strong in his belief that he did nothing wrong”, Fr McHugh told The Irish Times  at the weekend.

In a related development, Fr Tony Flannery of the Redemptorist order in Athenry, Co Galway, has criticised Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s treatment of his Episcopal colleagues in the wake of publication of the Murphy report.

In his Christmas Day homily, Dr Drennan spoke of the “darkness of recent times”, including flooding, the recession, the stories of abuse in publication of the Ryan and Murphy reports, the “stories of greed” in the business world and “stories of excessive expense accounts” in the world of politics.

“I suppose we have rarely seen so much anger in Irish society as we have seen over the past couple of months”, he said, and the biggest challenge now was to “understand our past, to forgive mistakes, to learn from them”.

Following the Christmas Eve resignation of Dublin’s two auxiliary bishops, Dr Eamonn Walsh and Dr Raymond Field, Galway diocesan communications manager Fr Sean McHugh disputed reports that the sole remaining bishop was on the point of stepping down.

“Dr Drennan’s case was different to that of the other four bishops mentioned in the report, in that he wasn’t asked to appear before Judge Murphy’s commission,” Fr McHugh said.

“It is highly significant that Judge Murphy wrote to him at the outset of the commission’s work, but she never asked to speak to him after that when, by then, she would have had access to all the files in Dublin relating to allegations of child sexual abuse,“Fr McHugh said.

“Dr Drennan wasn’t called to give evidence, nor was he sent a draft of any section of the report as happened in the case of the other bishops,“Fr McHugh said. “In the one case which he was involved in, the Murphy report praises the way the Dublin diocese responded.”

Dr Drennan served as auxiliary bishop in Dublin from 1997 to 2005 He is mentioned in the report in connection with reports of inappropriate behaviour relating to Fr Guido, which involved male teenagers in 2002 and 2003 .

Dr Drennan said over a week ago that he was satisfied with the way he had handled abuse allegations, and resigning was not the answer.

Fr McHugh said that by 1997, when Dr Drennan was appointed in Dublin, child protection structures were already in place and specific management committees were dealing with cases and reporting directly to the archbishop.

“Dr Drennan is strong in his belief that there is nothing he failed to report, and the label of guilt by association is not something he is happy with,“Fr McHugh said.

Dr Drennan met over 60 priests in the Galway diocese on the Murphy report on December 17th, and it is understood that he was closely questioned. It is understood that he was asked by his priests to explain his position on radio.

In his interview with RTE on December 18th, Dr Drennan urged Archbishop Martin to drop his name from the list of people who potentially resign. He said a question had been put over his integrity by the archbishop He also said he had responded to a letter from Archbishop Martin asking for a verdict on the way things were handled.

“I feel we have been through a spiral of revenge. I understand that people are angry . . . but taking the route of revenge is not going to bring any closure,” he said, adding that he had received “huge” support in Galway.

Last weekend Galway West TD Frank Fahey said he should not resign, and some 93 per cent of callers to Galway Bay FM after his interview there expressed support for him.

Fr Tony Flannery of the Redemptorist order in Athenry, Co Galway, has criticised Archbishop Martin for failing to discuss the matters raised in the Murphy report with fellow bishops in advance of publication.

“These bishiops are not recalcitrant teenagers; they are intelligent and mature men, so it was pathetic of Diarmuid Martin to use the media to communicate with them,“Fr Flannery has said in The Connacht Tribune .

“It showed scant respect,“Fr Flannery has said. “Bishop Drennan was correct when he said that his integrity was questioned”.

Fr Flannery said that the “sad and tragic saga” of child abuse had hurt many people, and “real change” must come from the “community of believers” who were “no longer willing to accept that all authority in the (Catholic) church is exercised by an exclusive group of men handing down their diktats from afar”.

Fr Flannery is author of the recently published book, Responding to the Ryan Report , in which he argues that revelations about clergy involvement in various forms of abuse might provoke the Catholic church into reviewing its teaching on sexuality.

Church leadership should learn “to trust the believing community, and develop its teaching in partnership with them, rather than handing it down in an authoritarian manner”, he has said.


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A Catholic priest has claimed he has been threatened with excommunication from the church because of his views on matters such as women’s ordination. Fr Tony Flannery, a high-profile Irish priest, is known for his liberal views on contraception and 

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Update: 28/1/13

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