Redemptorists dispute priest's claim
The head of Redemptorists in Rome yesterday released a statement in which he expressed his "deep regret" at the recent actions of Irish priest Fr Tony Flannery, and disputed the reasons he has given for his clash with the Vatican.
Fr Flannery told a press conference on Sunday he had been threatened with excommunication by Rome's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) for refusing to recant his more liberal views on church teachings concerning women priests, contraception and homosexuality.
Superior General of the Redemptorists Most Rev Fr Michael Brehl said yesterday however that his "deep regret" at the actions of Fr Flannery related not to these views, but to "some of the writings of Fr Flannery which were ambiguous regarding fundamental areas of Catholic doctrine".
These "fundamental areas" include "the priesthood, the nature of the Church, and the Eucharist", said Fr Brehl. "He was instructed to undertake a period of prayer and theological reflection to clarify his positions on these matters.
"During this sabbatical period, he was instructed not to grant interviews or make public statements, and to withdraw from active involvement in the leadership of the Association of Catholic Priests, especially since the priesthood was one of the matters on which he was asked to clarify his position.
"He was also instructed to withdraw from active priestly ministry during this period of prayer and reflection. Once again, I earnestly invite my confrere Fr Flannery to renew the efforts to find an agreed solution to the concerns raised by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith."
Speaking last night, Fr Flannery disputed the claims made by Fr Brehl, and said the controversy over the comments he was referring to had been "put to bed" with a statement made last year.
"We negotiated for a long period in the early part of last year about that and I produced a statement in June which I gave that to the head of the Redemptorists, which he gave to the CDF.
"They accepted the statement and that matter was put to bed. Then in September, a new head of the congregation demanded four extra inserts to the statement and that's where the issues in relation to women priests and so on emerged. They were the breaking point."
A statement by The Irish Catholic yesterday claiming to have spoken to unnamed sources in the Vatican who said Fr Flannery had in fact not been threatened with excommunication was rejected by Fr Flannery last night. "I have the threat in writing," he said.