Priest criticises 'persecution' of liberal clergy

Fr Iggy O’Donovan says right-wing zeal ‘as pathological as the paranoia which feeds it’

Fr Iggy O’Donovan: “How has it come to this that sincere thinking Catholics are walking away from our Church believing that the battle for sane Catholicism is lost” Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Fr Iggy O’Donovan: “How has it come to this that sincere thinking Catholics are walking away from our Church believing that the battle for sane Catholicism is lost” Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Sun, Sep 15, 2013, 17:20

In a homily delivered in Drogheda this morning Augustinian priest Fr Iggy O’Donovan criticised the role of right-wing Catholics and career-oriented clergy in persecuting Irish priests recently silenced by the Vatican.

The Drogheda-based priest who has been offered a sabbatical by his superiors offered his support to Redemptorist priest Fr Tony Flannery during his final homily at St Augustines in Drogheda.

“I cannot leave here today without making some reference to a distinguished colleague of mine in the priesthood. I speak of Fr Tony Flannery. If I had not been made aware first hand of the details of this case I could not have given it credance,” he said

“Even hardened veterans are shaken by the murkiness of the devious world of ecclesiastical politics. How has it come to this, that a great and good priest like Tony, who has dedicated his life to the preaching of the Gospel, is persecuted with a zeal that is as pathological as the paranoia that feeds it?”

He continued “how has it come to this, that intolerant and extreme right wingers, encouraged apparently by certain authorities and career-orientated priests, can meet in solemn conclave to determine who is guilty of what these people label heresy.”

“How has it come to this that sincere thinking Catholics are walking away from our Church believing that the battle for sane Catholicism is lost,” Fr O’Donovan said.

Fr O’Donovan has been offered a sabbatical by his superiors. There has been renewed speculation that he is not leaving Drogheda of his own volition.

Speaking to The Irish Times last month he acknowledged that controversies over his more liberal views “have taken their toll”. They had been “debilitating”, he said.

His concelebration of the 2006 Easter Sunday Mass with Church of Ireland rector of Drogheda Rev Michael Graham attracted controversy. “I miscalculated the consequences for all involved and the genuine hurt it caused,” he said.

“I still believe and am strongly of the conviction that Catholicism is compatible with modern culture. I deeply welcome the arrival of Pope Francis. So we dream on.”

He continued “ I cling to my foolish dream when, to paraphrase the words of the late Fr George Tyrell, himself a victim of oppression , ‘when the Catholic people represented by their bishops and their Pope will assemble not to decide and impose points of theology, ethics and politics under the threat of excommunication, but to proclaim the gospel of God’s Kingdom upon earth as it was proclaimed by Jesus Christ; to preach unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, charity in all things’.”

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