Vatican threatened to excommunicate priest, documents confirm

Fri, Jan 25, 2013, 00:00

Redemptorist Fr Tony Flannery was threatened with excommunication by the Vatican, according to documents seen by The Irish Times, contrary to claims by “senior Vatican sources”, as reported in this week’s Irish Catholic newspaper.

It quoted such “senior Vatican sources” and “sources in the Roman Curia” as saying there was “no question” of Fr Flannery facing excommunication” and that “the Holy See has not threatened excommunication against the priest”.

A document from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), dated June 11th, 2012, accused Fr Flannery of expressing “heretical or heterodox statements about central church doctrines of the Catholic Christian faith” in “several of his columns” for Reality magazine.

The same document pointed out that “the Church’s canon law (canon 1044) calls a priest who has committed the delict of heresy ‘irregular for the exercise of orders received’, while canon 1364 says that ‘a heretic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication’.”

It added that, before imposing such sanction, it was the practice of the CDF to try “ to restore a priest to the faith . . . Only should these remedies fail would penalties be required.”

Commenting on this document, in the context of the Irish Catholic reports, Fr Flannery said: “I am not a theologian, but to me that definitely reads like a threat. If the Vatican has now decided to withdraw that threat I would be very glad. Though I would be happier still if they allowed me to continue my ministry as a priest.”

By September 2012 Fr Flannery had resolved matters to the satisfaction of the CDF. A document he sent it explaining his views was described by the then dean of the CDF, Cardinal William Lavada, as “a fine statement”, Fr Flannery said.

However, Cardinal Lavada retired and was replaced at the CDF by Archbishop Gerhart Müller, who called for “necessary amendments” to Fr Flannery’s document.