Silenced priest told to reflect on situation


REDEMPTORIST PRIEST Fr Tony Flannery, who was silenced by the Vatican because of his views on contraception, celibacy and women’s ordination, has been advised by Rome to go to a monastery for a period where he would “pray and reflect” on his situation.

Then, it was hoped, he would return “to think with the church” (sentire com ecclesia), according to the Rome-based website Vatican Insider.

Senior Vaticanologist Gerry O’Connell reported that Fr Flannery was summoned to Rome in mid-March for a meeting with Fr Michael Brehl, the Canadian Superior General of the Redemptorists.

Fr Brehl himself had been summoned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) by the prefect, US Cardinal William Levada, who expressed his concern about the “orthodoxy” of views expressed by Fr Flannery in articles in the Redemptorist magazine Reality.

The CDF was also concerned about Fr Flannery’s role in the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).

Accordingly, the CDF banned Fr Flannery and the editor of Reality, Fr Gerard Moloney, from writing articles on the above issues, and called on Fr Flannery to withdraw from the ACP.

Fr Flannery had been advised to take time out for spiritual and theological reflection on all of the above. This, it is believed, will involve a six-week period. Vatican Insider reports that Cardinal Levada expects the Superior General of the Redemptorists to report back to him by the end of July to assure him Fr Flannery’s situation has been “resolved”.

Jesuit priest Fr Peter McVerry is the latest in a growing number of clergy to publicly declare support for Fr Flannery and Fr Moloney. Fr McVerry said he was “saddened but not surprised” at Rome’s actions in ending Fr Flannery’s monthly column.

Writing on the ACP website Fr McVerry said “attempts by Rome to suppress any discussion” was “surely a sign of fear”. Jesus, he said, “questioned the religious institution in which he had been brought up, its attitudes, laws and practices, and the understanding of God which those attitudes and practices revealed, a God whose passion was the observance of the Law.”

Jesus “revealed, instead, a God of compassion” who is “incompatible with the God of the law.” Jesus “too incurred the wrath of the religious authorities of his time”. he said.

In a strongly worded statement the ACP has forcefully defended Fr Flannery and Fr Moloney. Such intervention by Rome was “of no service to the Irish Catholic Church and may have the unintended effect of exacerbating a growing perception of a significant ‘disconnect’ between the Irish church and Rome”, it said.

The ACP represents more than 800 priests in Ireland. Where Fr Flannery, a member of the ACP leadership team, was concerned it believed “such an approach, in its individual focus on Fr Flannery and inevitably by implication on the members of the Association, is an extremely ill-advised intervention in the present pastoral context in Ireland”.

It affirmed “in the strongest possible terms our confidence in and solidarity with Fr Flannery and we wish to make clear our profound view that this intervention is unfair, unwarranted and unwise”.

It said issues raised by the ACP since its foundation less than two years ago, and by Fr Flannery as part of the leadership team, were “not an attack on or a rejection of the fundamental teachings of the church. Rather they are an important reflection by an association of over 800 Irish priests – who have given long service to the Catholic Church in Ireland – on issues surfacing in parishes all over the country,” they said.

It noted that, “While some reactionary fringe groups have contrived to portray our association as a small coterie of radical priests with a radical agenda, we have protested vehemently against that unfair depiction.

“We are and we wish to remain at the very heart of the church, committed to putting into place the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.”