An outspoken cleric has claimed he has been threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church for suggesting that women might become priests in the future.
Fr Tony Flannery said he is being
forced to chose between Rome and his conscience and revealed he is
taking legal advice under canon and civil law to help defend his rights
as a member of the church and as an Irish citizen.
66-year-old, who joined the Redemptorists in 1964, said he has been told
by the Vatican that if he wants to remain in the church and in his
congregation he must stop any involvement with the liberal Association
of Catholic Priests (ACP), which he founded.
The author, who was
stopped ministering as a priest for most of the past year, said he has
also been ordered not to engage with the media or publish any books or
"I have served the church, the Redemptorists and the people of God for two thirds of my life," said Fr Flannery. "Throughout
that time, I have in good conscience raised issues I believed important
for the future of the church in books and essays largely read by
practising Catholics, rather than raising them in mainstream media. I'm
hardly a major and subversive figure within the church deserving
excommunication and expulsion from the religious community within which I
have lived since my teens."
The priest maintains the actions were
instructed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and
described them as "frightening, disproportionate and reminiscent of the
Fr Flannery claimed he will be allowed back into
ministry only if he writes, signs and publishes an article - to be
pre-approved by the CDF - accepting the Catholic Church can never ordain
women to the priesthood and accepting all church stances on
contraception, homosexuality, and the refusal of the sacraments to
people in second relationships.
"I could not possibly put my name
to such an article without impugning my own integrity and conscience,"
Fr Flannery said at a press conference he called in Dublin.