AN OUTSPOKEN cleric is facing excommunication for suggesting women might become priests in the future.
Tony Flannery, who also writes on religious matters, said he is being
forced to choose between Rome and his conscience, and is taking legal
advice under canon and civil law.
The 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 end his
involvement with the liberal Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).
He added that the ban on him ministering, which was imposed by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), will continue until he fulfils the terms laid down by Rome.
includes publishing an article that has been pre-approved by the CDF
and accepting that the Catholic Church can never ordain women.
he must also accept the church's stance on contraception and
homosexuality and its refusal of the sacraments to people in second
Despite being ordered not to engage with the media,
Fr Flannery said: "I have served the church, the Redemptorists and the
people of God for two-thirds of my life."
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."
has now decided to step down from the leadership of the ACP, which
numbers more than 1,000 Irish priests, saying he does not want to have
his circumstances blurred with the association's agenda.
Flannery was silenced last year after a complaint about his views on the
church's ban on artificial birth control and support for the ordination
of women made its way to the "Vatican civil service".
said in a statement that it believed the "targeting of Fr Flannery" is
not about church teaching but part of a worldwide effort to negate the
influence of independent priests' associations.
Schuller, the leader of the Austrian Priests' Initiative, a
reform-minded group similar to the ACP, described Fr Flannery's
treatment as "a scandal".
Formerly a monsignor, he was demoted
following his group's "call for disobedience" on issues such as married
priests and female priests.
A statement from the Irish
Redemptorist Community said: "Although not all Redemptorists would
accept Fr Flannery's views, we understand and support his efforts to
listen carefully to and at times to articulate the views of people he
encounters in the course of his ministry."