An estimated 250 protesters demonstrated Sunday evening in Dublin at a vigil outside the papal nunciature in support of the restoration to ministry of Irish Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery.
A letter addressed to the papal nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, was handed in by the Irish branch of the We Are Church lay movement.
The protesters were mainly in their 60s or older, and two-thirds of
them were women. They carried a banner that read "Dialogue Yes. Silence
No." and sang the 1960s protest song of the civil rights movement, "We
The letter stated that the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of
the Faith had acted unjustly in its treatment of Flannery and should now
restore him to his full priestly ministry.
"Catholics have to be grateful for the courage of Fr. Flannery in
exposing the unacceptable insidious methods used by the congregation in
silencing priests like Tony and many others," said Brendan Butler, the
organizer of the protest, who also announced that a petition calling on
the doctrinal congregation to restore Flannery to the ministry had by
Sunday evening been signed by 1,400 Catholics in Ireland and from all
over the world.
However, Brown was not at the residence, having traveled to County
Cork for the consecration in Cobh Cathedral of Kerry priest William
Crean as the 67th bishop of Cloyne and Ross in succession to the former
secretary to three popes, John Magee.
Meanwhile, controversy continued over reported quotes from "senior Vatican sources" denying Flannery's claims that he was threatened excommunication by the congregation.
But documents seen by the Sunday Independent in Dublin appeared to vindicate Flannery's assertion.
Following Flannery's coming under investigation a year ago for his
writings in the Redemptorist magazine, the correspondence shows that the
doctrinal congregation complained that he expressed heretical or
heterodox views and pointed out that "a priest who has committed the
delict [act] of heresy" incurs a "latae sententiae [automatic] excommunication."
Among demands made by the doctrinal congregation were for Flannery to
accept that "ordination of women is not possible," but he said he still
believes in ordaining women priests.
Butler told NCR that his group is considering traveling to
Rome for delivery of the signatures to the Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith prefect Archbishop Gerhard Müller.