The Redemptorist religious order has come out in support of one of its priests who is to risk excommunication rather than give in to Vatican demands to stop questioning Catholic church teachings on sexuality and women priests.
In a strongly worded statement, the
order’s Irish leadership said it was deeply saddened by the matter and
it was of “immense regret” that processes were not in place in the
Church to engage with what it called “challenging voices” from within
Fr Tony Flannery, 66, was suspended from
ministry by the Vatican’s powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith watchdog last year and told he could only resume work if he
published an approved article declaring that he accepted all of the
Church’s stances on the controversial subjects.
of consideration and failed attempts to get the watchdog to enter
discussions directly with him, he broke his silence yesterday to say he
could not comply with the orders.
“I could not possibly put my
name to such an article without impugning my own integrity and
conscience,” he told a press conference, an act which itself defied the
first order from Rome that he keep the matter secret.
Flannery was supp-orted by the Association of Catholic Priests, which he
helped set up and which represents 1,000 Irish priests seeking changes
to the way the Church is managed. It described his treatment as
“callous” and “brutal“.
“The ACP is disturbed by the
procedures evident in this case: the unwillingness to deal directly with
the accused person, the injunction to secrecy, the presumption of
guilty, the lack of due process,” it said.
It said it believed
the targeting of Fr Flannery was less about Church teachings than about
trying to censor groups like the ACP. At least five other Irish priests
are believed to be under gagging orders by the watchdog.
Fr Flannery urged the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland to take up the matter.
“If some of them were to talk openly about issues like this it would
be great. I would call on them to let us hear what they have to say.”
A spokesman for the Irish Bishops’ Conference said it would not be
appropriate to comment. “The appropriate and competent Church
authorities in this issue are the [Congregation] and the Redemptorist
Order,” he said.
However, the Irish Redemptorist Community
broke its silence to defend Fr Flannery’s right to raise debate about
“Although not all Redemptorists would
accept Fr Flannery’s views, we do understand and support his efforts to
listen carefully to and at times articulate the views of people he
encounters in his ministry,” the statement said.