Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery is threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church for suggesting that, in the future, women might become priests and calling for this and other matters to be open for discussion.
Fr. Flannery, (66) who joined the Redemptorists in 1964 at
seventeen and was ordained ten years later, has been told that if he is
to remain in the Church and in his Congregation, he must also guarantee
not to attend meetings of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP)
until he has publicly agreed to the conditions laid down.
Fr. Flannery was forbidden to minister as a priest for most of the past
year, and this will continue until he meets the requirements of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
“I have been ordered not to engage with the media or publish any books or articles,”
he told a press briefing in Dublin today. “I have also been ordered not
to have any involvement, public or private, with the ACP. I was put
under a formal precept of obedience not to attend the AGM of the ACP
last November by Michael Brehl, Superior General of the Redemptorists.
But he made it clear he’d been instructed by the CDF to issue it.”
Fr Flannery will be allowed back into ministry only if he writes,
signs and publishes an article (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,” he said today.
“The Congregation for
the Doctrine of the Faith is orchestrating all this while refusing to
communicate with me. I have had no direct communication with them. I
have never been given an opportunity to meet my accusers, or to
understand why this action is being taken against me when I’ve raised
the same issues, consistently, for decades.”
The documentation Fr Flannery received, apparently from the CDF took the
form of a typed A4 page (not a letterhead) which was unsigned.
“The only reason that I can be sure that this came from the CDF is that
Michael Brehl, the head of the Redemptorists, told me it did,” he said.
“All requests for direct communication with the CDF have been ignored.””
Fr. Flannery described as “frightening, disproportionate and reminiscent of the Inquisition” the actions against him.
“I have served the Church, the Redemptorists and the People of God for
two thirds of my life,” he pointed out. “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 practicing 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
The choice facing him, he stated at a press briefing today, Sunday 20th
January, was between deciding between Rome and his conscience.
“I must also question if the threats are a means, not just of terrifying
me into submission, but of sending a message to any other priest
expressing views at variance with those of the Roman Curia,” he added.
“Submitting to these threats would be a betrayal of my ministry, my
fellow priests and the Catholic people who want change.”
Fr. Flannery said that because he believes he is being subjected to
unfair treatment, he has taken legal advice under Canon and Civil law to
help him defend his rights as a member of the Church and as an Irish