Silenced Irish priest, Fr Tony Flannery, has expressed dismay over comments made about him by the retired Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith during a recent visit to Ireland.
Cardinal William Levada oversaw the initial stages of the CDF investigation into Fr Flannery which culminated in the Redemptorist being forced out of ministry and threatened with excommunication.
Speaking to the Irish Catholic newspaper, Cardinal Levada claimed Fr Flannery was guilty of heresy due to his questioning of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist and the priesthood in two articles in Reality magazine.
“If you hold these positions you are formally in heresy,” he said. Dr Levada added, “There are many critics of the Congregation who are essentially critics of the faith, of Jesus, of God.”
Speaking to CatholicIreland.net, Fr Flannery expressed dismay over the Cardinal Levada’s “very inappropriate and public personal attack” in the interview.
He also claimed that the Cardinal had played down the agreement they had reached on the issue of the Eucharist and the priesthood in June 2011.
This had resulted in Fr Flannery signing a statement on the matter which Dr Levada accepted and described as “very fine.”
Fr Flannery said the Cardinal’s response led the head of the Redemptorists, Fr Michael Brehl, to tell Fr Flannery, “I think we can take it that the matter of heresy has been put to bed.”
An agreement had also been reached that this statement would be published in the September 2011 issue of Reality.
But according to Fr Flannery, it was the Cardinal who delayed the process by asking to make some minor changes.
As he never got back to Fr Flannery, the statement never got published.
By September 2011, a new head of the CDF had been appointed, Archbishop Müller.
According to Fr Flannery, it was Archbishop Müller who introduced the issue of his views on women priests and the modern teachings of the Church.
“In the end, these proved to be the breaking point and Cardinal Levada knows that. But he instead says that the issues were priesthood and the Eucharist and makes no reference to that fact that that issue had been cleared up. On that basis I say he is being disingenuous and selective with his facts.”
He also suggested that had the CDF come to him earlier and “sat down and discussed this with me, we could have sorted this out in ten minutes.”
Instead, as he outlined in his book, ‘A Question of Conscience’, he was kept in the dark and given no opportunity to defend himself.
“These issues were just being used as a way to sideline me and frighten off the other priests [from the Association of Catholic Priests],” he said.
Fr Flannery said he did not know if Cardinal Levada’s attack was made on his own behalf or whether he was acting on behalf of Archbishop Müller and the CDF.