The Association of Catholic Priests elected three new leading spokesmen yesterday as rebel priest Fr Tony Flannery admitted there had been “no change” on his ban on ministry.
Yesterday he said that while Pope Francis had changed some things since taking over, senior Church personnel instrumental in his ban from ministry had been re-appointed.
Fr Flannery said he intended to step down as one of the ACP leaders in the coming months, following a period of transition during which the three new members can assume their roles and once another senior member of the ACP, Fr Brendan Hoban, has recovered from a recent illness.
“My situation has not changed at all,” Fr Flannery said. Asked if the election of Pope Francis had led to any changes in the level of communication between Rome and the ACP, he said: “No is the simple answer to that.”
He said Pope Francis had introduced a new movement in the church but the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had also been reappointed.
So far there had been no communication between the Vatican and the ACP and Fr Flannery said: “I am not holding my breath for that to change.”
It is understood as many as six priests in Ireland have been censured to some degree by the Vatican but that Fr Flannery is the only one prevented from ministry.
At yesterday’s AGM of the ACP in Athlone, Fr Gerry Alwill from Co Cavan; Redemptorist priest in Cherry Orchard, Fr Gerry O’Connor; and Augustinian parish priest in Finglas, Fr Seamus Aherne; were elected to leadership roles.
The ACP estimates that it has 1,050 members, roughly one-third of all active priests.
The AGM heard discussion of an ACP review into the Murphy Commission into clerical child sex abuse in Dublin which said it had “veered off the tight rails” and instead concentrated “to an alarming degree on ‘naming and shaming those clerics whom the Commission found wanting in child protection at the time.”
The ACP review, carried out by barrister Fergal Sweeney, attracted some strong criticism yesterday.