Tony Flannery is threatened with excommunication
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 my teens.”
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 citizen.
Further information from: Aileen Gaskin
The ACP supports Tony Flannery
The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) affirms in the strongest possible terms our confidence in and solidarity with Fr Tony Flannery as he strives to clear his name and we wish to protest against unjust treatment he has received from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The ACP supports Fr. Flannery in his efforts to resist the undermining of his integrity as an individual, a priest and a member of the Redemptorist Order.
The effort to depict him as ‘disloyal’ and ‘dissident’ is unwarranted and unfair, but also extremely ill-advised in the present pastoral context in Ireland.
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 guilt; the lack of due process. They suggest a callousness and even brutality that is in sharp contrast to the compassion of Jesus Christ.
The CDF argues that its’ instruction to secrecy protects the priest’s reputation. We believe that the priest himself should be the person to decide whether and with whom he should speak or whether he might decide to remain silent.
Fr. Flannery has spent his life in the service of the Church, attempting to spread the message of Jesus Christ. Yet, this same Church treats him disrespectfully, damaging his reputation and leaving him to contemplate an insecure and uncertain future.
It is surely a source of scandal that a body representing the Church, which is called to be a sign of the presence of God in the world, should act in a way that directly contradicts the call of Jesus Christ to treat others with respect.
There is a double standard at work when we preach the value and right of religious freedom to others and fail to honour them within our own Church.
The Church attempts to preach justice to the wider society while our own internal processes are lacking in justice.
We believe that the targeting of Fr Flannery is not about church teaching, his commitment to priesthood or ‘ecclesial communion’. We believe it is part of a worldwide effort to negate the influence of independent priests’ associations in Austria, USA, Germany, France, Switzerland and other places. The directive of the CDF, through the Redemptorist authorities, placing Fr Flannery under a formal precept of obedience not to attend the AGM of the ACP last November seems to confirm this view.
The emergence of our association in Ireland, the backing we have received from people and priests and the conviction with which we have argued for reform in line with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council are all presented as a form of institutional disloyalty, a charge we vehemently reject.
Finally, we repeat that the ACP affirms in the strongest possible terms our confidence in and solidarity with Fr Flannery and we protest at the treatment he has received from the CDF and the pressure that body put on the Redemptorist authorities to implement their decisions.
We are Church Ireland expresses
its unconditional support for Fr. Tony Flannery in his
assertion of his right of conscience not to be forced by
an abuse of his vow of obedience to submit to the
secretive demands of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith.
We welcome the statement of support of his Irish Redemptorist Order and the Association of Catholic priests of Ireland and Austria.
It is now up to the rest of the people of God ,both non-ordained and ordained , to express their support for Tony Flannery and to that end
We are Church Ireland is organising a peaceful vigil outside the Papal Nunciature , Navan Road, D.7
next Sunday 27th January 2013 at 3 p.m. and encourages all concerned for the future of the Irish Church to attend.
Further information : Brendan Butler Spokesperson
We are Church Ireland .086 4054984
20th january 2013