Tue 21st Oct 2014 | Last updated: Tue 21st Oct 2014 at 12:44pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo
Hot Topics

Latest News

‘Visitator will tell Pope that Irish Church is near to collapse’

By on Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Cardinal O'Malley is one of several senior prelates leading an apostolic visitation of the Irish Church (Photo: CNS)

Cardinal O'Malley is one of several senior prelates leading an apostolic visitation of the Irish Church (Photo: CNS)

Cardinal Seán O’Malley will reportedly tell Pope Benedict XVI that the Catholic Church in Ireland is “on the edge” of collapse due to the fallout from clerical abuse scandals.

Cardinal O’Malley is one of several senior prelates charged by Pope Benedict with carrying out an apostolic visitation of the Irish Catholic Church following a series of highly critical judicial reports that revealed abuse by priests and a widespread culture of cover-up for decades among Church leaders.

Fr Tony Flannery, a leading member of the Association of Catholic Priests, revealed at a conference of lay people in the Irish capital that “Cardinal O’Malley told the association the Irish Church had a decade, at most, to avoid falling over the edge and becoming like other European countries where religion is marginal to society”.

Fr Flannery said Cardinal O’Malley gave a commitment to the priests’ association that he would deliver the frank assessment to the Pope in a confidential report to be submitted later this year.

Admitting to being previously sceptical about the apostolic visitation, Fr Flannery said that in light of Cardinal O’Malley’s undertaking, “there may be some gleam of hope.”

Cardinal O’Malley could not be reached for comment.

In a mid-November statement, the Vatican said it would issue a comprehensive summary of the investigations’ findings when they are completed.

Fr Flannery said that while the association was ready to campaign for radical change, it was apprehensive that it would be viewed as “a new clericalism”.

The association, which represents more than 400 of Ireland’s 4,500 priests, was formed in 2010. It has proposed a re-evaluation of the Church’s teaching on sexuality and the inclusion of women at every level within the Church.

The first phase of the visitation should be completed by Easter, and it is likely the visitators will meet with senior officials of the Roman Curia in the spring to discuss what Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, described as the next phase of the “path to renewal”.

  • Nilcarborandumillegitimi

    Just what the Irish Church needs, another cabal of liberal clergy, of the same ilk that caused the collapse in the first place.

  • Mary

    Whenever I read these sorts of statements, I wonder how much the priests themselves understand what their role is in fixing things. It seems to me these Associations lay blame at the hierarchy and demand change from the hierarchy yet don’t seem to know what they are supposed to do. I am sure they all think they are pastoral. I am sure they all think that they have not been heard when they try to make “change”. But I wonder how much they truly believe in with regards to the faith and the Church itself. If they provide convincing witness and not activism for radical change – I wonder what would happen? I wonder if priests even know that that is what some of us want – convincing witness – not action which is important, but witness to faith and Christ comes first.

  • http://lxoa.wordpress.com/ shane

    As I wrote on Fr Z’s blog, the ACP get the diagnosis right but they prescribe the wrong medicine. Or rather the ‘medicine’ is itself the cause of the disease. To quote a recent editorial in Church and State magazine (organ of the old Campaign to Seperate Church and State):

    “[...]When we set out to erode the abnormal dominance of the Church in the early 1970s, we figured out how it had happened and published a book about it: The Veto Controversy. That book was widely circulated for review but not a single review of it was published.

    One bookshop took a dozen copies. They sold out within a week. But it refused to re-stock. Other shops refused to take it at all.

    The early issues of this magazine carried a series of articles on The Rise Of Papal Power In Ireland, explaining it more or less as it is explained here. They were issued as a pamphlet, under that title, on the occasion of the Pope’s visit in 1979. Again they were widely distributed for review. One curt notice, dismissing the subject as inappropriate, was published, in Books Ireland.

    So the Pope came and he was received with mindless adulation, lay and clerical, with only two noticeable expressions of dissent—this magazine and the Bishop of Cork, who is now taken to be a by-word for obscurantist reaction, Con Lucey.

    The Taoiseach was Cork City politician Jack Lynch, who had won an overall majority in 1977 in an election campaign which was unusually Catholic clericalist for Fianna Fail. But, two years later, the Pope did not visit the second city in the state because the Bishop did not invite him. And, some time later, Lucey retired and went off to be a missionary in Africa. He did not ever explain his failure to invite the Pope to Cork, but it is not hard to see a reason for it.

    Vatican 2 Catholicism undermined and trivialised the earnest Catholicism of Pius IX on which the Irish Church had formed itself, in association with the developing national movement, since the mid-19th century. That phase of development was not exhausted in Ireland when it was halted by Vatican 2. It was still filling itself out when it was ordered to stop. If the original impulse given by the triumph of Anti-Vetoism in the Veto Controversy was running out of momentum, there would have been evidence of this in the appearance of a sceptical intelligentsia to dispute certain areas of ground with the Hierarchy, and by so doing to provide for an evolutionary transition to a new relationship of Church and State.

    What happened instead was that the new Church formed in Ireland in the mid-19th century—by O’Connell’s Roman colleague, Cardinal Cullen—was stopped in its tracks by the Vatican, while there was still no social development against it to take its place. The Vatican 2 changes had to be imposed on Ireland. And their imposition devalued the values to which the generations then in their prime had dedicated themselves.

    Religious development in Ireland, with which social development was connected, was suddenly written off as an aberration. My Lord Bishop suddenly became Bishop Jack or Bishop Jim. Communion and Confirmation became occasions for display of fashion. Hell was abolished—and Heaven along with it, for all that was said to the contrary. And convents and monasteries were deprived of meaning.

    The ersatz intelligentsia, which is now kicking the Church because it is down, did nothing to bring it down. It was the Vatican that undermined it. But that is an inadmissible thought in the fashion of the moment because the futile scepticism which is the outcome of Vatican 2 must have it that Vatican 2 was a good thing. (The creature must love its creator.)[...]

  • Ratbag

    I agree with you, Mary.

    What’s happened to the oaths taken by bishops at their consecration? What’s happened to priest’s obedience to their bishops? Both have collapsed in what was once ‘Catholic Ireland’.

    In my experience (and as an Irish person), the Irish are too ready to point the finger at everyone but themselves when it comes to a lot of matters – whether it be behind closed doors, in their community, spiritually and nationally. It’s become a national disease. When bishops like Dairmuid Martin tells it to them straight about these issues, there’s a moan in their media and among the empty vessels who write in their newspapers!

    One recent example is the collapse of their economy and the Government. More recently, the Irish priests are complaining about the new translation of the Mass. For the love of God, Ireland! Wake up! Get your priorities RIGHT, for once! Our Lady of Knock pray for us! Saint Patrick pray for us!

  • TomSammy

    Fr. Flannery is a nothing short of a heretic. Just read any of his books and observe the behaviour of his order! Who cares what he thinks!

  • crouchback

    Ratbag, you’re right Ireland should wake up…here’s one way that they might consider getting out of bed for……very interesting video form America about Irelands economic woe’s…..let the banks sink, burn all the debt bonds, leave the Euro, and scrap income tax…..they’ll be booming in no time.

    Before all that….The Priests…..learn to say the Traditional Mass before The Triumph of the Holly Cross…….or fuck off.


  • TomSammy

    This is what is going on under Fr. Flannery’s nose – AS ALWAYS, PREPARE TO BE SHOCKED! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4UdB4y0h0o&feature=related

  • Cm B

    The Pope knows this already. In ralatio to child sex abuse Fr Flannery’s attitude is at best iffy

  • St Columcille

    “An outspoken Irish priest has called for a radical rethink on relationships saying it is time the rigid connection between sexual activity and marriage is severed. Fr Tony Flannery, believes the Roman Catholic Church should change its attitude on sex before marriage, artificial contraception and the rules regarding re-marriage.”

    From the Independent.ie . . . guess who this priest is??? Fr. Tom Flannery. I would not have published this man’s comments as it is driven by an agenda.

    In Chicago, there was a priest like this fella who spoke to the press at every opportunity to reassure them that the sky was falling unless immediate changes took place.

    A crisis is necessary to push for changes, however the changes Fr. Flannery wants are at the level of the Church’s DNA. They want to remake the church into their own image. Which is an agenda for destroying the Church.

    If I were bishop I would undertake a careful investigation into this so called “Priest’s Association” and declare it an heretical association (which it obviously is when you read their objectives) and excommunicate all members.

  • Diffal

    I love my Church and my Country and I dread to think about the”radical change” this priest is dreaming up. We need renewal not revolution. Its the Catholic lite attitude that he advocates, that has prevailed in Ireland the last few decades that has caused the problems to begin with!

  • Cjkeeffe

    The Association of Catholic Priests, at best represnts 400 of Irelands 4,500 priests. If these “policitcal” priests spent less time gossping to the media and more time providing the sacrements to their people there would be no doom and gloom. It would be interesting to survey how much time the priests in the ACP spend in the confessional and visiting the poor, sick and housebound of their parishes.
    I would like to see an ACP that focusses on teaching the faith as the chucrh says the faith is and not their own version of it and dispence the sacrements. Since the Council we have had far to many lay folk thinking they are clercical and taking on ministrie in the church and far to many clergy thinking they are lay folk doing lay work.
    We all blessed in the church each according to our calling in life.

  • James H

    That’s pretty shocking.

  • James H

    Don’t feed the publicity monster!

  • http://www.catholicliturgicalservices.co.uk Chris Moore

    So now I say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community. And the gates of the underworld can never overpower it. Matt 16:18. Priests and lay alike should pray for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, just as Pope Hohn XXIII did on the eve of the Second Vatican Council. With God on our side, why are we worrying about what will happen in the next 10 years?

  • http://www.isleofwighttouristguide.com isle of wight hotels

    When bishops like Dairmuid Martin tells it to them straight about these issues, there’s a moan in their media and among the empty vessels who write in their newspapers!

  • Ratbag

    Would the bishops please ‘silence’ this heretic ‘priest’ before he does any more damage!!!!!????

  • Ratbag

    One non-Catholic colleague of mine observed that there are two kinds of vicars – one who follows the vocation in the true meaning of the word and one who treats it as a 9 to 5 job and nothing more.

    I guess the latter applies to the so-called Association of Catholic Priests.

    The visitators should keep their beady eyes and ears on these ICP ‘career’ priests, who appear to care more about their street cred, vanity and what they observe as the ‘shortcomings’ of the new Mass translation than the welfare of their Church and flock.

  • Lindi

    I agree – it was chaotic , not prayerful , sloppy and disrespectful. And yet …… look how many mothers and children were packed into that church , even to standing half outside in the porch. The complaining priests are part of the problem – the faithful is led by wimps.

  • TomSammy

    … and to think these guys are “the future of the church”… and… YES, of course, future members of Fr. Flannery’s little Priest Union.

  • Jonnny Davies

    So much for the so-calledm post conciliar renewal!

  • crouchback

    OK then, send us your credit cards with pin numbers. The keys to your front door, there must be a nice smelly skip nearby where you can sleep, for as a son of man you’ll not be needing a roof over your head, will you…..Peace be unto you.

    If the Irish Bishops had been looking forward a wee bit 45 years ago, instead of wrecking all their churches, closing all their seminaries and killing the Mass stone dead…..they just might have noticed that sexual deviants could prove a problem in the future….but no.

    They indulged themselves in an orgy of pointlessness, which even today 10% ( 400 of Irelands 4000 catholic priests) one in ten of Irelands priests are so strung out on 60′s crap that they can’t see that the “mass” they’ve been using for years is……Crap….guys, that’s why they are trying to bring in the new translation, what your doing now is crap. The other 90% will mostly be sitting on the fence….pathetic.

    Get yourselves to Athlone, arrange for an intense series of priestly retreats preached by the Society of St Pius X, and learn to be Catholic Priests once again.

    If you don’t want to be Catholic Priests…..fuck off……before you do any more damage.

  • kyriakos

    Well could be done,first of all let the SSPX join the Catholic Church and uphold its Holy Councils.Take “You hypocrite, first take the mote out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”This are the words of our Lord

  • Rich

    That’s a disgrace, from this day forward I no longer profess to be Catholic!

  • Ratbag

    Hey, Rich! Please! Don’t go throwing the baby out with the bathwater!

    The Roman Catholic Church is FAR BIGGER than the likes of these errant priests! Stick with us, kid!

  • Michael

    If you had read the reports you would have very quickly picked up that the vast majority of the Irish clergy and religious who committed these heinous acts were trained under the pre-Vatican II system; they were far from being liberal. One of the main scandals was that the hierarachy (again, trained before Vatican II) were often compilicit in simply moving priests around as part of the clericalism that infected Ireland until recently; these are things documented in the reports. Your comments are totally without foundation or evidence.

  • Michael

    Rich, You didn’t leave the Church over child abuse or the cover up by the hierarchy, but now you’re leaving over a rather annoying and disrespectful liturgy. I question your sincerity.

  • Chris

    No, Michael, the hierarchy were guilty of failing to apply canon law to these abuses and others. The idea that we should listen to this spineless bunch fills me with dread. Thet will apologise for anything about the Church apart from their huge culpability in leading it into the current wilderness.

  • Golfer921

    Any Group of “Catholic” priests who are not faithful to the teaching of the magisterium should be silenced. This cancer of “revision” of the consistent teaching of the Church over the centuries is what has the Church in Ireland and the West in the situation where less than 25% of “Catholics” attend Mass on Sunday let alone follow the teaching of the Church on contraception, abortion and homosexual behaviour.
    As Christ himself asked: “Will there be any faithful followers found when I return to the earth?”

  • itstheorientation

    Too bad you can’t trust a guy (1) who during a recent snow storm sprang on his diocese his decision that all diocesan schools would accept children of homosexual couples or (2) went to Ted Kennedy’s funeral not to pray for his excommunicated soul (1 lost sheep is more important than 99 righteous) but so he could talk to president Obama about the Health Care bill. I’m sure the Irish Catholic church will be fine if they and the pople just do what Messiah O’Malley says. Meanwhile his own diocese is in revolt

  • Rich

    I said I would no longer profess to be a Catholic, I didn’t say I would leave the Church. The child abuse scandal is a massive issue, but I sense the whole Catholic church is deeply apologetic and remorseful. On behalf of the Church, I share that remorse. Equally, i don’t feel the priests in this video are in any way remorseful. This ongoing pantomime is deeply embarrassing.

  • The Venerable Rowan Drury

    I very much doubt that His Eminence would have been naive enough to take Fr Tony Flannery into his confidence. If so it reveals more about Fr Tony’s discretion and his oxymoronic Association of Catholic Priests.
    Surely the redundant attitudes of such a pathetic grouping ploughing their own “Furrow” are part of the difficulty in the Church in Ireland as well as revealing a very poor theology of the presbyterate. Hopefully His Eminence and his colleagues are more discerning.

  • Anonymous

    Tony Flannery is one the leaders of a small group of politically activist priests (the Association of Catholic Priests) who basically wish to turn the Catholic Church into a mainstream liberal Protestant denomination. They want the Irish Catholic Church to become acceptable to the average liberal Irish Times journalist such as Patsy McGarry or Fintan O’Toole. (Indeed, Fr Iggy O’Donovan another of the band is a close friend of McGarry and together they have hatched a few liturgical outrages which were then given great publicity in the Irish Times). What they don’t seem to realise is the ordinary Irish Catholic want none of this nonsense but a return to holy, dedicated and prayerful priests with a strong attachment to the teaching of the Church and a pastoral decidation to the spiritual welfare of the people under their charge.

  • Dermot Finnegan

    If Cardinal OMalley listens to advice from anyone of the ilk of Fr.Flannery or his hippy cohorts in the so called Association of Irish Priests then the Church in Ireland is most certainly doomed

  • Roydolli

    The Pope should Conscecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary now, as requested by Our Lady at
    Fatima. Failure to obey Our lady’s command has resulted in disastrous consequences for the Church.

  • Guest

    The Catholic Church in Ireland and throughout the world should follow the Holy Father’s advice and return to a life of penance and prayer. The Church herself is responsible for the profound crisis we currently face. The only cure we have is to return to penance and prayer. Forget the nonsense that came after Vatican II. We need to rediscover our Catholic identity and look ahead to the future. We can’t turn back the clock, but we can change direction and start again.

  • chrism

    I can’t help feeling that the Abuse Scandal is an excuse to drop out , if you see what I mean. I may be wrong , and so I’ll be corrected no doubt , but I understand the report [s ?] could not differentiate between sexual and physical abuse because of the manner in which they were recorded. Also little distinction was made between priests and Christian brothers [ at least by the media in the UK who weren't aware of the difference.] . Christian Brothers were notorious when I grew up in Ireland for giving you a back hander. But anyway , the media there and in the UK following their own agenda have done a good hatched job on the Church.

  • Gordon S

    The nonsense you speak about dear guest is happening right now, not after Vatican 2. If the wonderful concepts of Vatican Council 2 would have been allowed to develop and unfold, many of these problems would not be with us today.
    Radical change is needed in this Catholic Church. The good Pope John the XX111 tried to address the signs of the times. He with the collegial dimension of the Council set the Church on a path that by now would have given us the necessary change.
    We would have had the needed married clergy along with women priests. Sexuality as a whole would have been addressed to fit many of the good common sense norms of todays society. Many other now needed changes would have been acceptable Catholicism. The conservative agenda that now guides the Church will be the same agenda that will marginalize and destroy the Church.

  • Anonymous

    You make only a chronologically valid point, Michael. Yes, the abuses were underway prior to Vatican II. However, to borrow the popular phrase, “the Spirit of Vatican II” had gathered speed long before Pope John called the council and long before the curious disappearance of his Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia. In fact, if you read Prof Romano Amerio’s masterpiece, “Iota Unum”, you will see how the “Spirit of Vatican II” can trace its philosophical roots right back to the French Revolution. Vatican II, the event, merely gave the modernists the platform, so lately delayed by two world wars, they had long since craved. Anyway, don’t take my word for it. His Holiness Pope Pius XII, speaking in 1933 can do the talking far better than I can:
    “Suppose, dear friend, that Communism is the most visible among the organs of subversion against the Church and the tradition of Divine Revelation. Thus, we will witness the invasion of everything that is spiritual: philosophy, science, law, teaching, the arts, the media, literature, theater, and religion.

    “I am concerned about the confidences of the Virgin to the little Lucia of Fatima. The persistence of the Good Lady in face of the danger that threatens the Church is a divine warning against the suicide that the modification of the Faith, liturgy, theology, and soul of the Church would represent.

    “I hear around me partisans of novelties who want to demolish the Holy Sanctuary, destroy the universal flame of the Church, reject her adornments, and make her remorseful for her historical past. Well, my dear friend, I am convinced that the Church of Peter must affirm her past, or else she will dig her own tomb.

    “I will fight this battle with the greatest energy both inside and outside the Church, even if the forces of evil may one day take advantage of my person, actions, or writings, as they try today to deform the History of the Church.”

    (Georges Roche & Philippe Saint Germain, Pie XII devant l’Histoire, Paris: Robert Lafont, 1972, p. 52-53).

  • Js898

    Open letter to Pope Benedict

    Most Holy Father Papa Ratzi/ Pope Benedict XVI, Servant of the Servants of God,
    Sir, have never met but I am a born Catholic. You are a clever and deeeply religious man man. But now is the time to gently and firmly discipline the Irish and Australian churches without waiting for the visitations to be over. The high priests in these two countries have clearly failed the church.

    You need to take decisive action in Ireland and Australia now to ask for the resignations of the Cardinals there – Sean O’Brady and the Australian Cardinal. The Australian cardinal is worse. he has done absolutely nothing to discipline his bishops and archbishops and pretends the problem does not exist in Australia. It is quite severe.. To this day the Australian cardinal is more interested in pomp and pagentry during his liturgical services. Altar boys have to carry his trane(like a wedding garment) all from a bygone Byzantine era. I am sure you have seem phiotographs of his procession to liturgical services.

    Ask them both to come to Rome bringing all their cardinals robes, rings, seals etc and surrender them, all before you and go off silently to some monastery to repent. That is the only way to redeeem the Catholic church in both countries.

    Then at your leisure also investigate and remove all the archbishops and bishops who covered up for the priests in those two countries. Don’t postpone the action like the former Pope did. As a German Pope act decisively. Please be resolute with your high priests to regain the trust of the laity.

    Thank you.
    Your is Christ,
    Johnny Sprite

  • Anonymous

    You seem to view the Catholic Church as a political entity rather than a religious one. It’s one of the most glorious aspects of the Catholic Church as a whole is that it is just about the only significant Christian Church left that is actually willing to stand up for itself. If these sorts of changes are implemented then the Catholic Church will cease to be a serious religious church and turn into the same sort of laughingstock as the Church of England, which has allowed both of the changes you urge and now is not only on the brink of collapse bu thas absolutely no idea what it believes in anymore. That is why modern Popes do not accept these changes: there are some things more important than being “acceptable” especially patchwork, leaderless, disunited and unprincipled soceity such as today’s.

  • Joe O

    I find it absolutely apauling how one can believe they can change the teachings of the church to please man’s sinfull physical desires for what you term as “sexuality … to fit good common sense norms.” Fortunately, it is God who makes the rules, not man. Do you remember Sodom and Gomorrah?? What has destroyed the church is this liberal infestation you and many other heretical clergy are proposing.

  • Carefree1905

    82% of the Irish people are Catholic. whilst that’s a very low number for a catholic country, it’s still redeemable. i am hopeful that this abuse will disapear like other things have in the past, and the irish people will come round to it, return to church, return to their wisdom and grace, and no longer think anything of it. it’s gone, it’s done, the Pope’s apologised. what more do you want? and liberal priests? i never thought there was such a thing, very dangerous by the sounds of things.

  • http://twitter.com/goodwordjohn John McNulty

    This has to be a joke. The reason why religion is dying in Europe is in part due to this liberalisation and adaptation of faith to suit the worshippers. Fr. Flannery has no place in a Catholic Church that is in any way true to itself. What next, hamburgers instead of the eucharist? Sure it’d be popular, but aren’t we losing the true meaning of our faith?

  • Anonymous

    The Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland is a non-person since they are not a Church approved body in any way; their remedy is worse than the malady and their fitness to continue as Catholic Priests is questionable. Do they want to elect their own Pope and start a different Church of married Priests? How do they fit in, even the Apostles had set aside their wives, when they hearkend to the Lord’s call and followed Him!

    Let our Pope, Our Good Shepherd come to the Irish Church himself and settle this matter of the greatest urgency for the whole Church; thereby setting an example for the Churches in other nations as a warning; the People of God in the Irish Church and in the whole world will be on the tips of their toes, watching and praying for the Pope to make an example of Priest-Wolves of the Irish Catholic Church who deserve only a Penitentiary for the whole of their life.

  • knightofstjoan

    Thats a good observation. I see priests in new york no wearing thier collar as if they are embarassed by their faith.

  • Fr Thomas Poovathinkal




    Fr Thomas Poovathinkal

  • Paddy

    It is a bunch of wanders like these who think they are above not only the people but above the teaching of the church itself that have brought this whole mess about in the first place. Get the names of every single one of them and bring Cromwell back for a night

  • Inquisator

    ‘As a German pope, act decisively’!  What a loaded comment!!!!

  • McGregory

    After years Roman Catholic church Empire is going down and so fast. The end of a ERA too. 

    Catholic church is nothing about religion, it is all about control and manipulation, to keep people on their way. The problem is that many other small religions that are total mess will get those catholics and the mess will be way worst. Look at latin america where Catholic church is going down too. 
    People are going to SO CALLED Gospels churchs. look for those churchs and you will say MAN CATHOLIC CHURCH MUST GO BACK. They are doing the same as medieval Catholic Church making people give money and dress funny. The Catholic church fall means a number of Mess religions comming up without organization.