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Redemptorist leader ‘deeply regrets’ actions of media priest

By on Thursday, 24 January 2013

Fr Tony Flannery at the press conference he called on Sunday (Photo: PA)

Fr Tony Flannery at the press conference he called on Sunday (Photo: PA)

The head of the Redemptorist Fathers in Rome has said he “deeply regret[s]” the actions of an Irish member of the order who accused the Vatican of subjecting him to “frightening procedures reminiscent of the Inquisition”.

Fr Michael Brehl, the order’s superior general, said in a statement that Fr Tony Flannery, 66, was under Vatican investigation for alleged ambiguities “regarding fundamental areas of Catholic doctrine, including the priesthood, the nature of the Church and the Eucharist”.

Fr Flannery told a Dublin press conference on Sunday that he was “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”.

The Irish Catholic newspaper reported that the investigation of Fr Flannery – a founder-member of the Association of Catholic Priests – was triggered by a 2010 article in a religious magazine.

In the article, Fr Flannery wrote that he no longer believed that “the priesthood as we currently have it in the Church originated with Jesus” or that Jesus designated “a special group of his followers as priests”.

Fr Flannery wrote: “It is more likely that some time after Jesus, a select and privileged group within the community, who had abrogated power and authority to themselves, interpreted the occasion of the Last Supper in a manner that suited their own agenda.”

In a statement issued yesterday, Fr Brehl confirmed that “in January 2012, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith raised concerns about some of the writings of Fr Flannery”.

“He was instructed to undertake a period of prayer and theological reflection to clarify his positions on these matters. During this sabbatical period, he was instructed not to grant interviews or make public statements and to withdraw from active involvement in the leadership of the ACP, especially since the priesthood was one of the matters on which he was asked to clarify his position. He was also instructed to withdraw from active priestly ministry during this period of prayer and reflection,” he said.

The superior general said he wanted to “earnestly invite” Fr Flannery “to renew the efforts to find an agreed solution to the concerns raised by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”. He also asked Irish Redemptorists to “join with me in praying and working together in the spirit of St. Alphonsus to maintain and strengthen our communion with the universal Church”.

In a separate statement, the Irish province of the Redemptorists said it was “deeply saddened by the breakdown in communication” between Fr Flannery and the Vatican.

“It is of immense regret that some structures or processes of dialogue have not yet been found in the Church, which have a greater capacity to engage with challenging voices from among God’s people, while respecting the key responsibility and central role of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“We sincerely hope and pray that even at this late stage, some agreed resolution can be found to this matter,” the Irish Redemptorists said.

  • Timotheos

    Dear, dear, dear. Why couldn’t Flannery have just stuck to heresy like everyone else in the Vatican II sect? No one gets excommunicated for that. Or else he could have promoted abortion. No one gets excommunicated for that. But to resort to “ambiguities”! How perfectly dreadful. Perhaps in his “period of prayer and theological reflection”, he might read the documents of Vatican II. No ambiguities there.

  • Jon Brownridge

    Fr. Flannery may be wrong in his assertions. Let that be said. He suggests:

    1. that at some point in the future, women may be ordained;
    2. Catholic priesthood in its present form may not be as Christ intended.

    But what is most disturbing in this story is that this priest is condemned for calling for “these matters to be open for discussion”. We must face the fact that our Church has been wrong on so many issues that it would be all but impossible to count them.

    I am just reading about poor old Fr. Copernicus and his book “De Revolutionibus Orbium Caelestium”, published in 1543, in which he claims it is the earth that moves, not the sun. The Church condemned it as heresy, but some time later, Galileo dares to say his research agrees with the work of Copernicus. So in 1633 Galileo was convicted of heresy for following the position of Copernicus “which is contrary to the true sense and authority of Holy Scripture”, and he was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life.

    Fr. Flannery is doing what Galileo did, that is asking if we can perhaps take another look at some of the beliefs we have held so dearly, in case we are mistaken in our conviction.

  • kinkysox

    … and quick!

  • kinkysox

    Nor me.

  • kinkysox

    Fr Flanner is one of the founders of the Irish Association of Catholic Priests.

    Says it all!

  • JabbaPapa

    The usual farrago of myths, half-truths, and lies …

    1) Copernicus was NEVER “condemned” … “for heresy” by the Catholic Church.

    He was condemned by Martin Luther :

    There is talk of a new astrologer who wants to prove that the earth moves and goes around instead of the sky, the sun, the moon, just as if somebody were moving in a carriage or ship might hold that he was sitting still and at rest while the earth and the trees walked and moved. But that is how things are nowadays: when a man wishes to be clever he must needs invent something special, and the way he does it must needs be the best! The fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down. However, as Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still and not the earth.

    Whereas Copernicus was a devout Catholic, and a canon of Frauenberg
    Cathedral, and he followed all of the proper procedures required to
    secure formal permission from Church authorities to publish his book,
    and he even dedicated it to the reigning Pope at the time (Paul III).

    2) Galileo himself was never condemned fr “heresy” — and his own work was published having been financed and supported by the Roman Curia — he was censured for rebellion, when it emerged that he had included insults and derogatory remarks against the Catholic hierarchy in his published text.

    His scientific theories and discoveries were NEVER condemned by the Church.

    3) Fr. Flannery may be wrong in his assertions — in fact, his assertions are blatant heresies, and are objectively false, by definition.

    a) The FACT that only men may be ordained into the priesthood is provided with the charism of infallibility. This means that the Church is unable to change this teaching. That’s it — end of story. Teaching the contrary is a heresy.

    b) He did NOT assert only that “Catholic priesthood in its present form may not be as Christ intended“, he asserted that the priesthood did not originate with Christ.

    Again,  this is a straightforward heresy against the Church, against her priesthood, against the very Catholicity of the Faith, and against the Christ Himself. His assertions against Christ drift, in fact, into the area of blasphemy.

  • Inquisator

    I thank God that this conversation is taking place in the 21st C; were it to have taken place 350 years ago, I am sure that many positing their views on this blog would be in the front row on the day of execution doing their knitting. It is just sad however, that here and now in the 21st C the angry rhetoric of 350 years ago still remains.

  • JabbaPapa

    Your vile suggestion that these or those contributors to this talkback would happily attend the execution of whomever deserves nothing other than disgust and contempt.

  • Jon Brownridge

     “The FACT that only men may be ordained into the priesthood is provided with the charism of infallibility.”

    And of course the doctrine of infallibility itself is also implemented with the charism of infallibility, thereby begging the question. It is not a fact that only men can be ordained, it is an opinion. All Fr. Flannery wants is an opportunity to engage in intelligent discourse about a matter that is relevant and important to many Catholics.

  • JabbaPapa

    And of course the doctrine of infallibility itself is also implemented with the charism of infallibility

    That’s like pointing out that water is wet.

    It is not a fact that only men can be ordained, it is an opinion

    Only men can, in fact, be ordained into the priesthood. Have you never noticed the distinct absence of any “women priests” ???

    All Fr. Flannery wants is an opportunity to engage in intelligent
    discourse about a matter that is relevant and important to many
    Catholics

    Popes Gelasius I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have definitively ruled on the issue, and have magisterially declared the infallibility and irrevocability of the teaching.

    Intelligent discourse involves adhering to truth ; not fantasy.

  • Tieh Ard

    Interesting points on Copernicus and Gallileo thankyou. Lost your logic on the other points but doesnt make you wrong.  I wonder about how the universal priesthood of  all the Church (as taught by Vat ii, and in book of Hebrews and written about by John Paulii) will be lived out in future years as revelation unfolds. It will of course not be contrary but fulfilling current teaching.

  • Sweetjae

    We had a lot of intelligent discourses already from the last thousand years on this subject and the Magisterium decided with FINALITY that only men are ordained to the priesthood. Which part of the statement you don’t understand?

    Fr. Flannery wasn’t interested in intelligent discourse but to convert others and lastly the Church to his idea, that of course would never happen.

  • Sweetjae

    Yes infallibility has been implemented with Charism….”the Gates of Hell will not prevail against My Church” ordained by God Himself.

  • Sweetjae

    “these matters to be open for discussions” is the Modernist way of saying, “we should be tolerant and allow any kind of beliefs” in the Church.

    The thing is, all these subjects had been intelligently discussed already, the problem is, obedience to the final judgment by the Magisterium.

  • Jon Brownridge

     “Only men can, in fact, be ordained into the priesthood. Have you never noticed the distinct absence of any “women priests” ???”

    Before Margaret Thatcher, Britain had never had a woman Prime Minister. Just because something has never happened does not mean it can never happen. There is nothing magical about the priesthood. To ordain simply means to give authority. The Church could give authority to women just as easily as giving authority to men.

  • Jon Brownridge

     And of course the doctrine of infallibility itself is also implemented with the charism of infallibility

    “That’s like pointing out that water is wet.”

    That’s a good one for a philosopher. How do we know that the Pope is infallible? Because the Pope made an infallible pronouncement that it is so. That is such a blatant example of begging the question, Jabba. I expected a much better response from someone of your experience and intelligence!

  • JabbaPapa

    How do we know that the Pope is infallible? Because the Pope made an infallible pronouncement that it is so

    WRONG

    Papal infallibility derives from the infallibility of the Magisterium, which in turn derives from the infallibility of the Revelation, which in turn derives from the infallibility of God’s teachings.

    Ultimately, infallibility is a divine gift, and NOT a human construct — even though in questions of natural theology, the understanding that a teaching is infallible may be arrived at by human reasoning.

    But anyway — it is NOT a Pope who has declared the dogma of infallibility to be itself infallible.

  • JabbaPapa

    Just because something has never happened does not mean it can never happen

    No — but when the Church has definitively decided that something cannot happen, then it won’t.

    It would take an actual Act of God to reverse this teaching, given that it has been provided by the highest degree of mortal Authority possible.

  • rjt1

    Agreed. It just means ‘anything goes’.

  • Eileen Coyne

    My thoughts and prayers are with Fr Flannery.  Luke 10: 38-42 “Mary has chosen the better part which will not be taken from her”.  But the rights of women to be treated with spiritual equality have been ignored for two thousand years.  My respect to Tony, who is true to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. 

  • majorcalamity

    No it doesn’t. It means it ought to be discussed by intelligent men and not just followed by unthinking sheep.

    Is everything so cast in stone that it cannot be discussed? Is the Magisterium incapable of being revised as a result of new information, of things which weren’t known when it was written? 

  • kinkysox

    ‘He was instructed to undertake a period of prayer and theological reflection to clarify his positions on these matters…’

    Nothing that a good, solid papal-red shoe up the —- wouldn’t cure!

  • Jon Brownridge

     My point exactly.

  • JabbaPapa

    Which part of “all these subjects had been intelligently discussed already” did you fail to understand ?

  • rjt1

    As Sweetjae said, it has been discussed by intelligent people and settled. We can grow in our appreciation of the truth – sometimes in new and surprising ways – but the truth does not contradict itself. It is reasonable for intelligent people to take some things on trust. A mania for questioning is not a sign of maturity.

  • rjt1

    A couple of other opinions from Fr Flannery:
     
    “The second basic change would be to break the inherent connection, long part of traditional Catholic teaching, between sexual activity and marriage. ”
     
    “…it is unrealistic to expect that every couple will continue to love and cherish each other until death….”
    [- sounds like support for divorce]
     
    Flannery, T (2009) in Some Ideas on a New Approach to Catholic Sexual Teaching” in Responding to the Ryan Report, The Columba Press, Dublin, 2009.

  • rjt1

    “To ordain simply means to give authority”. That wouldn’t be the Catholic understanding of Holy Orders. The Church does not have unlimited authority but only the authority which the Lord has given it: that is why Pope John Paul said the Church has no authority to ordain women.

    I would say what Jesus did (or, in this case, did not do) was normative.

  • JabbaPapa

    “The second basic change would be to break the inherent connection, long
    part of traditional Catholic teaching, between sexual activity and
    marriage. ”

    Ghastly modernist revisionism — in fact, traditional Catholic teaching does not claim that “sexual activity” is “inherent” to the concept of marriage — it is apologists for “gay marriage” who do that !!!

    Far from being traditional notions, his suggestions are derived from the late 20th century.

  • JabbaPapa

    Good point — I missed that one, well spotted.

  • Parasum

     Sounds right, as far as it goes – if rather man-centred. The true Offerer is Christ, Who is Priest as well as Victim. All the Church does, is get granted the grace of being taken up into His (eternal) priestly function – the Christian people or plebs sancta as a body, in one way; the human priest, taken from among them, & acting in persona Christi & representing Christ and them, in another way.  

    If the True Priest did not, through His Holy Spirit, consecrate the Gifts to convert them into His own Body & Blood, no actions of the Church or of the human priest would be of any value. Besides, the priestly office of the Church does not occur only at Mass – the Mass is its high point, that shows what is going on all the time; the Mass is a special instance of something the Church by virtue of its being assumed into the priestly office of Christ does unceasingly. The Mass is part of a pattern of God’s action in Christ, through the Holy Spirit; the not the only instance.

  • kinkysox

    Yeah, he needs a prayer all right!

    And you are so, so WRONG!

  • Eileen Coyne

    Tension has always existed within the Church and debate is a healthy thing; however, the real issue here is that the (in my opinion) spiritually mature judgements of Vatican II, far from being built upon, are being attacked and dismantled by a hierarchy that is painfully out of touch with the real Church:  the people (men and women).  I, for one, will continue to place my trust in the flow of the Holy Spirit at work in all people of goodwill. 

  • JabbaPapa

    “Spirit of Vatican II” yeah right …

    I prefer the Catholicity of our Holy Church, thanks.

  • rjt1

    As you say, tension has always existed, but rupture is what needs to be avoided. I fully accept Vatican II but I see it as being in continuity with the tradition. I would see Fr Flannery as one of the proponents of rupture – interesting that he uses the word ‘break’. This rupture is not something harmless – it is a breach of the communion which is fundamental to the identity of the Church and therefore contrary to the love that holds us together.
     
     

  • Apostolic

    Brilliantly put.

  • Roger_goodwill14

    That priest should be Ex-Communicated. When since Catholic priest and Nuns become so Liberal towards the Vatican?. Holy Mother Church have the full truth ,however it is sad to say that some of these priest are only  in the Priesthood for self gain. Priest MUST obey the teachings of the Church and the Vicar of Christ..the Pope.

  • Nick

    Do you never stop going on about Gay marriage JabbaJabba – you’re obsessed with it.

  • Lee

    Vat II is very often spurted out by those who’ve never read the documents and misappropriate them, to their shame, or make the ‘fake it until you make it’ claim that their Vat II spirit be used for anything of their choosing, including against the church who instigated it, for their own agenda. Younger people aren’t fooled by this –  they can read and they can see the state of the church since the late 60′s. If you think, on the ground, that young people are drawn to liberalism then I’d like you to show me a church of that stripe that’s beaming. You’;ll tend to see people in their 60′s and 70′s making lots of noise about what young people want, without a young person in sight.  Orthodoxy offers a meaty faith, and Catholicism ignores this at its peril. Whats more successful Pentecostalism and Islam, or liberal Anglicanism and similar woolly groups?