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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.

  • JabbaPapa

    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”.

    Good grief !!!

  • Kevin

    “Fr Flannery told a Dublin press conference on Sunday that he was ‘threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church’”

    When actor Angus Jones recently called the TV show he appears on (Two and a Half Men) “filth”, no-one doubted that the appropriate action for him to take was to resign. Instead, he issued an apology.

    Based on this article, Fr. Flannery needs to be clear on whether he believes the Church should expect lesser standards of discipline than a filthy TV show.

  • awkwardcustomer

    Fr Flannery sounds fairly typical of your average Vatican II priest, religious or lay person.  After all, according to the new theology, it’s the ‘People of God who gather around the altar to celebrate the Eucharist with the priest presiding’ that constitutes the Mass.

    A nun told me recently that it’s the people who celebrate the Mass.  All the priest does, she said, is the Consecration part.

  • teigitur

    One of the many reasons( and its not just the sexual scandals) the Church in Ireland is in one almighty mess today.

  • James

    I notice the difference between the responses issue by the Superior General and the Irish Redemptorists.  While the General is in the heart of the Church, it seems his brothers in Ireland reflect Fr Flannery’s view and hoist blame onto the Church.  It may well be that the Irish province of the order may well need to be dealt with by the superiors in Rome

  • rjt1

    Don’t tar everyone with the same brush. I accept Vatican II but I don’t take some poor/arrogant etc. misled nun as representing what I believe.

  • rjt1

    Have lived and studied in Ireland. It doesn’t surprise me one bit.

  • awkwardcustomer

    ‘Don’t tar everyone with the same brush’, you say.

    If only the comments of ‘some poor/arrogant etc misled nun’ as you describe her, or of Fr Flannery, were isolated examples. 

    If only.

  • teigitur

    As with all this type of stfff. Its all about ME!

  • rjt1

    Wheat and tares. Sometimes the tares grow more rank than at other times.

    Was there a golden age when there were no heretics? No.

  • awkwardcustomer

    And sometimes, like now, the tares grow so rank that they almost choke the wheat. 

    Was there a golden age when there were no heretics, you ask, answering in the negative.  Why not ask – was there ever an age in which the heretics were so humerous and widespread as in this age? 

  • Annie

    This article is a bit confusing.  It states that Fr. Michael Brehl is the head of the Redemptorist Fathers in Rome and has a quote from him.  Later it refers to a statement put out by “the Irish province of the Redemptorists” and quotes from it but doesn’t say who is the spokesman speaking for the province.  If it isn’t Fr. Brehl then who is it? 

    I ask because of the appalling quote that comes from the “Irish province”:  “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”.  So according to the Irish province the problem is with the Church for not entering into a proper dialogue with the priest over his heterodox statements.  The icing on the cake is the province saying that the priest is speaking for God’s people.  It seems to me as if the Irish province needs to be tossed out along with Fr. Flannery.   

  • Inquisator

    I hear nothing heretical in this statement. The origins of the priesthood as it has become, has its origins in developments long after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. It was a construct of the early church, backed up rather erroneously by snippets of scriptures and attributed to the personb of Jesus.  Using the Last Supper as the pivotal moment when Jesus establishes the priesthood is about as far and as wrong as you can get.

  • rjt1

    I don’t know the answer to that one, but one can only remain faithful in communion of mind and heart with the successors of Saint Peter and the Apostles. It does not help to be downcast about it. It does help to pray and to become well educated in the faith.

  • JabbaPapa

     I hear nothing heretical in this statement

    It’s totally and completely heretical.

  • teigitur

    We know thats what the Protestant Churches believe, but its not what we believe.

  • rjt1

    A very confidently asserted position which is entirely contrary to the teaching of the Council of Trent (Session XXIII*) (which I fully expect you to dismiss in favour of the theories of ‘biblical scholars’, so I’m not sure why I’m bothering to write it). Why prefer the not-indisputable teaching of a number of modern biblical scholars to the authoritative teaching of a council? Have you verified this modern opinion?

    *And the sacred Scriptures show, and the tradition of the Catholic Church has always taught, that this priesthood was instituted by the same Lord our Saviour, and that to the Apostles, and their successors in the priesthood, was the power delivered of consecrating, offering, and administering his body and blood, as also of forgiving and of retaining sins.

  • RR

    There are obvious leaders and authorities in the NT and prayers and public worship are clearly led by person acknowledged as voices to be listened to. Even if an ordained priesthood “developed,” that hardly makes it unfounded or unfaithful to Christ. It’s difficult from this story to know what Fr, Flannery really said or believed, but if he’s saying that because there have been developments since Jesus and those are ipso facto illegitimate, he’s become a fundamentalist not a Catholic. 

  • andHarry

     In the NT church the leader was indisputably the Holy Spirit. With Peter becoming acknowledged as leader, and, with child baptism necessitating the ending of baptism by immersion, the Holy Spirit was quenched; something which Paul warned against.The
    well-known Catholic scholar, Raymond E Brown, in his book ‘Priest and
    Bishop: Biblical Reflections (New York: Paulist Press, 1970), p. 13.
    writes that ‘When we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament,
    it is striking that while there are pagan
    priests and Jewish priests on the scene, no individual Christian is ever
    specifically identified as a priest. The Epistle to the Hebrews speaks
    of the high priesthood of Jesus by comparing his death and entry into
    heaven with the actions of the Jewish high
    priest who went into the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle once a year
    with a blood offering for himself and for the sins of his people
    (Hebrews 9: 6, 7). But it is noteworthy that the author of Hebrews does
    not associate the priesthood of Jesus with the Eucharist
    or the Last Supper; neither does he suggest that other Christians are
    priests in the likeness of Christ. In fact the once-for-all atmosphere
    that surrounds the priesthood of Jesus in Hebrews 10:12 -14 has been
    offered as an explanation of why there are no Christian
    priests in the New Testament period.’

  • http://www.facebook.com/daptak Debbie Ptak

    IF A CATHOLIC PRIEST OR NUN NO LONGER BELIEVE THE CATHOLIC RELIGION THEN LET THEM LEAVE NOT SPREAD THEiR ERRORS AND MADE UP BELIEFS TO THE CHURCH MEMBERS.THE CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS SURVIVED HOW MANY THOUSANDS OF YEARS?ALL OF A SUDDEN WE HAVE NUNS WHO WANT TO BE PRIESTS PRIESTS WHO DONT BELIEVE IN CERTAIN THINGS THE CHURCH TEACHES ANYMORE.THIS ISNT A PICK AND CHOOSE RELIGION.YOU CHOOSE WANT YOU WANT AND MAKE THE REST UP WITH RADICAL BEILEFS AS YOU GO.IF YOU CAN NO LONGER BELIEVE WITH THE CHURCH TEACHES LEAVE.GOD BLESS ALL

  • Nat_ons

    Like the customary canon of the Holy Bible, the Doctrine of the Trinity, the rejection of slavery, the papal teaching on Social Justice etc, etc.

    Jesus established a presbytery called to minister even before his Thanksgiving Sacrifice at its completion of the Cross; that is, his apostles – it is with them that those called (kleros) to elder-leadership (presbyteroi - presters, proestern = ‘priests’ sic) receive the priestly (hierarchical) service of the gospel.

    That this ‘priestly service’ has developed over time is not a matter of controversy, but some – like the Rev Father – still seek to make the priesthood we all share in Christ a matter of dispute only for those who are called out of his people to minister to them; like so many radical rebels from the Age of Aquarius, grey hairs seem not to have added any more sense or ability to self-critque, only greater willingness to criticise others (with ever more bitter vituperation).

  • Sweetjae

    Vatican 2′s fault again eh for the sins of her sons and daughters?? Why always this logical fallacy coming from differing ultraTrads and SSPX? Why do you think there was utopia during and that there have been no abuses during Latin Rite?

    We lost half of the Church during the Great Schism 1,000 years ago and another half during Reformation 500 later, aside from the historical fact of so many groups that separated due to some abuses, ambiguities and just plain arrogance, disobedience and pride.

    We the true Catholics don’t put the blame to legitimate Teaching of any Councils but to the three grave sins above and your group (SSPX) is not an exemption.

  • Sweetjae

    Isolated? There have been countless heresies and splits during her 2,000 years of existence. It’s been like that since Day One of the Church during the 1st century, don’t blame any Councils, deal with it.

  • Sweetjae

    We lost half of the Church 1,000 years ago and we consider them heretics (Eastern Othodox) then another half during the Protestant movement 500 years ago. Does it qualify as greater than your bias and unwarranted accusation?

  • JabbaPapa

    Scholarly analysis does not invalidate the Deposit of the Faith.

    It is a Modernist Error to imagine that it could.

  • Ronk

     The doctrrine that Jesus established Holy Orders and the other six Sacraments (which make Him present still) whilst He was bodily present on earth,  is surely one of the most basic and essential Catholic doctrines. If one rejects the belief that Jesus personally established the priesthood, then out goesall the many other Catholic doctrines which flow from this. How could one reject belief in the Divinely instituted priesthood and still claim to be a Catholic? It makes no logical sense whatsoever.

  • Sweetjae

    This is an OLD and TIRED accusation, please stop this nonsense and inform your fellow ultraTrads through the blog owned by EditorCT with so much negativity and arrogance. The contributors are so enamored in themselves as if God has endowed them with infallibility and charism.

  • Ronk

     We don’t consider the Eastern Orthodox to be heretics, only schismatics. (However they consider US to be heretics.)

    A better historical example would be when more than half the Church and more than half its bishops subscribed to the Arian heresy in the 4th century.

  • Sussex Catholic

    If Fr.Flannery were “Doctor Flannery” and he were a GP writing articles recommending nettle tea as a cure for cancer and prescribing sweets to his patients instead of pills, it would not be long before the General Medical Council had him struck off. When is the secular world going to finally understand that being a Catholic clergyman is not to be confused with someone who works either in the performing arts (although that can be an easy mistake to make) or a novelist? Whatever the hyperbole and misunderstandings about what “religious liberty” means, the Catholic Church has certain stated positions which, if one dissents from as a professed member of a religious order or a priest, one is liable to be corrected on, for the sake of the people under that person’s influence or care. Fr.Flannery’s self-appointed victim status just shows how cut off his ilk are from the real world and how long they have been protected hiding behind the skirts of Holy Mother Church like a rebellious teenager who beats up his mother but can’t live without her. If Flannery were a politican he would have been thrown out of his party by now, were he a Garda he would have been dismissed, were he a building engineer there would be rubble everywhere….being a Catholic priest has never been a licence to do as you please and unfortunately as the abuse crisis has shown,too many have been allowed to do just that.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    The Redemptorists went bad years ago. Flannery, who has lost the Faith, is merely one of a number of heterodox priests from that ruined Order. 

    Another fruit of Vatican II. 

    The only authentic Redemptorists today live on a small island off the coast of Scotland and use exclusively the Old Mass and administer the other Sacraments according to the old form. 

  • CatholicLeft

    So, some priest makes an historically unsupportable and theologically ignorant statement and, when he is picked up on it, he accuses the Church of acting like the Inquisition. It isn’t a story and he isn’t important.

  • teigitur

    I must say I am inclined to agree, though there are still some good, holy Priests in the order. Have you seen the postage-stamp altar in their Church in Belfast? Beautiful Church , ruined sanctuary. Its on-line if you can bear to look.

  • teigitur

    He is important in that he has the support of quite a few Priests in Ireland, and the Irish media love him.

  • andHarry

     Modernist hindsight is 20/20. Never before in recorded history has there been available such a wealth of information and comment on the  past, and the ability to see what is happening elsewhere; as it happens; as predicted in the Bible for an end-time scenario. We can see the errors of the past, and their consequences, and we can see how the Holy Spirit was quenched by the ‘deposit of faith’ after the NT period, via the actions of such as Constantine and Theodosius.

  • St Donatus

    These types of arguments are just tools of Satan, causing confusion and discontent among Catholics. Catholics need the truth coming from the Church but when their priests tell them something different than the Church, they just choose to follow whatever is convenient for them. These are just the same old protestant arguments they have made for 500 years. As they say this, their own number continues to dwindle and the true Church, continues to grow world wide. Once these heretics like Fr Flannery are dealt with as the Church has historically (instead of with kid gloves), perhaps we can get back to growing the European and US Church again. It is time again for the Church to speak with one voice rather than one voice among thousands of personal opinions. Like many protestants, Fr Flannery wants to create a church in his own image rather than Gods. 

  • licjjs

    “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.”
    If what is reported is true – and I am only going by what it is reported that Fr Flannery wrote about the priesthood – then this is nothing to do with being a ‘challenging voice’ and everything to do with heresy.  It is not even as if he said (according to what is reported) that the Church gradually grew in her understanding of the priesthood and that ‘clericalism’ became a problem at different times – or words to that effect, but: “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.”  For a priest of all people to question that his priesthood stems from the solemn mystery of the Last Supper and Calvary is simply a step – well a hundred steps – too far along the road of being a ‘challenging voice’.

  • licjjs

    Unfortunately Raymond E Brown has no authority to speak on the matter.  Yes, he is entitled to his opinion and to write books – but that is it: his voice is no more important than mine or yours.  Here we have the crux: the Catholic Church believes that there is a Deposit of Faith handed on from the Apostles to their successors and, with Peter at their head, it is these successors who have the authority to speak on these matters.

  • Dominic MacCarthy

    Some of these Irish priests who have lived most of their lives in what used to be a 99% Catholic country, seem to spend their time knocking the Faith. In England, where practising Catholics are a 3% minority struggling to survive, Fr Flannery’s flannel doesn’t go down well. We can read that sort of stuff any day in the Guardian or the Independent or from many of the liberal Protestant theologians. If he doesn’t believe the Faith, he shoudl have the honesty to retire or find employment elsewhere.  

  • CatholicLeft

    I think he loves himself more – but it doesn’t mean he is particularly bright or that he should be afforded publicity he doesn’t deserve.

  • JabbaPapa

    we can see how the Holy Spirit was quenched

    Such a statement is objectively (and gravely) sinful against a Person of the Trinity.

    In fact, the Holy Spirit is Immortal, Divine, and Unquenchable Presence.

    Modernist sight is blind rather than “20/20″, because it focuses on the self, rather than upon the transcendent, immanent Presence of God in Reality and in History.

  • Sweetjae

    The Church referred to them as such once during the height, because they deny the Doctrine of Petrine Primacy and “Filoque clause”.

  • Sweetjae

    I agree but it’s not a ruined Order nor they are fruits of V2, such rubbish things to say. The Great Western Schism, Protestant Reformation and countless liberal heresies and apostasies have taken place during the Latin Rite, so they should also be considered fruits of TLM?

  • Sweetjae

    The priest believed in some very strange ideas NOT compatible with the Teachings of the Church, if he insist then he should leave the Church and build his own like the Protestants.

  • andHarry

    ‘ In fact, the Holy Spirit is Immortal, Divine, and Unquenchable Presence.’

    It is an unquenchable presence for those who know they have it, and look for leadership into all truth in their lives, and leadership for their church activities. Secular modernism may certainly focus on self, but the indwelling Spirit is the blessed fount nourishing the  new self, the brothers and sisters of the new Adam.

  • Inquisator

    And to rely on such fallacies to reinforce that authority.

  • Jon Brownridge

     “Scholarly analysis does not invalidate the Deposit of the Faith.

    It is a Modernist Error to imagine that it could.”

    I agree with this statement of yours. But if this is your position, why do you object so strenuously whenever anyone tries to analyse and reassess our traditional position on doctrine. Fr. Flannery is a case in point. He may well be wrong, but should he not at least be able to invite a different way of understanding without being condemned?

  • rjt1

    I think there’s some truth in that: in a what was an overwhelmingly Catholic country, it seemed safe to be ‘trendy’, ‘edgy’ etc. because what was being mocked seemed so rock solid. So the perpetrator could preen himself on being a clever sort and others could excuse themselves from doing anything by saying to themselves – he’s only having a bit of a lark or he’s a bit odd but not a danger to anyone.

  • cl

    Hmmm…another typical leftist post-Vatican II do-it-yourself-as-you-like priest. Hey Fr Flannery, there is simply no place for your view with a self-destructive tone. The Superior General of the Redemptorists need to get tough with errant members. Toe official teachings or just leave the religious order. I do not see any possible compromise here. Remember, how Hans Kung and Charles Curran had to be dealt with. Constructive dialog with the 2 of them was just unteneable given their heretical views. Fr Flannery, come to your senses.

  • JabbaPapa

    why do you object so strenuously whenever anyone tries to analyse and reassess our traditional position on doctrine ?

    Because the nature of my conversion is such that I feel it, like a hurt in my soul, whenever I witness teachers leading people astray.

    But then — it’s not away from the “traditional” position as such, but the Catholic Orthodoxy, and beyond that : the transcendental Truth in the Revelation.

    Fr. Flannery is a case in point. He may well be wrong, but should he not
    at least be able to invite a different way of understanding without
    being condemned?

    Not when he has stated some absolutely blatant heresies as the ones quoted, no.

    Those statements are heresies, pure and simple. They are uncatholic by nature.

  • Skypilot

    If reported correctly: so too do his Irish superiors