THE Redemptorist priest who has been silenced by Rome for publicly backing Taoiseach Enda Kenny's broadside against the Vatican's handling of child sex abuse allegations is a brother of leading Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery.
The censure of Fr Tony Flannery has provoked a storm of anger among fellow clergy and lay organisations.
Fr Flannery was censured by the powerful Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which first contacted the Redemptorist Order in Rome with an order that he no longer be allowed to write in the Irish Order's influential magazine Reality or on the Association of Irish Priests' website, of which he is a founding member.
He is also banned from talking to the media.
Fr Flannery visited Rome to argue his case after the rebuke two months ago.
Yesterday, Fr Adrian Egan, who heads the order's Mount St Alphonsus monastery in Limerick, strongly defended Fr Flannery in an interview with the Sunday Independent.
Fr Flannery wrote for Reality at the time of Mr Kenny's unprecedented attack on the church, which culminated in the Government's closure of the Irish embassy in Rome.
Fr Flannery wrote in the aftermath of the Taoiseach's address: "I was happy with the Taoiseach's statement . . . Many of us priests are frustrated with the way the Vatican conducts its business."
Fr Egan said the punishment of Fr Flannery was due to "a combination of things".
"It's about his involvement in the Association of Irish Priests, the things he might have preached about, that many of us have preached about -- maybe the connection through his brother to Enda Kenny. I imagine that Tony had no part in that (speech)," Fr Egan said.
Fr Flannery joined the Redemptorist Order in 1964 with his two brothers Frank and Peter. Frank Flannery left before his studies were complete and later became and remains a senior figure in Fine Gael.