ARCHBISHOP Diarmuid Martin has said the spate of censures of five Irish priests by the Vatican should have been dealt with by the Irish church instead of Rome.
He was speaking on RTE Radio about the publication of an in-depth interview with Pope Francis by the Italian Jesuit journal 'La Civiltà Cattolica', in which the Pontiff criticised the excessive number of denunciations sent to Rome about priests and theologians complaining of their lack of orthodoxy.
In the interview, the Pope said these conflicts over orthodoxy should be handled by local bishops' conferences rather than the Curia.
Responding, Dr Martin said he hoped that the problems and the tensions within the Irish church would be eased "so that we get away from a climate of bickering into one in which we all work together."
He said he also strongly believed that these matters should always begin with the local church and where possible be resolved within the local church.
Noting that Irish society had been through some difficult years, Dr Martin said he agreed with the Pope that the church shouldn't be so over-concerned by just abortion, gay marriage and contraceptives.
Meanwhile, censured Redemptorist priest Fr Tony Flannery who has been threatened with excommunication by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith – over his stand on women priests and contraception – told the Irish Independent that what the Pope said, "seems to amount to a fairly substantial critique of the way in which the Curia and, in particular, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith have been operating."
In his interview, the Pope said that in some cases, when Vatican Congregations are not functioning well, "they run the risk of becoming institutions of censorship".
The Pope's call for local bishops' conferences to handle such matters could potentially be "good news" for Fr Flannery and the other censured Irish priests.
"It changes the rules of the game in the sense that it appears that the Curia has largely been taken out of the business of dealing with disciplinary matters and it has been handed back to the local church to deal with it," he said.
For Fr Flannery, that means that the matter should be dealt with by his Redemptorist congregation.
The priest – whose recently launched book 'A Question of Conscience' has sold out and a second reprint is due in just over a weeks' time – said there was "no question" that the Pope was criticising the "thought police" who spent their time reporting people to Rome.