AN organisation representing hundreds of priests last night described the silencing of Fr Sean Fagan over his writings as "outrageous".
The 84-year-old Marist priest was ordered to stop writing and commenting in public after he had called for an inquiry into clerical sexual abuse in all dioceses of the State.
All available copies of a theological book written by Fr Fagan were also bought up by his religious order and he was required to give an undertaking not to write again.
The move came after he had advocated allowing women and married men to be ordained as priests.
Last night, Fr Sean McDonagh of the Association of Catholic Priests said the silencing of Fr Fagan was "just outrageous". He accused the church of "throwing a fatwa" at the priest and said that some of the church's recent actions were like a return to the Inquisition.
"This isn't the time for heresy hunting," Fr McDonagh said. He added that Fr Fagan was clear, well written and interesting and that he had wanted to start a conversation about the church's views on sexuality.
Fr McDonagh said that he believed that the silencing of priests by the Vatican was out of a desire for "control", rather than because of sincerely held belief or intelligent argument.
A spokesman for the Irish bishops last night refused to comment and referred the issue to the Marist order.
Calls to a superior of the order by the Irish Independent, which was seeking comment, went unreturned last night.
In January 2010, following the publication of the Murphy report, Fr Fagan argued that all dioceses within the State should be examined.
He said the church should begin with "the three As" approach -- to admit, accept and adjust.
This was among the last public comments he made before he was silenced three months later, following an anonymous complaint made against him to the Vatican.
Fr Fagan authored three books, including 'Has Sin Changed?', 'Does Morality Change?' and 'What Happened to Sin?'
In 2004 the Irish Bishops' Conference cited 'Does Morality Change?' as an example of an error in modern theology.
Following the publication of 'What Happened to Sin?' in 2008, Fr Fagan advocated the ordination of women and married men.
All unsold copies of the book were subsequently bought up by his order.