Vatican gag order under fire from 800 priests
A GROUP representing more than 800 priests has branded the silencing of a Redemptorist cleric over his liberal views as unfair.
The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) said the intervention by the Vatican against Fr Tony Flannery was ill-advised and said it could exacerbate the perceived "disconnect" between the Irish church and Rome.
Fr Flannery, a founding member of the association established less than two years ago, has had his column with the religious magazine 'Reality' discontinued after the Vatican stepped in. In its statement, the ACP said it was "disturbed" Fr Flannery was "being silenced".
"We affirm in the strongest possible terms our . . . solidarity with Fr Flannery and wish to make clear our view that this intervention is unfair, unwarranted and unwise."
Fr Flannery, an Athenry-based Redemptorist, has expressed views on the ending of celibacy, opening up the church to lay people and women and his frustration at the way in which the Vatican operates.
The move against Fr Flannery comes just weeks after the report of the Apostolic Visitation said there was a tendency among some priests in Ireland to hold theological opinions at variance to church doctrine.
Fr Flannery declined to comment on the intervention when contacted by the Irish Independent.
A second priest, Fr Gerard Moloney, the magazine's editor, has also been stopped from writing on various topics.
The ACP said issues raised by the association and Fr Flannery were not designed to be an attack on the fundamental teachings of the church.
"While some reactionary fringe groups have contrived to portray our association as a small coterie of radical priests with a radical agenda, we . . . are at the very heart of the church, committed to putting into place the reforms of the Second Vatican Council," the ACP statement said.
There has been a strong reaction from some clergy to the Vatican's intervention.
On Good Friday Fr Adrian Egan -- the head of the Redemptorist Order in Limerick -- said priests were being subjected to attention from Catholic "agents" who wanted to silence anyone brave enough to voice their own opinions from the pulpit.
Fr Peter McVerry said he was saddened but not surprised that Fr Flannery was silenced and Fr Moloney and 'Reality' magazine reined in. "The attempts by Rome to suppress any discussion about issues such as ordination of women and compulsory celibacy are surely a sign of fear," he said.