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Priests defend rebel silenced by Vatican

IRISH clerics have rallied around a priest advised by the Vatican to take six weeks to "reflect" on his open-minded beliefs.

The Vatican's attitude to Fr Tony Flannery is causing conflict between priests here and the Church hierarchy.

Well-known Dublin priest Fr Peter McVerry said he was "saddened but not surprised" by the Church's actions in ending Fr Flannery's monthly column for the Redemptorist magazine Reality. Senior clergy in Rome are understood to be annoyed by Galway priest's views on contraception, celibacy and women's ordination.

And today a senior Irish priest hit out at the "diktat culture of obedience to authority", accusing the Pope and his advisers of attempting to row back on Catholic Church reforms initiated in the 1960s by Vatican II.

Fr Sean McDonagh, a founder of the 800 strong Association of Catholic Priests, set up two years ago to give a voice to priests within the Irish church, said: "It's a bit like Walmart, where you have the CEO in Rome and his people there decide on policy and then insist that the bishops, as branch managers, implement that.

"If Rome says 'jump' are we simply expected to say 'how high?' Operating like a multinational where the number one requirement is obedience is at total variance with the Church of Jesus," Fr McDonagh said.

He was speaking ahead of a survey published today that shows a widening gap between the views of Catholics in Ireland and the Vatican.

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