A Redemptorist priest who has been suspended from active ministry since 2012 for publicly expressing support for women’s ordination and same-sex marriage, as well as liberal views on homosexuality has asked whether the hierarchy in the Catholic Church will now change its approach to him after senior clerics have now also expressed support for the ordination of women.
A co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, Fr Tony Flannery was suspended from public ministry by the Vatican in 2012.
He has since declined a Vatican offer of a return to ministry if he promised silence and signed statements on church teachings. The offer involved signing documents asserting traditional church teaching on women priests, homosexuality, same-sex marriage and gender theory.
Recently Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference, was reported as saying he favours women being ordained as deacons.
Archbishop-elect of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, has also said would like to see women becoming deacons in the church.
Fr Tony Flannery issued a statement asking if these clerics would be similarly treated for expressing their views: “In the last while two senior members of the Catholic Church have made statements about the position of women in the Church, and specifically about women’s ordination.
“Bishop Batzing, the President of the German Bishops Conference is reported by America Magazine, among many other outlets, as saying he is in favour of women being ordained deacons.
“The Archbishop-elect of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, in an interview with the Irish Times, said “he would like to see women becoming deacons in the church.” He is reported as going on to say that “the biggest barrier to having female priests in the Catholic Church is probably tradition, not the Scriptures”. In saying this he appears to undercut the main argument used by the Church against the ordination of women.
“Will either of these two senior clerics be asked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to sign a document which states; ‘a baptised male alone receives ordination validly’?
“It is not my wish that they be requested to do so but it is worth pointing out that this is what I have been ordered to sign as a precondition of being “gradually” restored to ministry.”
Archbishop-elect Farrell had also said in his interview that Pope Francis has given Catholics ‘a great lead’ on homosexuality, adding that the church’s description of it as a ‘strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil’ is language disliked by the Pope”.
Fr Flannery continued: “Will either of these two men be asked to sign the following, also from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:
‘Since homosexual practices are contrary to the natural law and do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity, they are not approved by the moral teaching of the Catholic Church’.
“Again, it is not my wish that they be requested to do so, but such is the statement demanded of me as a precondition of ‘gradually’ returning to priestly ministry.
“Given that the opinions I have expressed on these matters are now being held and expressed by many people of all levels right across the Church, without any apparent sanction, I am curious to know how any Church authority, ecclesiastical or religious, justify and condone the sentences that have been imposed upon me?”
A native of Attymon, near Athenry in County Galway, Fr Tony Flannery has been a priest since 1974 having joined the Redemptorists at the age of seventeen.
In 2012 it was brought to his attention that the Vatican objected to some of his articles in Reality magazine. He was summoned to Rome by the Superior General of the Redemptorists, and this began a long process which culminated in him being forbidden to minister as a priest, a situation that continues to this day. He has written a full account of his dealings with the Vatican in his latest book, A Question of Conscience.
He is under instruction from his religious authorities to remain silent, but in early 2013 he decided to ignore that stricture and go public. Since then he has been active in the reform movement around the world, and is currently giving a series of talks around the country entitled Repairing a Damaged Church.