Pressure on silenced cleric to retract outspoken views

An Athenry cleric who was placed under investigation and silenced by the Vatican earlier this year for his outspoken views is now being put under further pressure to sign retraction documents.

In April of this year the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP ), which represents more than 800 priests, came out in support of founding member Fr Tony Flannery and branded his forced silencing by the Vatican as “ill-advised” and “unfair”. The group issued the statement of solidarity after Fr Flannery was placed under investigation by the Vatican because of his outspoken views. The Vatican also ordered the discontinuation of Fr Flannery’s column in the religious magazine Reality, a column which he has written for 14 years.

According to reports this week, the Redemptorist cleric is now facing a new challenge. It is understood he has been contacted by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF ) and given documents to sign demanding his retraction on a certain number of his liberal views. These include his views on the campaign for women’s ordination and married priests, a complete re-think on contraception, and on what he views as the harsh and insensitive language used by the Church in its teaching on homosexuality. Reports also suggest that Fr Flannery may have been singled out because of his support of Taoiseach Enda Kenny who critised the Vatican following the release of the Cloyne Report.

The first move to silence Fr Flannery came soon after Pope Benedict, in the Holy Thursday homily at St Peter’s Basilica, denounced disobedience, warning that the Church will not tolerate priests speaking out against Catholic teaching and chastised any priests who sought the ordination of women or the abolition of celibacy for priests.

It is understood that Fr Flannery is not the only outspoken cleric to face the wrath of the Vatican; Reality editor, Fr Gerard Maloney, was banned earlier this year from writing on various topics, and Fr Brian D’Arcy, as well as several other priests, received stern warnings.

The statement issued by ACP in April stressed that the issues raised by the association and by Fr Flannery as part of the leadership team “are not an attack on or a rejection of the fundamental teachings of the Church. Rather they are an important reflection by an association of more than 800 Irish priests – who have given long service to the Catholic Church in Ireland – on issues surfacing in parishes all over the country.

“At this critical juncture in our history, the ACP believes that this form of intervention – what Archbishop Diarmuid Martin recently called ‘heresy-hunting’ – is of no service to the Irish Catholic Church and may have the unintended effect of exacerbating a growing perception of a significant ‘disconnect’ between the Irish Church and Rome.”

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