The Irish priest muzzled by the Vatican for his liberal views has received overwhelming support from colleagues worldwide, with a senior member of the Irish Redemptorist order saying liberal priests are being subjected to FBI-like attention from ultra-orthodox “Catholic agents”.
Fr Adrian Egan, who heads the order’s Mount St Alphonsus monastery in Limerick, went on radio in Limerick yesterday to deliver a stinging attack on the Vatican.
Speaking in a personal capacity and not on behalf of the Redemptorists, he described himself as “dismayed, disappointed, flabbergasted, amazed, and hugely disappointed at the action by the Vatican”.
In a forceful interview, Fr Egan claimed priests were being subjected to FBI-like attention from Catholic agents who wanted to silence anyone brave enough to voice their opinions from the pulpit.
Fr Egan said: “The reality is that there are people sitting in churches on a daily basis that are almost listening to hear you express an opinion, that might be seen as dissenting and they will report you.”
It also emerged yesterday that Fr Tony Flannery, a brother of Fine Gael’s top strategist Frank Flannery and founding member of the Association of Catholic Priests (IACP), is not the only member of the Redemptorist Order in Ireland who has received a rap on the knuckles.
Fr Gerard Moloney, who edits the Reality magazine in which Fr Flannery’s columns have appeared for 14 years, has also been informed that not only is Fr Flannery’s column to be halted but any content which may run contrary to the Church’s teachings should not be commissioned.
Fr Flannery was first informed of his censure by Rome two months ago and has travelled there to argue his case.
Hailed for religious retreat work, he spent most of Lent on retreat in Galway, Limerick and Belfast.
It is understood that Fr Flannery has been inundated with phonecalls and emails from priests inside and outside the Redemptorist Order.
The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith first contacted the Redemptorist Order in Rome with an order that Fr Flannery no longer be allowed to write in the Irish order’s Reality magazine or on the IACP website.
He was also forbidden to do any media work. The dictat was then passed on to the Irish order.
Fr Flannery is still allowed to say Mass.
Fr Flannery has written several books and been a vocal critic of the Church’s opposition to artificial contraception, the ordination of women, and celibacy.
He also backed Taoiseach Enda Kenny when he made his controversial Dáil speech lambasting the Vatican for its role in covering up the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests.
Just recently, Fr Flannery said that bishops and priests taking part in the Eucharistic Congress next June should wear a modern take on “sackcloth and ashes”.
“Bishops and cardinals wearing mitres, surrounded by hundreds of vested priests, will give out the wrong message,” he said.
“The celebration would be simple and humble, asking forgiveness not just for the abuse of children, but for the other abuses of power perpetrated by Church people in the past.”
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