Church reform like ‘beating one’s head against a wall’ says Church official

A leading advocate for reform in the Catholic Church has said trying to bring about about meaningful change is “like beating one’s head against a stone wall”.

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), which represents more than 1,000 priests across the country, and a four-man delegation of Irish bishops, are due to hold their first face-to-face talks in three years on Thursday.

Fr Tony Flannery, a founding member of the group, has admitted he fears the meeting is little more than a token gesture from Church leaders and will not pave the way for significant reform.

Speaking ahead of the talks, which take place at Columba Centre in Maynooth, Co Kildare, the veteran Redemptorist said: “Experience leads me to have little hope or expectation from the meeting. I suspect the motivation of the Bishops Conference is to quieten us, and stop us from saying they won’t meet us.”

Fr Flannery, one of several clerics ‘silenced’ by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith for his liberal views, also called for ongoing dialogue between the clergy and church authorities to tackle to the vocations crisis.

Writing on his website,, he said: “The ACP delegation is strong, and maybe they will be able to get something useful out of [the meeting]. I hope so. But in order to be anyway worthwhile, it would have to be the first of a series of meetings. And that is unlikely. I think that it is fair to say that the Irish clergy, and indeed the Irish Church, are tired and demoralised. There is a terrible dearth of leadership. Trying to bring about any meaningful change seems more and more to me like beating one’s head against a stone wall.”

Fr Flannery, 69, from Athenry, was suspended from public Ministry four years ago for his liberal views on women priests, homosexuality, and contraception.

Although he has conceded he is unlikely to be allowed to practise again, he has gained a high profile outside Ireland, particularly the US, where he is often invited as a speaker on church reform.


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