The Association of Catholic Priests has accused the Vatican of trying to silence its founding member Fr Tony Flannery and warned the move will exacerbate the perceived “disconnect” between the Irish Church and Rome.
In a statement, three other leaders of the 800-strong association, Fr Brendan Hoban, Fr Sean McDonagh, and Fr PJ Madden, said they were disturbed by the fact that Fr Flannery was being silenced.
It emerged last weekthat the priest’s monthly column with Reality, the Redemptorists’ monthly magazine, had been discontinued on the orders of the Vatican.
The magazine’s editor, Fr Gerard Moloney, is also banned from writing on certain, controversial issues.
“We believe that such an approach, in its individual focus on Fr Flannery and inevitably by implication on the members of the association, is an extremely ill-advised intervention in the present pastoral context in Ireland,” the three priests said in their statement.
“We affirm in the strongest possible terms our confidence in and solidarity with Fr Flannery and we wish to make clear our profound view that this intervention is unfair, unwarranted and unwise.”
Fr Flannery has espoused what are perceived in Rome to be liberal views on contraception, celibacy, and female priests.
“The issues surfaced by the [Association of Catholic Priests] since its foundation less than two years ago and by Tony Flannery as part of the leadership team are not an attack on or a rejection of the fundamental teachings of the Church,” the statement continued.
“Rather they are an important reflection by an association of over 800 Irish priests — who have given long service to the Catholic Church in Ireland — on issues surfacing in parishes all over the country.”
They said some “reactionary fringe groups” had contrived to portray the association as a “small coterie of radical priests with a radical agenda”.
“We have protested vehemently against that unfair depiction.
“We are and we wish to remain at the very heart of the Church, committed to putting into place the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.”
They said they wished to register their “extreme unease and disquiet at the present development, not least the secrecy surrounding such interventions and the questions about due process and freedom of conscience that such interventions surface”.
“At this critical juncture in our history, the [association] 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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