A senior Vatican-based cardinal has accused Fr Tony Flannery, the founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, of undermining the faith of Catholics.
Cardinal William Levada, a member of the powerful Vatican watchdog the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, also said priests risk spreading confusion if they preach their own views instead of Church teaching.
Cardinal Levada, 77, served as chief adviser to Pope Benedict XVI and was responsible for leading an investigation that led to Fr Flannery being suspended.
In an interview with The Irish Catholic, Cardinal Levada insisted that Fr Flannery was not — as had been reported — investigated for his views on married priests but because of articles he wrote about the priesthood and the Eucharist.
Fr Flannery, the cardinal said, “takes to the news a lot”, but “I have never seen in any reports what the fundamental problem was that led to our intervention.
“[Fr Flannery] likes to say ‘because I’m for married priests’. This is not the case: He wrote two articles in Reality magazine in which he questioned, undermined, the teaching of the Church on the Eucharist and on the priesthood. If you hold these positions you are formally in heresy [in the Catholic Church].”
Fr Flannery, a Redemptorist and founder-member of the Association of Catholic Priests, is one of a number of Irish priests investigated by the Vatican.
Cardinal Levada said priests “cannot simply come out and say ‘I don’t accept this’ or ‘I don’t like this’. They have a responsibility, otherwise they use their role to produce confusion and people may hear them preaching from the pulpit or read what they write about something that’s contrary to the faith.”
The remarks that aroused concern in the Vatican were in a 2010 article in which Fr Flannery wrote: “I no longer believe that the priesthood, as we currently have it in the Church, originated with Jesus. More likely that sometime after Jesus, a select and privileged group within the community who had abrogated power and authority to themselves, interpreted the occasion of the Last Supper in a manner that suited their own agenda.”
Asked by The Irish Catholic to comment on the cardinal’s remarks, Fr Flannery said: “I have put all the documentation into the public domain — all published in my book, A Question of Conscience — and I am happy to leave it at that, and let the readers judge for themselves.”
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