Silenced priest frustrated by lack of support from bishops

Fr Tony Flannery has spoken about his frustration at the lack of support from the Catholic bishops since being withdrawn from public duties over his views on reforming the church.

The founder of the Association of Catholic Priests said his experience of the last four years, having been ordered by the Vatican not to minister publicly or to speak or write about his views, makes it hard to have much faith in the Church.

Fr Flannery spoke of the lack of process surrounding his dealings with the Vatican, which demanded he make public statements renouncing his views in relation to women priests and homosexuality, issues on which he opposes Catholic policy.

“I just think it’s so frustrating, the Irish bishops have never even contacted me in the last four years. Never shown me any element of support,” he told Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio 1. “They are in senior positions in an institution that is conducting affairs in a totally unjust and abusive fashion and they do nothing about it and I find that intolerable.

Last August, Bishop of Cloyne William Crean prevented the Redemptorist priest giving a talk at a community hall in east Cork. The bishop said he was unable to approve a parish pastoral council’s invitation, because a priest who is out of ministry cannot exercise a public ministry.

Fr Flannery also raised concern that the Association of Catholic Priests, which now has more than 1,000 members, is still unable to meet with the Papal Nuncio to Ireland.

He said that, instead of leaving the Catholic Church or the priesthood, as some suggest he should, he has got involved in an international effort to reform the Church, which is now also developing in Ireland.

“I’m now at this stage very involved in the international church movement, which is extremely stimulating and exciting and has opened up a whole new world to me,” he said.

“And in some ways this is the best period of my life right now.”

He said he had been more upset and angry about the experience of recent years of his brother, Frank Flannery, than he was about what had happened to himself.

The former Rehab boss stepped down in 2014 as a senior strategist with Fine Gael, whose recent electoral successes he was largely credited with. Despite Taoiseach Enda Kenny telling him to do so, he refused to appear before the Dáil Public Accounts Committee to answer questions about payments from the Rehab Group.

He retired as its chief executive in 2006 but had stayed on as a board member at the charity, whose use of public money was being probed by the PAC. In July 2014, the Dáil’s Committee on Procedure and Privileges told the PAC it could not compel him to appear.

Mr Flannery declined to say when he last met Mr Kenny, but told Ms O’Callaghan he still has the warmest regard for Fine Gael and for the Taoiseach.

“Enda Kenny and I are not enemies,” he said.

“I do not have negative feelings towards him at all. We soldiered far too much together for far too long for anything like that ever to come in on it.

“He will have my full backing in whatever way he might ever want it. And if he doesn’t want it, he has my very fond good wishes.”


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