Fr Flannery’s column in the order’s magazine, Reality, which he has written for 14 years has been banned by Rome.
Fr Adrian Egan, who heads the order’s Mount St Alphonsus monastery in Limerick, said he was dismayed, disappointed, flabbergasted, amazed, and hugely disappointed at the action by the Vatican. Speaking on Limerick’s Live 95FM, Fr Egan said: “I’m speaking on my own behalf and not for the Redemptorist order. I see nothing to be gained from silencing Tony.
“It doesn’t sit well in today’s culture and it doesn’t benefit anyone. He is articulating what he is hearing on the ground, on the coalface, from ordinary people.”
He described the move by the Vatican as a problem and claimed priests are been subjected to FBI-like attention from Catholic agents who want to silence anyone brave enough to voice their own 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’s a little bit like back, maybe in the Hoover days in America, where there are agents all around the place who are willing to lift a phone, or write a letter, to a local bishop or the Vatican, and say, ‘so and so did this’, and it may be of the most minor thing, and yet, they can be taken seriously.
“There’s something going on at the core of the Church, where there is this struggle going on between a desire to move us backwards into a more orthodox, conforming, non-questioning kind of faith, and another dimension which wants to bring us forward into a more adult kind of faith that allows people... to be able to express or articulate things that they are struggling with without fearing that they are going to be silenced.
“I want to be able to articulate what I feel and what I think about. We are now celebrating Holy Week and, in many ways, Jesus was a victim of those who wanted to silence him and those in power who didn’t like what he was saying. They wanted rid of him... and were prepared to trample on him. There is a sense of that here; this is not how you deal with people with whom you disagree.”
Fr Egan said, he shared many of Fr Flannery’s views about sexuality, women priests and married clergy. “He certainly has my support and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t have the support of the vast majority of his colleagues and of the congregation.”
Fr Egan said debating issues were part of the principles upon which the Redemptorist Order was founded and the Vatican’s stance against Fr Flannery “isn’t just a challenge to Tony really. It’s a challenge to anyone who wants to preach the Good News and to do it in a way that is true to the spirit of the Gospel”.
Fr Egan added: “We’re celebrating Good Friday today and at the heart of the Easter message is that the Passion is about how those in power and privilege abuse and brutalise the marginalised and the vulnerable.
“The story of the Resurrection is how, ultimately, that doesn’t succeed, and those in power don’t succeed and that truth wins out. There’s an element of that happening within what’s happening to Tony and within the Church these days.”
The Church, he said, needed to “practise what we preach”.