Priest: Credit Benedict for sparking open discussion

Outspoken Redemptorist Fr Tony Flannery, who was threatened with excommunication under the reign of Pope Benedict, has paid tribute to the former pope for stepping down — because, whether he intended it or not, he had paved the way for open discussion within the Church.

Priest: Credit Benedict for sparking open discussion

Fr Flannery, who was summoned to the Vatican last year and silenced because of his views on contraception, priestly celibacy and the ordination of women, said he found it extraordinary that his best lines were now being taken by senior cardinals.

The period since Benedict’s retirement had been “amazing”, with a new spirit blowing through the Vatican.

The Galway-based priest had been summoned to Rome in March of last year after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expressed concerns about the ‘orthodoxy’ of his views as expressed in articles he prepared for the Redemptorist magazine, Reality.

He was later banned from outlining his controversial views and told to withdraw from the Irish Association of Catholic Priests which he helped found. Fr Flannery was advised to take time out for spiritual and theological reflection, but has chosen to continue to articulate his views in public.

He has been supported by numerous colleagues, including Jesuit campaigner for social justice, Fr Peter McVerry who described attempts by Rome to suppress discussion as “surely a sign of fear”.

Writing in this week’s edition of the Connacht Tribune, Fr Flannery said what had happened since Benedict resigned had taken him completely by surprise.

“There was an outbreak of open discussion about the problems within the Church that began to happen as soon as Benedict stepped down. He deserves great credit, because, whether he intended it or not, his decision to retire was what set the wheels of discussion in motion.

“Then over the next few weeks, we had archbishops and cardinals saying things about the Church that up to then were only being said by groups like the Association of Catholic Priests.

“There was suddenly a widespread recognition of the urgent need for reform and renewal in the Church. People at the highest level began to accept that the reforms of the Second Vatican Council had not been properly implemented.

“And most strongly of all, almost everyone going into the conclave seemed to accept that the Vatican structure, what we call the curia, was dysfunctional and not serving the Church well.

“There were even suggestions of possible corruption within the Vatican. For people like ourselves in the ACP, who had been saying these things for the past few years, it was extraordinary to hear our best lines being taken by senior cardinals.”

The simple style of Pope Francis and the early indications of the new regime were promising, he said.

“His love for the poor is also a good sign, and I am glad to see the end of the red shoes.”

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