Outspoken priest’s talk halted by bishop

Fr Tony Flannery has said the Bishop of Cloyne’s intervention to stop him addressing a parish event in East Cork shows the Church’s claim of wanting to give voice to the laity was “empty and meaningless talk”.

Outspoken priest’s talk halted by bishop

He had been asked two months ago to give a lecture and take part in a question and answer session at Killeagh Parish Pastoral Council’s ‘Spiritfest’ event.

The founder of the Association of Catholic Priests said the invite had been issued to him by the pastoral council and the talk was due to take part in the community hall, “not on church property”.

However, according to Fr Tim Hazelwood, parish priest in Killeagh, a notice in this weekend’s parish newsletter will inform parishioners that “Fr Flannery will not be speaking because he is out of ministry and the bishop has asked that he not speak”.

It is understood Bishop William Crean of Cloyne travelled to the parish earlier this week and met with the pastoral council and said the talk should not go ahead.

Last night Fr Flannery said: “To find that an Irish bishop, and indeed one of the younger recently appointed ones, is pushing the notion of silencing and going to the extreme of not allowing me to give a talk in a community hall, is utterly unacceptable.

“I think it is quite appalling in the era of Pope Francis who is constantly urging people to speak their minds and speak freely to each other, to have an Irish bishop so blatantly preventing someone like me from speaking.”

He said the invite had been issued by a group of lay people at a time when the Church and bishops “have been talking constantly in the last while about the importance of the laity and giving a voice to the laity”.

“This shows up what an empty, meaningless talk that is,” he said. “That the bishop can come, which he did the other evening, and just quote his authority, and say ‘no, you cannot do that’, and they have no comeback to him. The question I would have when lay people see something like this happening is what is the point in any lay person involving themselves in the church when, ultimately, they can be pushed aside like a fly?”

Fr Flannery, who espoused what had been perceived in Rome in the past to be liberal views on contraception, celibacy, and female priests, said the move by the bishop was “very foolish”.

He said he gave more than 20 talks around Ireland last year without fuss.

“I mainly talked about Pope Francis because I am a greater admirer of his. They all went off quietly and it was grand. This would have been the same. Now it has descended into this and that is just utter stupidity on the part of the bishop.”

Last night the bishop said in a statement: “While the Parish Pastoral Council extended this invitation in good faith, I have been obliged to inform the members that — having spoken with Fr Flannery’s superior, the Provincial of the Redemptorist Order in Ireland — I am unable to approve the extension of this invitation at this time.

“The reason being is that Fr Flannery is currently out of ministry and the policy of the Diocese of Cloyne is that a priest who is out of ministry, for whatever reason, cannot exercise a public ministry.”

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