A Redemptorist priest who has been suspended from active ministry for the past eight years has asked whether the hierarchy in the Catholic Church will now change its approach to him after senior clerics expressed support for the ordination of women.
Fr Tony Flannery, a founder of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) and a priest since 1974, has been a longstanding advocate of women priests, one of the issues which has put him on collision course with authorities in the Vatican.
However, in a statement issued on Sunday Fr Flannery highlighted comments made by the Archbishop-elect of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, in which the incoming Archbishop said he would like to see women becoming deacons in the church.
This morning I issued the following press statementhttps://t.co/AA20QNZmT3— Tony Flannery (@FlanneryTony) January 3, 2021
As recently as last September Fr Flannery, 73, said that he had been informed that unless he signed four strict oaths of fidelity to Catholic teaching, he would not return to public ministry.
"In the last while two senior members of the Catholic Church have made statements about the position of women in the Church, and specifically about women’s ordination," Fr Flannery said.
"Bishop Batzing, the President of the German Bishops Conference is reported by, among many other outlets, as saying he is in favour of women being ordained deacons. He goes on to say, in relation to the arguments against the ordination of women: 'I must honestly say that I am also aware that these arguments are becoming less and less convincing and that there are well-developed arguments in theology in favour of opening up the sacramental ministry to women as well.'
"The Archbishop-elect of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, in an interview with the, said he would like to see women becoming deacons in the church. He is reported as going on to say that 'the biggest barrier to having female priests in the Catholic Church is probably tradition, not the Scriptures'. In saying this he appears to undercut the main argument used by the Church against the ordination of women.
"Will either of these two senior clerics be asked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to sign a document which states; 'a baptised male alone receives ordination validly'?
"It is not my wish that they be requested to do so but it is worth pointing out that this is what I have been ordered to sign as a precondition of being 'gradually' restored to ministry."
Fr Flannery also highlighted comments from both Bishop Batzing and Archbishop-elect Farrell on the possibility of changes to Church teaching on homosexuality, including a comment from the latter that Pope Francis had given Catholics “a great lead” on homosexuality.
"Given that the opinions I have expressed on these matters are now being held and expressed by many people of all levels right across the Church, without any apparent sanction, I am curious to know how any Church authority, ecclesiastical or religious, justify and condone the sentences that have been imposed upon me?" Fr Flannery said.