In Ireland, Priest Is Planning to Defy the Vatican’s Orders to Stay Quiet


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Priest Is Planning to Defy the Vatican’s Orders to Stay Quiet

Jekaterina Saveljeva for The New York Times

The Rev. Tony Flannery, an Irish priest, was suspended by the Vatican last year. “I refuse to be terrified into submission,” he said.


Published: January 19, 2013

DUBLIN — A well-known Irish Catholic priest plans to defy Vatican authorities on Sunday by breaking his silence about what he says is a campaign against him by the church over his advocacy of more open discussion on church teachings.

The Rev. Tony Flannery, 66, who was suspended by the Vatican last year, said he was told by the Vatican that he would be allowed to return to ministry only if he agreed to write, sign and publish a statement agreeing, among other things, that women should never be ordained as priests and that he would adhere to church orthodoxy on matters like contraception and homosexuality.

“How can I put my name to such a document when it goes against everything I believe in,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “If I signed this, it would be a betrayal not only of myself but of my fellow priests and lay Catholics who want change. I refuse to be terrified into submission.”

Father Flannery, a regular contributor to religious publications, said he planned to make his case public at a news conference here on Sunday.

The Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote to Father Flannery’s religious superior, the Rev. Michael Brehl, last year instructing him to remove Father Flannery from his ministry in County Galway, to ensure he did not publish any more articles in religious or other publications, and to tell him not to give interviews to the news media.

In the letter, the Vatican objected in particular to an article published in 2010 in Reality, an Irish religious magazine. In the article, Father Flannery, a Redemptorist priest, wrote that he no longer believed that “the priesthood as we currently have it in the church originated with Jesus” or that he designated “a special group of his followers as priests.”

Instead, he wrote, “It is more likely that some time after Jesus, a select and privileged group within the community who had abrogated power and authority to themselves, interpreted the occasion of the Last Supper in a manner that suited their own agenda.”

Father Flannery said the Vatican wanted him specifically to recant the statement, and affirm that Christ instituted the church with a permanent hierarchical structure and that bishops are divinely established successors to the apostles.

He believes the church’s treatment of him, which he described as a “Spanish Inquisition-style campaign,” is symptomatic of a definite conservative shift under Pope Benedict XVI.

“I have been writing thought-provoking articles and books for decades without hindrance,” he said. “This campaign is being orchestrated by a secretive body that refuses to meet me. Surely I should at least be allowed to explain my views to my accusers.”

His superior was also told to order Father Flannery to withdraw from his leadership role in the Association of Catholic Priests, a group formed in 2009 to articulate the views of rank-and-file members of the clergy.

In reply to an association statement expressing solidarity with Father Flannery, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith denied it was acting in a secretive manner, pointed out that Father Flannery’s views could be construed as “heresy” under church law, and threatened “canonical penalties,” including excommunication, if he did not change his views.

This month, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote to an American priest,Roy Bourgeois, notifying him of his laicization, following his excommunication in 2008 over his support for the ordination of women.

A version of this article appeared in print on January 20, 2013, on page A8 of the New York edition with the headline: Priest Is Planning to Defy Vatican’s Orders to Stay Quiet.



    22 Responses to “In Ireland, Priest Is Planning to Defy the Vatican’s Orders to Stay Quiet”

  1. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    Fr. Flannery, MY KINDA GUY! HOORAY!!!


  2. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    Fr. Flannery: http://www.rte.ie/news/player/2013/0120/3472465-priest-facing-excommunication-over-views/

  3. Thomas Says:

    A priest should always tell the truth, eventhough his superiors request him to go against his conscience…or to lie.

  4. Thomas Says:

    Might I say, to hell with the Vatican—trust in God alone!

  5. Thomas Says:

    Terrorism in all forms is a crime against humanity.

  6. ERW Says:

    I am surprised, the Vatican has not acted against the very well known abotts of Switzerland, who openly talk to the media, demanding chuch reform: Martin
    Werlen of Einsiedeln at the end of 2012, and now Von Sury of Mariastein. The later actually publically does bring up the issues of women’s ordination, and priestly celibacy. Those are issues for which the Vatcan is censoring the Irish priest for and defrocked Burgois for.

    And those 2 abbotts are quoted internationally, in the National Catholic Reporter and the British Tablet, as well as secular outlets. So far not a beep to silence those 2 high ranking men.

    But then the Swiss have substantial leverage against Rome: Money and propberty! Abotts of the Benedictine orders own vast holdings of fabulous properties. The parishes in Catholic states have exclusive title to parish property, no corporation sole. The bishops can not get their hands on it. No decision making power over parish assets! Really! And if those parishes do not like a bishop of their diocese, they will not pay their tax for diocesan adminstration. One example is the present archishop of Lichtenstein, whom John Paul 2 had to remove from the largest diocese in Switzerland for lack of funding of the parishes.

    That is the reason, the laity of this USA, (and anywhere for that matter) have to get balance of power by getting power and control over all the material assets of their parishes, which they provided themselves. If they attain that, the Vatican will stop harrasing and oppressing them. They have not excommunicated or deforcked any Swiss for non-compliances.

  7. Thomas Says:

    Only a TRYANT has the audacity to punish the FAITHFUL. People are always fearful of dictators regardless of what their titles are.

  8. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    Abbot Van Werlen: http://www.dici.org/en/news/switzerland-a-controversial-pamphlet-exposes-the-underlying-tension/

  9. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    Abbot Peter von Sury: http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2012/12/15/swiss-abbot-harshly-criticizes-church-structures-calls-for-reform-in-the-system-of-naming-bishops/

  10. ERW Says:

    Thanks for the link

    The proper name for the Diocese Coire is Chur, as it it in the german part. Coire I have never seen or heard ever before.. The largest diocese in the nation is located in the East-Southeashtern part of the country. Its bishop, an Opus Dei cult member is of course the most conervate you could find anywhere. His underlings are of course equal. In recent years they engaged a tactic of divide and conquer the taithful, thourgh the media in a most insidious way.

    Giuseppe Garcia is wrong in claiming, the pope has the only right to appoint bishops, as ancient documentation prove. Besides, it is in some Swiss dioceses that that even the laity, the clergy, and Cathedreal Canons, have input in the bishop selection. In those dioceses they are standing firmly on the documents wh;ich granted them these rights. Of course, they hierarchs want to do away even with this limited rights, as the Swiss are a “bad” example for the rest of the world. Catholic elswhere might just want the same and more, aws they now find out about trough speedy media. For the same reason the Vatican and Swiss bishops fight for control of parish property. I hope they never succeed.

  11. ERW Says:

    The above blogt made a mistakel The Abbey of Mariastein–with Abbot Peter Von Sury–is NOT situated in the diocese of Chur, but the diocese of Basel, the Northwest of Switzerland, and in the Kanton (state) of Solothurn. And there Abbott Peter Von Sury brought up forbidden church subjects just recently.

    It is the major Abbey of Einsiedeln which is within the bounderies of the diocse of Chur, where controversal Abott Martin Werlen has made wawes to the press last Fall. That abbey is located in the Kanton (state) of Schwyz, in central Switzerland.

    Let’s see, if Rome is able to silence tose 2 gutsy men off.

  12. Thomas Says:

    This Church needs a make-over in the worst way. The only leader the apostles had was Christ. They did not look to each other for a leader. They were equals—all priests are equals—get it? I guess not!

  13. Thomas Says:

    The selection of Bishops and Cardinals is linked to what appears to be kin to bribery and paying for the office by building shrines, donations, promoting agendas, and preventing scandal and loss of revenue. If I wore a hat, I would take it off to these 2 prelates. Something has to change…the Church cannot go on like this. In community, hierarchy are a part of God’s people too—these are the ranks from which they came…independent, they are on their own…self-seeking and self-gratifying. Leadership needs to dismount from their sacred cow—come off your sacred cow…and let the community of Christ manage their Church properly.

  14. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    after i read about all the pork for sale in switzerland, I’ve decided never to visit there again!!!


    it’s so disturbing…don’t go

  15. ERW Says:

    Europe as well as this country is full of saugages.

    No, I will not go there anymore either, and sauages I can get in any supermarket, as many varieties as overseas, and cheaper. Not the healthiest diet.

  16. Thomas Says:

    Are you saying that our gay brothers and sisters don’t eat pork??????

  17. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    Take a look and tell me you want to eat one ever again…NOT!


  18. Frank Lostaunau Says:


    see what I mean?

  19. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    Intelligence: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/science/10angier.html?_r=0

  20. Thomas Says:

    Animals are smarter than we think…they might even have a spark of the Divine in them. OK—I won’t eat a pig…nor will I visit Rome until all of the swine have left!

  21. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    Sanctuary and The DOCTOR!


  22. Thomas Says:

    Pork…it’s what the Cardinals eat! There goes the neighborhood!!!!!

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