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Dissident Irish priest will defy Vatican, risk further disciplinary action

January 21, 2013

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A prominent Irish priest has announced that he will reject a directive from the Vatican and refuse to sign a statement affirming Church teachings on the nature of priestly ordination.

Father Tony Flannery had been silenced by the Vatican last year because of his statements supporting the ordination of women and questioning Church teachings on contraception and on homosexuality. At a January 20 press conference in Dublin he said that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) had ordered him to sign a statement of support for Church teaching, and threatened further disciplinary action if he refused.

“Either I sign a statement, for publication, stating that I accepted teachings that I could not accept, or I would remain permanently banned from priestly ministry, and maybe face more serious sanctions,” Father Flannery said. He claimed that his disagreements with the Vatican involved “not matters of fundamental teaching, but rather of Church governance.” Actually his published writings have questioned fundamental Catholic doctrines; he has not only opposed the ban on ordination of women but also said that he does not believe that "the priesthood as we currently have it in the Church originated with Jesus."

Father Flannery complained bitterly about the Vatican handling of his case, charging that the CDF had refused to meet with him to discuss his views and that the Vatican routinely punishes critics “because they would not toe the line.” He said that although “I find myself forbidden to minister as a priest, with a threat of excommunication and dismissal from my congregation hanging over me,” he would not accede to the Vatican’s demand.

The Association of Catholic Priests, a dissident group that Father Flannery had helped to found, issued a strong statement of support for the embattled priest, denouncing the Vatican for “a callousness and even brutality” in its handling of his case.

Father Flannery’s Redemptorist community expressed regret that talks between the Vatican and the priest had broken down. Without endorsing Father Flannery’s unorthodox views, the community voiced concern over the Vatican’s handling of the matter. The Redemptorist statement said: “It is of immense regret that some structures or processes of dialogue have not yet been found in the Church which have a greater capacity to engage with challenging voices from among God's people, while respecting the key responsibility and central role of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”


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  • Posted by: Gil125 - Jan. 21, 2013 2:33 PM ET USA

    It sounds as if his next step is to draw up, say, 95 theses and nail them on his church door.