21Jan The ACP supports Tony Flannery

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) affirms in the strongest possible terms our confidence in and solidarity with Fr Tony Flannery as he strives to clear his name and we wish to protest against unjust treatment he has received from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The ACP supports Fr. Flannery in his efforts to resist the undermining of his integrity as an individual, a priest and a member of the Redemptorist Order.
The effort to depict him as ‘disloyal’ and ‘dissident’ is unwarranted and unfair, but also extremely ill-advised in the present pastoral context in Ireland.
The ACP is disturbed by the procedures evident in this case: the unwillingness to deal directly with the accused person; the injunction to secrecy; the presumption of guilt; the lack of due process. They suggest a callousness and even brutality that is in sharp contrast to the compassion of Jesus Christ.
The CDF argues that its’ instruction to secrecy protects the priest’s reputation. We believe that the priest himself should be the person to decide whether and with whom he should speak or whether he might decide to remain silent.
Fr. Flannery has spent his life in the service of the Church, attempting to spread the message of Jesus Christ. Yet, this same Church treats him disrespectfully, damaging his reputation and leaving him to contemplate an insecure and uncertain future.
It is surely a source of scandal that a body representing the Church, which is called to be a sign of the presence of God in the world, should act in a way that directly contradicts the call of Jesus Christ to treat others with respect.
There is a double standard at work when we preach the value and right of religious freedom to others and fail to honour them within our own Church.
The Church attempts to preach justice to the wider society while our own internal processes are lacking in justice.
We believe that the targeting of Fr Flannery is not about church teaching, his commitment to priesthood or ‘ecclesial communion’. We believe it is part of a worldwide effort to negate the influence of independent priests’ associations in Austria, USA, Germany, France, Switzerland and other places. The directive of the CDF, through the Redemptorist authorities, placing Fr Flannery under a formal precept of obedience not to attend the AGM of the ACP last November seems to confirm this view.
The emergence of our association in Ireland, the backing we have received from people and priests and the conviction with which we have argued for reform in line with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council are all presented as a form of institutional disloyalty, a charge we vehemently reject.
Finally, we repeat that the ACP affirms in the strongest possible terms our confidence in and solidarity with Fr Flannery and we protest at the treatment he has received from the CDF and the pressure that body put on the Redemptorist authorities to implement their decisions.

42 Responses

  1. Eddie Finnegan

    Thanks to the ACP leadership for that clear statement in Fr Tony’s defence.
    Now may we hope for a similarly robust statement from the four Archbishops, all of whose flocks have gained from Tony’s nomadic and pastoral attention over the decades – something at least as robust as their rebuttal of those Visitatorial charges against their oversight of seminaries over those same decades?
    And, in case we’re coming to a time when ACP’s leadership are no longer free to defend their members publicly, if the ACI is committed to achieving justice within the Church, based on “a renewed understanding of the primacy of the individual conscience”, its stand and actions on behalf of Fr Flannery and the ACP might be the clearest indication to “non-aligned” individual Catholics that it may have the makings of an association worth joining.

  2. Pascal O'Dea

    Fr Flannery deserves our support.The call by Fr Flannery (RTE NEWS) that the Irish Bishops declare their view on his treatment is a valid request.The Bishops’ response, or not, will be awaited by an increasingly disillusioned church membership.
    Pascal O’Dea

  3. Elizabeth

    Sadly the message of Jesus has been missing from the Vatican for a long long time.

    Without integrity a person is nothing. Although Jesus had a flock people are not sheep; they think and they feel and are entitled to be heard not herded.

    Well done to Fr Tony Flannery for standing up for what he knows is right and the the ACP for supporting him.

    I think the time is near when Catholics in Ireland demand a separation of the Church and state (the state being the Vatican).

  4. Frank Gregg

    Dear editor,

    I find it difficult to keep my composure when news like this emanates from the centre of our church. The same treatment was meted out to the the priest in the USA recently , without consultation or an opportunity to defend himself.

    Christian charity is completely absent in the behaviour of the CDF. They lose moral authority to be prescriptive in their decisions when they disobey the injunction of the Lord at the Last Supper, that leaders should be the servants of their flock rather than masters.

    i am ashamed of the behaviour of our hierarchical structures which underpin the clerical caste system which is now an anachronism in 2013.

    Leaders must be attentive to the leadsings of the Holy Spirit no less than all the members.

    it seems clear to me that the protection of the structures, reputations, assets, and power within the church have long replaced the Beatitudes which our Founder taught.

    The refusal of the Irish Hierarchy to dialogue with the ACP is further evidence of the closed – minded negativity which pervades their episcopate.

    Yours respectfully,
    Frank Gregg
    2 Liffey Drive Nrewbridge.
    Co. Kildare

    I offer my full support to the ACP in these difficulties.

  5. John Wotherspoon

    Each new gun massacre in the USA causes more and more people to call out “enough: the gun lobby must be opposed”.

    Each new person or group silenced/excommunicated by the Vatican causes more and more people to call out “enough: the Vatican juggernaut must be opposed”.

  6. roy donovan

    I want to add my full support to Tony and it is very sad that the CDF continues to treat so many priests like this and builds up a culture of fear and intimidation.
    It gives further credance to the existence of the ACP and the enormous need to speak truth to power and arrogance.
    The irony of today is that while the United States honours one of its greatest heroes in Martin Luther King, Jr., it reinstates Barack Obama, a coloured man as the 44th President of United States.
    How long more do we have to wait for the dreams of Jesus to be realised in Church structures that would proclaim from the rooftops that every man and woman are equal.

  7. Sue Brown

    So heartened to see a conscientious, thoughtful priest get real support from fellow priests who value his ministry. The institutional Church is becoming frighteningly conservative, suppressing naturally free, responsible thought and it is good to see priests band together to reach people with a more real version of the Gospel way. I give you my support and good wishes.

  8. Ciaran

    According to the Irish Times, Fr. Flannery has been instructed he must stop any involvement with the ACP.

    This does not bode well for the ACP.

    Perhaps some people should fulfil the logic of their stated beliefs, thereby facilitating the faithful in resolving their own confusion?

  9. Lily Garvey

    I wish to register my support for Fr Tony Flannery.

  10. John Lawless

    I agree with the sentiments of all those who have spoken out in favour of Fr. Tony. Like Eddie Finnegan (see above) I also say “Thanks to the ACP leadership for that clear statement in Fr Tony’s defence”. I will not hold my breath in awaiting support from the Irish hierarchy. However, I do believe that the majority of committed catholics, either “aligned” on “non-aligned” will see how ridiculous the situation is. The cleric church has clearly demonstrated its strategy of banishing the prophets and true servants of the gospel while promoting its own mandarins of power. I find myself in the “non-aligned” grouping; with Fr. Tony now in our midst, it’s becoming a badge of honour.

  11. Angela McParland

    I wish to register my support for Fr. Flannery and his request for open and honest debate on issues such as woman priests, celibacy and homosexuality. I commend the ACP for speaking out in Fr. Tony’s defence. Thank God the Holy Spirit is not confined by man made rules and regulations and blows where She will.

  12. Bridie McLoughlin

    I cannot understand how any Christian could expect anybody to sign something that is contrary to their conscience. It seems to contradict the very message of Christ. I wish Fr. Flannery every blessing at this difficult time.

  13. ger gleeson

    Disgusted like everyone else at the treatment of Fr Tony Flannery. It is truly amazing the people who are supposed to be in charge of our Church (Archbishops) are as usual silent. Are we to wait until they retire, and then they will advise, on mature reflection, where the Church went wrong?

  14. Tony Butler

    I offer my support to Tony Flannery, my brother-priest.
    Tony Butler

  15. Kevin Mallen

    The image of Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms came to mind when reading Tony Flannery’s letter in the paper to-day,”here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.” I feel like we are still stuck in the 1500’s. Does the CDF not realise the damage it’s doing? Is conscience not primary?Is history going to repeat itself without the lessons of history learned,and similar injustices done?It is ironic on the day President Obama’s speech highlighted the centrality of justice,equality and freedom as the birthright of every citizen that we have the CDF acting out the direct opposite.God’s people need to find their voice.Time to stand up without fear.

  16. John M. Gynn

    My heart goes out to Fr Flannery – I too have experienced suspension of faculties and effective ex-connunication at the hands of cruel and uncaring local church authority. It is the love and caring of family, friends, parishioners that sustains us and gives us the true experience of Christ with us. The more we are rejected by authority the more we should open our arms to one another. I am one of those featured in the up-coming ‘Lifers’ programme on RTÉ 1 on Jan 29th. God bless you Fr Tom

  17. John M. Gynn

    Forgive me Fr Tony for calling you Fr Tom – it is very early in the morning here and my brain is not yet fully functioning – my heart though is broken. I feel great distress as I think of what is being done to you. You love our Church – as do we all, and we want nothing more than for it to be the environment in which we encounter God in Jesus Christ.

  18. BRIAN H

    We have our leadership and it’s from POPE BENEDICT XVI and what ever he says goes with me. When we meet GOD our FATHER I think he will forgive us for doing and saying things that we thought were right in our short life here on earth, BUT will HE forgive the shepherd who has put us on the wrong path, I guess they will have to talk about that between themselfs. We will all have to wait and see.

  19. John F Deane

    It is clear to me that the CDF are showing the greatest disrespect to Fr Flannery in not engaging personally with him and in making demands that they know he, in conscience, cannot comply with. But this disrespect shown to a fine priest is also shown to those of us who are desperately trying to remain Catholic under these most trying of times. Christ’s central message, the message of the Kingdom, is love. It appears that this does not enter into the vocabulary of the CDF. We are all hurting along with Fr. Flannery.

    John

  20. Tony McDermott

    I have just discovered ACP through the courageous messages from Fr. Tony in the Irish Times and on the web. He is a communicator and a thought leader. Experiencing the strength of his Faith and his courage gives more to active, thinking Catholics than any matters of church governance emanating from the CDF. Tony McDermott, Dublin.

  21. Anne

    There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.

    -Martin Luther King Jr.-

  22. Charlie Meagher

    Source: http://www.ascensioncatholic.net/

    The document on the Church in the Modern World #16 stated clearly the important role of conscience in the life of the Christian.
    Commenting on paragraph #16 of the above document, theologian Fr. Joseph Razinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote in 1968:
    Commenting on paragraph #16 of the above document, theologian Fr. Joseph Razinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote in 1968:
    Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed above all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism.
    “In the final analysis, conscience is inviolable and no person is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his/her conscience, as the moral tradition of the Church attests.” (Human Life in Our Day, U.S. Bishops Pastoral)

    Source: http://www.ascensioncatholic.net/

  23. Bob Hayes

    Charlie (22), your link is to a home page. Have you a direct link to Fr Ratzinger’s 1968 commentary on Gaudium et Spes n.16?

  24. Brendan O'Connor

    My memory of my only personal encounter with a most understanding, compassionate and (for me) Christlike priest,Fr. Tony, in the 1970’s and the totally unjustified and unjust treatment of him now, convinces me now more than ever of the urgent need for renewal of Vatican II ideals in the Institutional Church of today. Time (for the People of God)to stand up and be counted?

  25. Josie O Reilly

    I wish to register my support to Fr Flannery

  26. Sean (Derry)

    Plenty of supportive comments from laity but where are the (often referred to) 1000 Irish priests who are members and supporters of the ACP? Now would be a good time to publically reveal your true identity and support the ACP founder.
    To Fr Tony Flannery I say, please reconsider your position within the Catholic Church and accept and reaffirm Her Holy teachings.
    You have said your choice is between Rome and your conscience. God has given each of us a free will and indeed every individual is not only free to choose but he is obliged to choose.
    “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20
    “Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.” Romans 1:20-21
    So whereas most Catholics agree with the Church that the conscience is used to guide a person’s behaviour, many then choose to ignore Catholic teaching with regard to forming their conscience. In fact Vatican II Dignitatis Humanae (Declaration on Religious Freedom) tells us quite clearly, “14: “In the formation of their consciences, the Christian faithful ought carefully to attend to the sacred and certain doctrine of the Church. [Cf. Pius XII, radio message, March 23, 1952: AAS 44 (1952) pp. 270-278] For the Church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of the truth. It is her duty to give utterance to, and authoritatively to teach, that truth which is Christ Himself, and also to declare and confirm by her authority those principles of the moral order which have their origins in human nature itself.”
    In seeking the truth to properly inform our conscience, Catholics can find no more certainty and truth than a dogma of the Catholic Church for a dogma is not just an opinion but is a truth revealed by God himself. The truth of God, revealed by God, does not change, as God himself does not change; Heaven and earth will disappear but my words will not disappear.
    Fortunately or unfortunately the Catholic Church will not force you or anyone else to follow these dogmatic truths nor will Jesus force anyone to follow him. Canon Law confirms this: Can. 748 ß2 “It is never lawful for anyone to force others to embrace the Catholic faith against their conscience.”
    Each person is individually invited to follow Jesus through the one true Catholic Church and the Catholic Church is obliged to teach each of us these truths. However you and I will always have the ‘freedom’ to accept or reject them, but that is not to suggest that either choice will produce the same consequences for each of us.
    I am not and have never been a fan of the ACP, but that said, I do care about every priest ordained by God, and truly and sincerely, Fr Flannery is in my prayers at this difficult time.

  27. Rita Madden

    I wish to register my complete support for Fr. Tony and hope that all of us who do so will demonstrate this in public.

  28. Catherine

    I am in whole hearted agreement with all who are in support of Tony and I hope and pray that he will be given all he needs to withstand this onslaught on the part of the CDF. It should never have happened.

    I find the actions of the CDF absolutely incredible. At 75yrs. old I never thought I’d hear of such a decision: one of our most Christlike priests silenced and threatened with excommunication.

    Congratulations Fr. Tony on your very corrageous stance. Your beliefs are mine and totally in accordance with my indepth conscience; not my cerebral conscience with its shoulds and demands, nor my socialized conscience which can be so influenced by what others might think or say. Does this mean that I too can be excommunicated? Well I’d prefer to be excommunicated by the CDF and totally accepted by our caring and compassionate Father who loves sinners.
    I too am with you Tony.

  29. Bob Hayes

    This – according to a quote in Saturday’s New York Times : http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/world/europe/priest-is-planning-to-defy-vaticans-orders-to-stay-quiet.html?_r=0 – is Tony Flannery’s belief about the Church:

    “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.”

    Do those supporting Tony Flannery share his view of the Church? I also wonder why anyone believing his hypothesis – that the Church is in essence a c.1,900 year-old con trick – would want to stay, rather than set-up a new movement.

  30. Fr. Kieran

    I must admit that I know very little regarding Fr. Flannery and the subsequent investigation of the CDF. It seems to me that the CDF is doing what it is meant to do – uphold the Faith of the Church, while Fr. Flannery believes that he must stand by his conscience, which unfortunately runs contrary to definitive Church teaching. There are no winners here, we can blame the CDF, we can blame Fr. Flannery, ultimately I feel that neither will budge. As a priest Fr. Flannery has a sworn duty to uphold, teach and pass on the faith of the Church, the faith he publicly acknowledged his belief in prior to ordination, if he cannot do this can he in good conscience remain in the Church? The CDF on the other hand has I feel a responsibility of love and charity not to rush into any decision, and rather offer every opportunity, and investigate any possible paths to reconciliation. With a heavy heart I feel whatever the outcome the reputation of the Church will have been damaged.

  31. Darlene Starrs

    Thank you Bob, fo reiterating for us a specific suggestion on the part of Father Flannery. That is helpful. I don’t know the perameters of Father’s research. Most theologians say what they say with a caveat, at least, in their mind. That caveat is that while “doing theology”, nothing is written in stone. I can only say that his thoughts about this maybe only hypothesis. I don’t know. The point is, we have to be able to discuss what we are thinking…….that is, the “mechanics of doing theology”. It has been this way for 2,000 years. The Church, theologians and Church leaders have for those same 2,000 years been involved in many a crucial theological discussion and debate. Sometimes, the theologian’s point of view persisted, and other times, the leaders of the Church’s view persisted. The point is, we cannot have a closed system whereby, there is no discussion and debate. There is a rightful place for a “teaching authority”, but it cannot function in Christ, if it is only to resolve questions with a fist.
    If we need to talk specifics about Father Flannery’s theological presuppositions, then, I would say, I need to see the research, and I am willing to hear it, even though, in my case, I have understood the Catholic cultic priesthood to have evolved essentially from the Judaic experience. Of course, the priesthood, evolved from there. My sense is that the Church fell into power grabbing hands, once Catholicism was legal in the 4th century with Constantine because our bishops and the pope were chosen from secular lords, and princes. This is why Jesus says,”The Weeds Will Come” because the first apostolic church eventually disappears with the deaths of the apostles including Paul and his workers. Even in my case, here, I am applying these words of Jesus to that situation where secular powers now infiltrate the Church and through their “yeast” breed much corruption. However, throughout the 2,000 years, we have what I call the big “S” saints, like Patrick, Brigid, who maintain, a church on earth and into heaven that is holy and blameless.

  32. Darlene Starrs

    I agree with the ACP that the issue is about shutting down the ACP, more than it is about sanctioning Father Flannery. If the CDF are successful in their excommunication of Father Flannery, they will be very confident, that the voice of the faithful, who want and need change will effectively be coerced to “put up and shut up”. It almost looks as if the magisterium, has lost all competency to not only relate to the “Church In The Modern World” with respect and collegial equality, but it seems they may have lost the ability to discuss and debate as theology demands. They appear to be “entrenched” and “fortressing their walls”. That seems really odd to me since there is a powerful history of the Church in debate with at least, the theologians, if not, Kings and Princes. We know Martin Luther tried and tried and tried to get the Vatican to talk and to understand. We know it didn’t happen.
    Perhaps, it’s an oversimplification, but the great schism of the Church was aided and abetted by Rome’s ignorance. It will be interesting to say the least,to see what happens as a result of their current stance and actions. I absolutely donot want the ACP or the ACI to lose heart or anything they have accomplished. If our Lord is the author of the voice and push for renewal in Ireland, then the renewal will continue. As well, Mark my words, if the Lord is the author of the voice for renewal, then woe to those who would fight the Lord. I’m not saying that everything that goes into the “stew pot of renewal” will be in alignment with Christ, but whatever is of Him, will survive and grow. The weeds among the wheat again, and the Lord says, “You can’t pull the weeds, because You risk pulling the wheat” We have to allow things to “be” together, until such time, as things mature. Does anyone in the Church really want to be Lorded over and pushed around? St. Paul says in 2 Peter, the leaders of the Church are not to Lord it Over…………that is exactly what they are doing.
    No, we need to allow for listening and discussion and deliberation.
    No one is asking the people or the CDF to adopt anything without these above actions. However, deliberately opposing evolutionary change because of the intrinsic needs of Vatican II and with God understood as the author of Vatican II, puts the Magisterium and the opposing Church in rebellion, in disobedience. I pray that the Lord reveals what is His in this situation and that we see it, hear it, and obey. The Lord’s Word Will Not Return To Him Empty.

  33. Michael O Sullivan

    As a member of theACP i am heartened by the leaderships backing of Tony Flannery,more like Tony need to stand up and be counted and pherhaps we can begin to reclaim our church I support and endorse all viewss expressed by Fr Tony,views not born in rebellion but born from compassion,equality the dignity of all of Gods people.It is pherhaps time for the members of the CDF to reflect on what it means to be ordained to serve gods people

  34. Joe O'Leary

    Alas, the statement 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” does pose huge theological problems. What he is getting at could be restated in perfectly orthodox terms and I wish he would do so. He could say that the dynamic and plural conception of ministries in the New Testament became frozen through excessively sharp distinction between a clerical cast monopolizing power and authority and the laity robbed of their voice and charisms.

  35. Joe O'Leary

    ” I have understood the Catholic cultic priesthood to have evolved essentially from the Judaic experience. Of course, the priesthood, evolved from there.” I don’t know how true this is, but the New Testament never connects Christian ministry with the Jewish priesthood, I believe.

  36. Maire

    How wonderful it would be for survival /refounding of the Church of Christ if everyone of the one thousand priests associated with the ACP would follow Michael Sullivan’s support for their founder and brother. Be of good courage.

  37. galtee

    How wonderful and what a blessing it would be if each one of the one thousand priests associated with the ACP would follow Michael Sullivan’s example and support Fr Tony. May the Lord enable you all to have the courage of your convictions. Be asured of my support and prayers that all will be well.

  38. Darlene Starrs

    Could I ask for a clarification from Father Joe O’Leary regarding the evolution of the Eucharistic meals and the priesthood. You are quoting me, but I’m unclear as to what you are saying. Certainly, from the book of Hebrews, St. Paul would appear to borrow much material from the Judaic experience of the High Priest and applying it to Christ. As well, it was my understanding from the Book of Acts, that Eucharistic meals did have resemblance to Jewish religious services, but I might be wrong.

  39. Darlene Starrs

    It’s been a while since I studied theology, but I recall in my Liturgy course, that the Eucharistic Prayers or Prayer of Thanksgiving derived from the Berakah……..Anyway, the liturgy evolved and we have what we have today……….I really think, “our church issues, challenges, problems” derive from and are exacerbated by “abuse of power”, no matter, when the abuses made their debut.

  40. Paddy Coady

    My wife and 22 year old daughter and myself were very pleased to be given the opportunity to sign the petition for the return to ministry of Fr Tony. We fully support and thank Fr Tony and members of the ACP for what they are doing on our behalf. I feel it is sad what is happening to our Church. I cannot believe the conditions laid down for return to ministry. Perhaps, however, it is a good thing as it shows how ridiculous the present situation is.
    A few weeks ago our 70 year old priest said Mass when he was so ill that it wasn’t fair to him or to us.
    In last weeks local paper it was announced that the Masses in Wexford town would have to be reduced due to falling attendances and the shortage of priests. When children bring their parents and families to Mass when they are preparing for First Communion, it is a reminder of what it could be like all the time.
    How can our bishops not see what is clear to every ordinary person in the Church? What I have been saying is a very negative way of highlighting the facts. I should be highlighting the fundamental rights of every person in the Church and in particular women. I appeal to our bishops, has the Temple to be completely destroyed before it can be rebuilt?! I am sorry for leaving it so late with my contribution.
    Paddy Coady

  41. John Dunphy SPS

    I support Fr. Flannery’s right to have his views discussed in a respectful manner. Threats of sanctions are of no help to Tony or the Church.

  42. Giacomina and Albert Doyle

    We fully support Fr. Tony Flannery’s right to express thoughts and opinions without sanction.