Fr Tony Flannery ‘denied natural justice’, say Australian priests
The new executive of the National Council of Priests of Australia (NCP) met in Geelong, Victoria, 4 – 7 February 2013. Among the many issues discussed, two prominent matters were considered.
The following is a statement from the executive on these issues.
Statement of concern regarding the treatment of Fr Tony Flannery CSsR
The National Council of Priests of Australia (NCP) is concerned with what we perceive as the harsh treatment and lack of transparent processes in the investigation conducted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) into Fr Tony Flannery CSsR. Fr Tony is a member of the Association of Catholic priests in Ireland, an organisation with similar purposes to the NCP. In our dealings with Fr Tony we have found him to be a person of integrity with great passion and commitment to the faith shown through his missionary work of evangelisation throughout Ireland.
Whilst we respect the importance of the CDF as ‘guardians of the faith’, our concern focuses on the seeming denial of natural justice for Fr Tony in this process.
We have similar concerns in the Vatican’s dealings with Bishop Bill Morris, emeritus Bishop of Toowoomba, Australia, as well as American priests Roy Bourgeois (Mill Hill Father) and Bill Brennan SJ.
While not all of our members may concur with the actions of these priests they are entitled to due process under Canon and Civil law and to be treated justly and compassionately in line with the Gospel.
It appears that these men do not receive the same charity and dialogue as those priests and bishops who are currently in schism with the Church (Society of St Pius X). We stand in communion with our brother priests in these difficult times.
Statement by NCP concerning the establishment of a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
The National Council of Priests of Australia (NCP) welcomes the Federal Government initiative of a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to address both individual and systemic abuse in this critical area. We hope the investigation of the Royal Commission will endeavour to face honestly and openly the pain and trauma experienced by those who have been abused, particularly within the Catholic Church.
As an organisation which represents a significant number of Catholic priests across Australia we wish to express our deep regret and shame at the abhorrent offences committed by some of our brothers and the subsequent mishandling and cover ups that occurred in some instances of abuse by people in authority within the Church.
We pray the Commission will be an opportunity to transparently examine these responses, so we might learn from their discoveries and continue to reform our actions in the future.
We also support the Australian Catholic Bishops’ decision to establish a lay-led Truth, Justice and Healing Commission which will co-ordinate the Catholic Church’s response to the Australian Royal Commission and will cooperate with their recommendations.
As a representative body of Catholic clergy we acknowledge our primary focus should be with the needs of the victims of clergy sexual abuse and our care for them. We are also mindful that the reputations of good priests have been tarnished by the repugnant actions of some of our confreres.
We trust the investigation undertaken by the Royal Commission will provide justice for all involved and help us rebuild trust with the people to whom we minister.