A Question of Conscience
By Tony Flannery
In February 2012 Tony Flannery, a Redemptorist and founder member of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, bestselling author and regular columnist with Reality magazine, was informed that the Vatican watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), was unhappy with some of his writings relating to the priestly ministry in the Church. Tony was summoned to Rome and told that until he revised his views he would not be allowed to minister as a priest or have any dealings with media. He was to step down as leader of the ACP.
Although he offered a statement of clarification and it seemed as if the matter were closed, a few months later the CDF made further demands that were unacceptable to him. He was required to issue a statement that he accepted all the moral teachings of the Church and that women could never be ordained priests. The CDF forbade him to return to priestly ministry, or be involved with the ACP, until he agree to publish this statement. He was put under ‘formal precept of obedience’ not to attend the AGM of the ACP (He did attend it.).
During the time in question, the greater part of a year, the CDF never communicated directly with Tony Flannery. Documentation came through Michael Brehl, leader of the Redemptorists. It was on typed A4 pages without heading, stamp or signature. The CDF warned him about the need for total secrecy and threatened with excommunication and dismissal from the Redemptorists.
Tony Flannery became convinced that he would never be allowed to return to ministry and that the real target of the CDF was his role in the Association of Catholic Priests. He went public on the matter in January 2013. A Question of Conscience, which reproduces the CDF documentation relating to this case, provides conclusive proof of the Vatican’s determination to stamp out what it regards as dissent, no matter how unjust and devious the methods it uses.
By Pádraig McCarthy
The 2009 publication of The Murphy Report — the commission of investigation into the handling of allegations of sexual abuse of children in Dublin archdiocese — shook the people of Ireland to the core. The report harshly criticised Church personnel for not responding effectively to allegations of abuse and for not prioritising the welfare of children. The reputation of the Catholic Church had never been so low.
Commentators, journalists and even clerics praised the report for vindicating the claims of the abused and acknowledging the pain they had suffered. Immediately it seemed to achieve ‘infallible’ status. Critics demanded harsh treatment of the ‘villains’, who had ‘facilitated’ the abuse of children, who had ‘covered up’ the scandal.
The Murphy Report was devastating. Clergy of Dublin archdiocese had no voice, as the tsunami of public opinion overwhelmed them. When a number of bishops resigned it was seen as an admission of guilt.
In Unheard Story, Pádraig McCarthy challenges some of the assumptions and assessments of The Murphy Report. He puts the response of the diocese to priests who abused children into the context of the times. The diocese claimed that its personnel were on a ‘learning curve’ about child sexual abuse during the period from 1975 to the late 1990s. This was rejected by the commission of investigation but the author finds it entirely reasonable in the light of the experience of other agencies and other countries. He also contends that the generally accepted assessment that there was a widespread cover-up is not in accordance with the facts.
Unheard Story asks simply that justice and fairness should apply to all the parties involved.
Who will break the Bread for us?
by Brendan Hoban
In 1982, 46 priests of Killala diocese gathered for their annual retreat. That was 30 years ago. In less than 20 years time, in 2032, when we will be celebrating 1600 years since the coming of St Patrick, the statistics indicate that the number of priests in Killala will be six. Who will break the bread for us? isn’t, of course, the only question that needs to be asked as our Church faces a difficult future but it is of immediate and critical concern. And unless we do a Eucharistic famine will prevail in Ireland as parishes without Mass will lose their focus and their resilience. Without priests we have no Mass and without Mass we have no Church.
For the first time in many centuries we are facing the collapse of a scaffolding of worship that was sustained even during centuries of persecution.
Unlike other fundamental questions we need to ask ourselves as a Church, Who will break the bread for us?. Our priests are disappearing and we need to do something about it. Now.