DUBLIN, January 24, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A member of Ireland’s leading “progressivist” liberal priest group, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), has announced that he will not comply with demands from the Vatican that he affirm Catholic teaching on key issues.
Redemptorist order priest, Fr. Tony Flannery, has made a name for himself as an outspoken campaigner against Catholic sexual moral teaching and, he claims, has now been ordered by Vatican officials to cease publishing and threatened with excommunication.
In a press release issued through the ACP, Fr. Flannery said that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has required him to sign a public declaration of fidelity to Catholic teaching on female ordination and “the whole teaching of the Church, also in regard to moral issues.”
According to the ACP, this means Fr. Flannery must endorse “all Church stances on contraception, homosexuality, and the refusal of the sacraments to people in second relationships.”
At a press conference in Dublin this weekend, Flannery told media, “I have been ordered not to engage with the media or publish any books or articles.” He also said he has been ordered to have no further involvement “public or private” with the ACP.
“I was put under a formal precept of obedience not to attend the AGM of the ACP last November by Michael Brehl, Superior General of the Redemptorists. But he made it clear he’d been instructed by the CDF to issue it.”
Flannery announced his refusal to comply: “I could not possibly put my name to such an article without impugning my own integrity and conscience.”
“Submitting to these threats would be a betrayal of my ministry, my fellow priests and the Catholic people who want change.”
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He accused the CDF of “orchestrating” a campaign against him and said they have refused to communicate with him. “I have had no direct communication with them. I have never been given an opportunity to meet my accusers, or to understand why this action is being taken against me when I’ve raised the same issues, consistently, for decades.”
He accused the CDF of being “frightening, disproportionate and reminiscent of the Inquisition,” and said that he has merely “raised issues” in “good conscience.”
He added, “I must also question if the threats are a means, not just of terrifying me into submission, but of sending a message to any other priest expressing views at variance with those of the Roman Curia.”
However, one Catholic commentator has responded to Fr. Flannery's allegations, arguing that the Vatican is simply doing its job by requiring that one of its priests hold to what the Catholic Church teaches.
John Zmirak, a Catholic author, journalist and editor, told LifeSiteNews.com that Fr. Flannery’s complaints are “disgraceful”. Noting the persecution of Catholic priests and nuns from the French Revolution into our own times, he said, “it is particularly disgraceful when modern men who are perfectly free and in no danger at all compare themselves to victims who died in fires, chained to stakes.”
Zmirak took particular exception to Flannery’s invoking of the principle of religious freedom, which, he says, condemns “the use of violent force, by the state, against a private citizen for following his religion.”
“It does not say that orthodox Jews may not require, of those who willingly join their flock, that they keep the Kosher laws. It does not say that Muslims must permit in their midst imams who pray to Padre Pio.”
“Rev. Flannery long ago signed up as a priest of a Catholic religious order with a vow of obedience,” said Zmirak. “Taking such a vow is much like getting married. Advocating non-Catholic beliefs and defying one’s superior is the closest thing to adultery.”
“One ought at least to feign a modicum of shame when he is caught. But not Rev. Flannery. Now that he has taken up with a mistress, and when his spouse, the Church, complains, he calls her a shrew. Or rather, a fiend who tortures Jews and Protestants. For shame.”
Questions have also being raised about Flannery’s political connections and the motives behind his very public campaign. It is already widely known that Fr. Flannery’s brother is Frank Flannery, a top adviser to the Taoiseach Enda Kenny who has recently very publicly clashed with the Catholic Church, and is now proposing to legalise abortion.
The author of the ACP press release about Flannery, Aileen Gaskin, works as a PR account executive at The Communications Clinic, the same PR firm that advises a number of Fine Gael TDs. Questions remain as to the nature of the connection between Flannery, the Association of Catholic Priests and the government coalition partner.