‘Silenced’ priest doubles down on refusal to back Church teaching

‘Silenced’ priest doubles down on refusal to back Church teaching Fr Tony Flannery

A controversial priest who the Vatican removed from ministry in 2012 has said there is “no possibility” now of him signing a statement that he accepts the fullness of Church teaching.

Writing on his website, Fr Tony Flannery CSsR says the head of his order has told him that although he had been withdrawn from ministry at the direction of the Church’s doctrinal watchdog, he has never been canonically suspended.

The Redemptorist Superior General, Fr Michael Brehl CSsR,  told Fr Flannery that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) instructed the Redemptorists in 2012 that Fr Flannery should be “withdrawn from the exercise of priestly ministry, and not to publish or give interviews until you prepare and submit a statement of acceptance of Church teaching which is approved by the CDF”.

“In subsequent inquiries to the CDF about your return to public ministry, the CDF has insisted on this statement as a prerequisite for return to public ministry,” Fr Brehl continued.

Maintaining that the issue of women’s ordination is now a live issue in the Church in a way it was not when he was first asked to sign the statement six years ago, and that there are very few people who would say they accept all Catholic moral teaching, Fr Flannery writes “whatever about making that statement six years ago, it would make much less sense now” and says: “there is no possibility of me presenting that statement to the CDF”.

Fr Flannery originally came into conflict with Church authorities over articles in Reality magazine, notably one where he wrote that he no longer believed “the priesthood, as we currently have it in the Church, originated with Jesus”, speculating that a powerful group in the Church had hijacked the story of the Last Supper. He also wrote that he no longer believed only priests could celebrate the Eucharist.

In subsequent dealings with the Vatican he was unwilling to specifically acknowledge “that Christ instituted the priesthood at the Last Supper” or that the Eucharist is a sacrifice that makes present the sacrifice of the Cross. Differences on issues such as contraception and women’s ordination also came to the fore.