Irish prelates to look at issue of Vatican-censured priests

Four Irish prelates are to meet a priests’ group to discuss calls for restoration to full ministry of priests disciplined by the Vatican.

This is one of the topics likely to be on the agenda of a proposed meeting between the prelates and representatives of the Association of Catholic Priests.

Other matters to be discussed include the “grave disquiet” felt by some priests at how bishops are currently being appointed in Ireland.

The association wrote to the Irish episcopal conference expressing concern about such matters last year.

In a reply to the ACP this week, Msgr Gearóid Dullea, executive secretary to the Irish episcopal conference, said the ACP correspondence “was circulated to all bishops at the March 2016 plenary meeting of the Irish episcopal conference”.

“In order to discuss matters of mutual interest, the bishops have recommended that a group comprising the bishops from the Council for Clergy (Bishops Browne, Boyce and Nulty) along with Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly, meet with representatives of the Association of Catholic Priests.

“It is envisaged that the meeting would take place some time in the near future. I will be in contact again to arrange a date.”

Four years ago it emerged that Redemptorist Fr Tony Flannery had been suspended from ministry by the Vatican.

This was over his views on priesthood, women’s ordination and Church teaching on sexuality.

Several other Irish priests have also faced Vatican censure over their views.

Last month, Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown, when asked about Fr Flannery and the other Irish priests, reportedly said: “We have to be constantly reaching out – that is the job of followers of Christ.”

He also referred to Pope Francis’s comments that the Church must be seen to be building bridges rather than building walls.

Speaking to the National Catholic Reporter, he said this applied to dealings with people who have been abused by the Church in the past, priests who have left ministry and priests who have been censured in one way or another.

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