Women priests: priest suspended, bishops scott free

Being prepared to consider ordaining women – and saying so – has seen a priest continue to be suspended from ministry while more senior clergy are not even smacked on the wrist.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ, recently admitted that he is “open” to the idea of ordaining women to the Catholic priesthood.

“I am not saying that women have to become priests; I just don’t know. But I’m open to it,” he said in an interview published by the German Catholic news agency.

Hollerich, who is Luxembourg’s archbishop, is one of the world’s most influential cardinals due to his position as president of the Commission of the Episcopal Conferences of the European Union.

Several German bishops – including German episcopal conference president Bishop Georg Bätzing – have also called for open discussion on ordaining women to the priesthood.

So far, none of them has been treated like Tony Flannery (pictured), a priest suspended from publicly practising their priesthood.

Flannery – an Irish Redemptorist priest – was suspended in 2012, for supporting women’s ordination and his views on same-sex marriage and homosexuality.

In February the Redemptorists’ Superior General in Rome wrote to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) about Flannery’s return to public ministry.

In response, the CDF said:

“After reflecting carefully upon your request, the Congregation has decided that Fr Flannery should not return to public ministry prior to submitting a signed statement regarding his positions on homosexuality, civil unions between persons of the same sex, and the admission of women to the priesthood.”

Flannery says the CDF sent him a series of doctrinal proposals in July via his superior general, to which he would have to “submit” as a first step towards “a gradual readmission” to public ministry.

He must submit to the statement that “a baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly”, as the price for “a gradual readmission” to the public ministry.

He must also submit to three other doctrinal formulae, affirming:

  • homosexual practices are contrary to the natural law
  • unions other than marriage between a man and a woman do not correspond to God’s plan for marriage and family
  • gender theory is not accepted by Catholic teaching.

Flannery says he’s never expressed any views on so-called “gender theory” and is confused as to why that issue is in his CDF file.

He has refused to sign the CDF documents, saying:

“For me to sign a document that I submit that women can never be ordained priests in the Catholic church would be a total lie.

“I just could not live with myself if I signed that document. There are bishops – the German bishops for instance – many of whom have come out in favour of the ordination of women. It is very much an open question in the church now.”

The CDF have not so far pressed Pope Francis to have Hollerich or other German prelates to recant and sign a fidelity oath as they have with Flannery.


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