Suspended Irish priest Tony Flannery calls Vatican inquiry ‘unjust’

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The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has formally requested that the Rev. Tony Flannery, a well-known Irish Redemptorist suspended in May 2012, sign a statement affirming his acceptance of church teaching, as formulated by the C.D.F., on homosexuality, civil unions between persons of the same sex, the admission of women to the priesthood and “gender theory.”

His signature on the C.D.F. document would allow him to return to public ministry.

He declined to sign the document and made the C.D.F. letter public on Sept. 16.

He described the process that brought him to this point as “unjust,” saying he had “no chance to defend myself, no appeal system, no direct communication, the judgment passed and sentence decided before I even knew what was happening.”

“Maybe I am deceiving myself,” he said to America by email, “but I believe I can do more for the church by exposing in every way I can the unjust process, rather than trying to get Francis to wave a wand and return me to the ministry.”

The C.D.F. said today: ‘We did everything possible to dialogue with Father Flannery. It wasn’t always easy.’

Father Flannery, one of the founders of the Association of Irish Priests in 2010, which now counts in its membership around 30 percent of all Irish priests, said he was astounded by the fourth proposition renouncing gender theory he was asked to sign because, he said, he has never spoken on the subject.

If we have any advice to give to Father Flannery, we would give it to Father Flannery, but I believe that out of respect for everyone, and in particular for him, we would give this advice to him in private. We did everything possible to dialogue with Father Flannery.

It wasn’t always easy. We did everything possible.

At a certain moment, we had to take some measures, which never involves a judgment on the person, because that is always reserved to Our Lord, but on his teaching or on his behaviour.

Therefore, we tried always to maintain our respect for Father Flannery. But the duty we have [in the C.D.F.], according to what is laid down by the church, is to safeguard the faith and to point out something that is not in conformity with the faith.

This is a very unpleasant responsibility of the C.D.F., very unpleasant, but it is our responsibility and it would be a failure on our part if we did not exercise our responsibility and set it aside and not say a word when in certain moments, painfully, many times, it has to be said.

The instruction from Rome for Father Flannery came in a letter from the Italian archbishop Giacomo Morandi, secretary of the C.D.F., to the superior general of the Redemptorist Order, the Rev. Michael Brehl, on July 9.

The letter does not mention Pope Francis, and there is no evidence that the pope was involved in the decision to issue it.

Archbishop Morandi said he had received a letter from Father Brehl on Feb. 27, which proposed that the C.D.F. consider permitting Father Flannery to return to public ministry.

“The specific task of the C.D.F. is to elaborate doctrine and defend it, and the pope as shepherd has to engage in a pastoral approach which does not disregard doctrine but looks at the persons where they are.”

America has learned that the Council of the Irish Redemptorists, believing that a new climate prevailed in Rome, had sent a letter to Father Brehl requesting him to lift the suspension on Father Flannery, since it was the Redemptorists who had imposed the suspension, under pressure from the C.D.F.

Father Brehl referred the matter to the C.D.F.

The Council of the Irish Redemptorists, believing that a new climate prevailed in Rome, had sent a letter to Father Brehl requesting him to lift the suspension on Father Flannery

The issue was discussed at a meeting in Rome on Feb. 27 which seems to have involved Redemptorist and C.D.F. officials.

The archbishop’s letter of July 9 came with a document from the C.D.F. containing four “recent doctrinal propositions” on the topics in question.

It asked that Father Flannery give his written assent to each proposition and said that once the C.D.F. received the signed statement, “a gradual readmission of Father Flannery to the exercise of public ministry will be possible.”

But, it said, “he should not be asked to speak publicly on the above-mentioned topics, which have caused problems in the past.”

Each of the propositions Father Flannery was asked to sign was prefaced with relevant extracts from St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”; Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortations “Amoris Laetitia” and “Querida Amazonia”; the Catechism of the Catholic Church; the code of canon law; and a document from the Congregation for Catholic Education on gender theory.

The texts of the propositions are:

  1. According to the Tradition and the doctrine of the Church incorporated in Canon Law (c.1024), a baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.
  2. Since the homosexual practices are contrary to the natural law and do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity, they are not approved by the moral teaching of the Catholic Church (cf. CCC 2357).
  3. The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator (CCC 1660). Other forms of union do not correspond to God’s plan for marriage and family. Therefore, they are not allowed by the Catholic Church.
  4. In so far as it contradicts the foundations of a genuine Christian anthropology, gender theory is not accepted by Catholic teaching.

The style of the letter from the congregation and the document Father Flannery was asked to sign has raised serious questions.

As is evident from Father Flannery’s case, the C.D.F. is still using the same procedures that prevailed under the pontificates of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Several Vatican sources consulted by America confirmed this, though none wished to go on record for this article because they were not authorized to speak. Continue reading

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