Fr Tony Flannery ‘denied natural justice’, say Australian priests

The new executive of the National Council of Priests of Australia (NCP) met in Geelong, Victoria, 4 – 7 February 2013. Among the many issues discussed, two prominent matters were considered.
The following is a statement from the executive on these issues.
Statement of concern regarding the treatment of Fr Tony Flannery CSsR
The National Council of Priests of Australia (NCP) is concerned with what we perceive as the harsh treatment and lack of transparent processes in the investigation conducted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) into Fr Tony Flannery CSsR. Fr Tony is a member of the Association of Catholic priests in Ireland, an organisation with similar purposes to the NCP. In our dealings with Fr Tony we have found him to be a person of integrity with great passion and commitment to the faith shown through his missionary work of evangelisation throughout Ireland.
Whilst we respect the importance of the CDF as ‘guardians of the faith’, our concern focuses on the seeming denial of natural justice for Fr Tony in this process.
We have similar concerns in the Vatican’s dealings with Bishop Bill Morris, emeritus Bishop of Toowoomba, Australia, as well as American priests Roy Bourgeois (Mill Hill Father) and Bill Brennan SJ.
While not all of our members may concur with the actions of these priests they are entitled to due process under Canon and Civil law and to be treated justly and compassionately in line with the Gospel.
It appears that these men do not receive the same charity and dialogue as those priests and bishops who are currently in schism with the Church (Society of St Pius X). We stand in communion with our brother priests in these difficult times.
Statement by NCP concerning the establishment of a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
The National Council of Priests of Australia (NCP) welcomes the Federal Government initiative of a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to address both individual and systemic abuse in this critical area. We hope the investigation of the Royal Commission will endeavour to face honestly and openly the pain and trauma experienced by those who have been abused, particularly within the Catholic Church.
As an organisation which represents a significant number of Catholic priests across Australia we wish to express our deep regret and shame at the abhorrent offences committed by some of our brothers and the subsequent mishandling and cover ups that occurred in some instances of abuse by people in authority within the Church.
We pray the Commission will be an opportunity to transparently examine these responses, so we might learn from their discoveries and continue to reform our actions in the future.
We also support the Australian Catholic Bishops’ decision to establish a lay-led Truth, Justice and Healing Commission which will co-ordinate the Catholic Church’s response to the Australian Royal Commission and will cooperate with their recommendations.
As a representative body of Catholic clergy we acknowledge our primary focus should be with the needs of the victims of clergy sexual abuse and our care for them. We are also mindful that the reputations of good priests have been tarnished by the repugnant actions of some of our confreres.
We trust the investigation undertaken by the Royal Commission will provide justice for all involved and help us rebuild trust with the people to whom we minister.

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  1. Very excellent information, in regards to the Royal Commission.
    Many, many, American priests revealed their names in supporting Father Tony Flannery. Would the Australian priests be willing to submit names in support of Father Flannery?

  2. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    This is where things get interesting. I’ve been very vocal about Pope Benedict actually wanting the reforms you all have been moving towards and I think you may take this as a sign; the first time in 600 years that a Pope has stepped down. Especially with all that is going on in the world today. This can be either a huge setback or an immense advantage for the Associations depending how this transition of power is played. Now is the time to start to question your superiors. Is this “stepdown” an admission that the Church truly needs to reform? Did Pope Benedict fold over pressure from internal sources wanting him to crack down on the Associations. Gentlemen, you have to admit, he was certainly passive through all this, despite Fr. Flannery receiving the brunt of the reprimand, albeit after his first submission was completely cleared.
    “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” he told the cardinals.
    After examining his conscience, of all things, he decided that the road you all have been travelling is the righteous road and as Pope, could not be forced to condemn you for reforms that he truly believes will bring a balance to the worldwide ministry. Rest assured the person who follows may not be so passive but it certainly must be his first of duties to reply to the questions that you will actively pose.

  3. Joe O'Leary says:

    Nice to see that there are still some people who can recognise abuse when they see it.

  4. Sean (Derry) says:

    Lloyd Allan MacPherson @no.2, thanks for that great insight, I never knew Pope Benedict resigned in support of Fr Flannery and the ACP. Also good to know that the new Pope will be straight on the phone to the ACP.

  5. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Sean @no.4 – you’re perfectly welcome. It’s completely unconstitutional for Pope Benedict to step down. The Associations should be very grateful that Pope Benedict has been relatively passive in his approach, allowing dialogue to take place and their growth on an international level to flourish during his papacy. This “statement” he has made, one of which that hasn’t been made in 600 years, was done so to signal his support of their cause because if he was trying to make any other statement, he would be occupying his position and trying his best to extinguish their fires of reformation. So Sean, when Pope Benedict, after having reflected deeply on the abuse scandal that rocked the dioceasan levels of the Church, made the public address that “men, when confined to unnatural laws, open the doorway to ethical relativsm and that political bodies and states become totalitarian…” he was signaling the Pfarrer Initiative that they were on the true course of the worldwide church. We have St. Thomas to thank for that church approved doctrine. It’s now up to the Associations to ask the questions which will spark the dialogue that will lead to the reforms they are calling for. And yes, being that there is unfinished business – that this is not exactly a “free” resignation, the Pope citing “health” as a factor is a cop out – this is a statement saying that he is being internally influenced to step down. The new Pope won’t be straight on the phone to the Associations (there’s more than one, by the way if you didn’t know) but he should have a list of questions he needs to address before he starts to “reprimand” the group in its totality. You can rest assured that the up and comer will come out lacking the Vatican II sensibilities that the New World is looking for. I’ve followed this more than most being a survivor of priest abuse, a member of the largest class action lawsuit in Canada and also someone who composed a letter to be forwarded to the Church’s legal representation in July 2010 concerning a world wide class action lawsuit against the Vatican based on St. Thomas’s doctrine not being adhered to in Canon Law (which would essentially call for the ordination of women, the ban on celibacy, etc.) So Sean, I’m not sure what your experience is on this but my instinct on these items speaks to me, I manifest it on this website and if the readers agree or disagree, it will never change the fact that I let my position be known. So if this was an attempt to stifle my opinion, please only consider it as successful as this being an attempt to stifle yours. Peace be with you.

  6. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    So, Sean (Derry), do you think the Pope is doing anything right now in his own judgement or do you think that everything is being set up right now for an offensive for the next Pope? Listen to what the Pope had to say in his homily:
    “Today, in fact, many are ready to “rend their garments” over scandals and injustices – which are of course caused by others – but few seem willing to act according to their own “heart”, their own conscience and their own intentions, by allowing the Lord to transform, renew and convert them.”
    ACP, who is the Pope addressing here – internal factions? I am sure the “rend their garments” has an internal implication. Is this a statement that applies better to society in general; all the Associations; the internal factions within the Vatican?
    The fact remains that the Pope allowed the Associations to flourish, and if anything poked and prodded them into a world spotlight. He has been your largest supporter but can not assist you any further. Now is time to institute a strategy which will protect you all from further impediments (become the ‘voice’ of the parishioner). Pay our questions/messages forward. Let them know we are calling for a worldwide vote – a vote which will surely unite the Church.

  7. Well, if the lighning strike, says anything, I donot think, the Pope had the noble intention of leaving room for the reformers and the hermeneutic of reform……….Even, without the lightning strike, I sincerely doubt, the Pope had this in mind……….since, he would have been more mindful of who he surrounded himself with…………..As it is, they are all “Yes” men. I do agree with many of your other points, Lloyd.

  8. Lynne Newington says:

    In relation to the Australian Royal Commission and the church’s lay led Truth Justice and Healing Commission, many believe being paid by the church, they could hardly be perceived as being independent.
    This has been the stumbling block [or one of many] in regards to Peter O’Callaghan QC, engaged as independent Commissioner for the Melbourne Archdiocese to investigate sexual abuse where suspects were alerted of allegations against them, covert investigations resulting in loss of evidence and victims appearing to be dissuaded from reporting to the police.
    The Victorian Parliamentry Inquiry site is worth visiting, with transcripts of submissions made by police.

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