Message from Tony Flannery to Pope Francis

When An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, visited Pope Francis recently he agreed to take a message from Tony Flannery to the Pope.
Below is the text of  that message:
Your Holiness, Pope Francis,
Since 1994, the credibility of the Catholic Church in Ireland has been severely damaged due to the clerical sexual abuse problems. This led to many people, even committed Catholics, asking serious questions about the structure and practices of our Church, and the reasons why Church authorities failed to deal properly with the emerging scandal.
Six Irish priests who sought in their writings to examine these questions were censored by the CDF since 2006. (One priest is since deceased and received a limited degree of “pardon” from the CDF at a time in his life when he was too ill to comprehend what was happening.) Two of these priests are public figures, namely, Fr. Brian D’Arcy C.P. and myself, Fr. Tony Flannery C.Ss.R. I have been most severely censored, as I am forbidden to minister publicly as a priest.
The main concern for all of us who have been censored by the CDF is the failure of that body to act in accordance with the principles of natural justice:
We were accused and judged to be in error before we had any knowledge that a case was being prepared against us.
All condemnatory messages and proposed punishments were communicated to us indirectly, through our religious superiors. We were never given the dignity of being addressed directly.
We were not given any opportunity to explain or defend our positions, or to put them into the context of the situation in which they were written.
We were not informed as to the identity of the people who made complaints about us to the CDF.
We did not have any opportunity to cross examine our accusers.
Some of us have spoken and written in public about our experience and many practicing Catholics express disillusionment about the capacity of the Catholic Church to uphold social justice, given how it treats its own priests.
When the Irish Catholic Hierarchy or the Papal Nuncio are questioned on our situation, they say that they are helpless to intervene and that it is strictly a matter for our Religious superiors, even though there is clear documentary evidence to show that our superiors acted always under orders from the CDF.
We hope, in view of your proposed visit to our country, that our situations might be looked at in a new and more just fashion.
With great respect, and appreciation for all you are doing to renew our Church.
Fr. Tony Flannery C.Ss.R.

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  1. Tony, every single line of this is excellent, really spot on. Well done. And well done Enda too.

  2. Kay Murray says:

    In Matthew 18:15-17 I am instructed to comfront my ‘brother’ alone (between the two of us) if he has sinned against me, if he listens to me well and good, we remain on good terms, however if he fails to heed the correction then I am to bring one of two witnesses with me the next time I confront him. If this too fails then, and only then, do I get the elders of the church involved. Surely this is how the CDF should have handled priesrs whose behaviour they considered to be contrary to the precepts of the church?; it seems they just skipped the first two directives and went straight to the father superiors of the orders to which these priests belong. Tony, I sincerely hope Pope Francis received your letter, that the Holy Spirit was/is with him while he reads it, and that Pope Francis in his infinite wisdom will discern the just path to follow.

  3. Tony.
    Christmas wishes and blessings and hoping Pope Francis gets to right the wrong that is an ongoing injustice suffered by you and your colleagues.The value of his visit for the meeting on the family will be lessened in my view in the abscence of such action.

  4. DR. HENRY says:

    Only a large global movement will bring change. It will have to be very well organized. A large body of reform minded laity and clergy may have to ‘march on Rome’. Worldwide television coverage will be required. The issues will have to be available in print in several languages. Just as Martin Luther posted his 95 theses, the organizers must be theologians, historians etc; Precision of demands will be imperative. This needs to start soon. Blessings to Francis, the college of cardinals, to all the bishops and priests of the world. Irish priests, whose rights of conscience must not be overlooked can be key players in this movement. A “Third Vatican Council” will help nothing. A peaceful crusade for truth and love will bring change.

  5. Brendan Cafferty says:

    While there is something incongruous about the Taoiseach of the country having to convey this message to the Pope on behalf of a priest of his church,I feel it is good it has been done.Tony Flannery does not seem to have got proper justice having been handed an unsigned A4 statement from Rome telling him of his fate. After all the state is the ultimate guarantor of personal rights here and this was indeed seen in the abuse cases when the state had to step in and do the work the church should have been doing but failed to do.Remember we had loose talk at one stage that Canon Law superseded state law, which it does not of course any more than golf club rules take precedence over state law.
    With relations now much improved between the state here and the Vatican under Pope Francis,it is to be hoped that this inter action will bear fruit. It is worth remembering that ex President Mary McAleese had to intervene with the Pope also on behalf of the late Fr Fagan and some relief was finally given in that sad case before Fr Sean passed away.This also brings into relief how little the Bishops have done here to resolve this disturbing case- washing their hands ?

  6. Eddie Finnegan says:

    I agree with Brendan Cafferty’s take on this@5, including his keen sense of the incongruous. My only query: were Michéal Martin taoiseach, would he have been engaged as courier?

  7. Angela Hanley says:

    I commend Tony Flannery’s continuing courageous efforts to witness to the lack of justice in Vatican disciplinary procedures. As one delegated directly by the “priest since deceased” Fr. Sean Fagan SM, to speak about his tribulations at the hands of the CDF, I can attest to the truth of each of the points made by Tony. It is interesting to note that the Holy See, as a recognised European State entity, cannot sign the European Convention on human rights, because its judicial procedures fall far short of basic norms required. One of them being the fundamental right to know the identity of one’s accusers. Our Church’s standards should be such that they exceed any convention on human rights, not that they so deficient they cannot to be allowed sign.
    Though Tony deliberately places the word “pardon” in quotation marks, to indicate the inherent irony, I think it is worth stating that the only concession given to Sean Fagan was the removal of the threat to dismiss him from priesthood. All sanctions regarding speech, publication and broadcast work remained in place to his death. And during the periodic distressing hours in the final years of his life, the source of his pain was always his treatment by the CDF.
    So the struggle must continue. Those who fear the truth will be ruthless about how they suppress it. Their ruthlessness must be matched by our determination.

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