Response to comments made by Senator Rónán Mullen on Newstalk Radio

During the course of an interview yesterday (16 December 2014) on Moncrieff on Newstalk Radio Senator Rónán Mullen expressed the hope that the upcoming debate on the referendum on same sex marriage would be conducted respectfully. Most people, I have no doubt, would agree.
What a pity that later in the interview Senator Mullan didn’t put that worthy approach into practice. In response to questions put to him by Sean Moncrieff about Fr Tony Flannery’s position he launched, I hope inadvertently, a gratuitous and ill-informed attack on Fr Flannery.
(i) Senator Mullen defended the watch-dog role of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in ensuring the orthodoxy of Catholic teaching, effectively implying that Tony Flannery had a problem with this. He hasn’t.
Anyone who has followed this case will know that time and again Tony Flannery has made it clear that the difficulty is not with the role of the CDF but with the way the process of investigation has been carried out.
Tony Flannery believes that the process is unjust and the ACP and, I believe, the acknowledged facts of this case, support this view.
(ii) Senator Mullen goes on to comment: ‘A disagreement about sexual ethics is much different to a disagreement about whether Jesus is divine or only human….’
While he (Mullen) doesn’t directly attribute that opinion to Tony Flannery, in the context it is certainly implied. And should be withdrawn.
(iii) Senator Mullen told Sean Moncrieff :  ‘He (Flannery) wants to have it completely his own way.’   This is untrue.
Tony Flannery did make a big effort to meet them half way, but they weren’t interested.
(iv) Senator Mullen said that Tony Flannery wrote: ‘The priesthood as we understand it wasn’t necessarily instituted by Christ at the Last Supper, and so on …….’  Untrue.
What he wrote was : ‘I do not accept that the priesthood as we have it now is as Christ intended’.  In the context of the article, and the time in which it was written — after the Cloyne report – it made perfect sense.
(v) Senator Mullen said: ‘If a person is treated in a humiliating way, in an unchristian way, I would have no problem objecting’. Clearly he (Mullen) believes or at least implies that Tony Flannery was treated properly by the CDF but Tony’s argument is that he was treated unjustly, not least because they never engaged directly with him.
(vi) Finally, Senator Mullen’s comment – ‘Fr Tony has made it hard for himself;  some Redemptorists have told me that he is a difficult man, not prepared to work through the difficulties’ – and its implications are unwarranted and unfair.
As Senator Mullen admitted several times during the interview that he was out of his depth theologically in dealing with the issues involved, I think he should now accept that his remarks were at the very least inaccurate and incoherent and should be withdrawn.
While I would hesitate to accuse Rónán Mullen of setting out to undermine Tony Flannery’s position and credibility, I would respectfully suggest to him that he owes Tony Flannery an apology.
Brendan Hoban,
ACP Leadership Team

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  1. Brendan Cafferty says:

    It is sad that Senator Mullen used this radio interview to stray into an area he admits he has not much knowledge of – though it did not stop him wading in about his fellow Galway man Tony Flannery.
    Perhaps as requested above he might now apologise.
    On broader level now that Pope Francis has helped broker a new arrangement in US/Cuban relations he might turn his thoughts to the freezing out any blockade of those good priests that have been ostracised in his own backyard ?

  2. John McEneaney says:

    In bygone days, a university education was about reading and searching for the truth; apparently, Senator Mullen has lost sight of this noble tradition and offered opinions on a subject he admits he has not adequately researched and is, in any case, outside his area of expertise.
    As has been pointed out, no one who has read Tony Flannery’s book can be in any doubt whatever of his honesty, his caring for people and his courteous attempts over many months to come to an honourable agreement, even with an organisation which hid behind unheaded, undated and unsigned diktats.
    I am sure that, as a public representative (albeit one elected or appointed by a very small group), Senator Mullen will wish to reconsider his ill-informed and intemperate remarks, and just might retrieve a small part of his public reputation.

  3. Adrian Egan, C.Ss.R. says:

    As a Redemptorist I wish to express my support for my colleague, Tony Flannery, C.Ss.R. From one who must be another ‘difficult’ Redemptorist, Adrian Egan, C.Ss.R.

  4. John Collins says:

    Sen Mullen should go on the radio more often and gain the argument for equality .. I was trying to remember why I took him off my email contacts list .. It had something to do with looking for a vote from me and many other priests .. Not in this lifetime Senator or the next .. I disagree with your views on Catholism and while you have a right to your views I believe it is my right to tell you “stop speaking for Catholics as if you have an a mandate from us” clearly you do not. Stick to politics. Your views are not relevant to a modern church or to people who feel alienated enough without your ill informed contributions.

  5. Adrian Grenham says:

    It is regretful that Sen Ronan Mullen personalised his comments on Tony Flannery.
    However, I hardly think that Tony or his supporters (‘priests’ or otherwise) either have any mandate to speak for Catholics given that the CDF have confirmed that his opinions and comments could be construed as “heresy” under church law – and that this position has not been changed or modified even after Pope Francis’ election.

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