Sean McDonagh, Tony Flannery interviewed by Miriam O’Callaghan on RTE Radio 1

Listen here to RTE Radio Interview; Sean McDonagh and Tony Flannery with Miriam O’Callaghan.
Report in the journal.ie
‘The Church is in a state of utter collapse”.
TWO PRIESTS HAVE said the Vatican should change how it deals with clergy and lay people.
Fr Tony Flannery and Fr Sean McDonagh, co-founders of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, have both been at odds with the Vatican on more than one occasion.
Speaking to Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio 1 today, they said the Catholic Church also needs to apologise for how it has treated women and give them more power in the Church.
Flannery (70) said his first public mass in over four years last week to mark 40 years in the priesthood. He was banned from saying mass publicly in 2012, after some people in the Vatican took issue with his stance on certain subjects.
In February 2012, I became aware that the Vatican objected to some of my writings … In particular one that I had written just after the Cloyne Report, when Ireland was in a fervour about the whole cleric sexual abuse issue, and, in that context, I had written a sentence that went something like this: ‘The priesthood as we have it now is not as Jesus intended it to be’.
Flannery said he thought the statement was “about as obvious a point as you could possibly make”, but the comment was taken out of context and the article “landed in an office in the Vatican”.
He also took issue with how the Catholic Church approaches other topics, such as teachings on homosexuality, contraception and women’s ordination.
Flannery said the Vatican never contacted him directly before barring him from saying mass in public. He described the way the Church’s hierarchy deals with priests like him as “completely unjust and abusive”.
Pope’s visit 
Today the Sunday Times reported that Taoiseach Enda Kenny has asked Pope Francis to review the cases of five priests in Ireland disciplined by the Catholic Church, including Flannery and Fr Brian D’Arcy, in a bid to “improve the environment” for the papal visit to the country next year.
Flannery said he’s grateful to Kenny for intervening but, even if the Vatican pardoned him to coincide with the Pope’s visit, he would still be “very unhappy” as the way the Vatican deals with priests would not have been addressed, adding: “That’s my big beef.”
He said he understands Pope Francis is “quite unhappy” with how the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith operates and has “largely sidelined them”, but he’s not sure if the pope has the power or time “to really change” how they operate.
Flannery said he is ”very much in tune with Pope Francis” and how he approaches things, much more so than some Cardinals.
‘A huge apology to women’
McDonagh backed up Flannery and took particular issue with how the Church has treated women, saying: “One of the greatest scandals of the Church is, from the New Testament period right up to now, how the Church treated women.
Women are the elephant in the Church’s reality at the moment. They have to be brought into the structures of governance … the Church has to make a huge apology to women.
McDonagh said the Church should be striving for an equal gender split in terms of the people who govern it.
He also criticised how the Vatican “forced” an “appalling translation of the Latin mass” onto English-speaking churches, further alienating lay people.
‘Utter collapse’ 
McDonagh noted that when he was he was a student in the seminary in Maynooth there were about 600 students, where there are only around 30 now.
Flannery said the Church in Ireland is “in a state of utter collapse”, with people “leaving the Church in droves”, and action is needed to change this.
When asked if he has ever considered leaving the Church, Flannery said “absolutely not”. However, when asked if he would join the priesthood in the first place if, as a younger man, he knew what he knew now, he said he would not.
Flannery said the Church has “blatantly” disrespected women and, if he could live his life again, would like to have got married.

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  1. It was great to hear Tony and Sean with Miriam O’Callaghan – and especially to hear them ask so forcefully how the hierarchy can be persuasive on the principle of justice if its own administrative systems are patently lacking in that quality.
    Knowing what happened to Tony, how could any young person today sensibly sign up for the priesthood when it has not yet been recognised at the summit that no accusation of false teaching should be entertained unless the accuser has first of all made known their grievance to the person accused (as Jesus stipulated in Matt 5: 25).
    It was failure to respect that principle that fostered a spirit of accusation – of sniping from ambush – in Ireland, poisoning the well of frank dialogue that Vatican II had promised. Nothing more was needed to disable clergy from engaging in honest interchange with their people, and without the latter how was the Irish Catholic church to respond to all of the contrary winds from the 60s onward?
    The word ‘Satan’ meant originally ‘the accuser’. To foster the spirit of accusation by neglecting the most basic principles of justice was to let the very devil suffocate honest discourse in our church. Those few priests who nevertheless spoke their minds were sitting ducks – and the disgraceful Vatican ‘visitation’ in the wake of the Murphy report made them scapegoats for the total failure of the same hierarchical system to protect other victims of injustice.
    The root of all of these problems is the concentration of power at the summit, a relic of imperial and medieval aristocracy. It forbids accountability, making nonsense of the claim to ‘servant’ leadership. I think Pope Francis knows this, but can he overcome it? It is more likely to be the obvious superiority of secularism in resisting concentrations of power that will subvert this oligarchy in the end.
    But it is that system, not ‘the church’, that is now in collapse in Ireland. There is no reason why the Gospel cannot flourish among honest people of all persuasions while that collapse is ongoing – and it is that wider circle that constitutes the emerging church. Sean and Tony and Owen and Gerry and Brian are already leaders in it, and Sean Fagan is with us still in the communion of saints.

  2. Great human beings – what a loss for the church.
    I’d question any young priest’s reason to join the current church given that it discrimates against women and marginalised people and coverup systematic crimes against children and young women.
    The Bible was interpreted by and for men to protect the hierarchy and patriarchy society and control of women.
    The institutional church today does not represent kindness compassion inclusion or gender equality. It will collapse soon when elderly priests and nuns die – and was self inflicted.

  3. Lynne Newington says:

    I’m glad to read someone is addressing the treatment of some clergy.
    One who sought a rescript of vows through legitimate process at Canon Law and request denied only later to be relegated to a delinquent and should be dismissed from religious life.

  4. Lorna Duffy says:

    My soul is uplifted having listened to Fr. Flannery and Fr. McDonagh on Miriam’s show today. I loved especially the fact that Fr. Flannery told the community of 800 people who attended at Kilimordaly to break the commmunion and share it with each other when it became obvious that he was going to run out of hosts. We , the people are the Church, not the Curia, the self appointed hierarchy, the administration. They have gone wrong and we can help them find their way back. I would really like to go to Maynoonth one of these days and throw all those men in frocks out onto the lawn and give them a good airing. Having done that I would like to head for the Vatican and do the same thing. The men in charge with all their paraphernalia, pomp and ceremony are hawks, power grabbing, money grabbing, men in frocks telling poor men, women and children what to think and of course, we are not listening to them anymore. They are redundant. Pope Francis is telling them how to do it, and if he does not reside in the Vatican, what are they doing there? He is out among the people , the real Church and serving them. There is hope for us. However, we need to become a community again and we need to remind ourselves that We, the people, men , women, children , of every race, colour and creed and sexual orientation, are The Church. All are welcome as Fr. Flannery and Fr. McDonagh say out loud. Look at Fr. McVerry and Sister Stanisclause in Dublin. What would the Homeless people do only for them? We have Leaders we just don’t recognise them yet, but they are coming through. Yours sincerely. Lorna Duffy

  5. John Murphy says:

    I was very impressed with Tony Flannery and Séan McDonagh on the Miriam programme on Sunday morning last. A big criticism of the ACP among my fellow-priests is that we are raving radicals ready to throw out church teaching because we’re deciding ourselves what we like and don’t like. This impression is given legs by some of the constant responders pushing a very liberal agenda. (Some of them didn’t like my last comment and if I have been unfair or hurtful to them, I apologise).
    Tony Flannery and Séan McDonagh came across as sensible and reasonable, rooting their position for reform in traditional Catholic morality, and answering clearly when Miriam asked them questions like ‘Do you believe in an after-life?’ (What did she expect!)
    People who imagine or try to present the ACP as radicals are way off the mark. Would we have so many priest members if we were? We won’t make much progress if we run with the hare after ultra-liberal agendas or if we hunt with the hound by adopting the ultra-conservative agendas of the theological right.
    We need to cling to the centre ground because loud voices and populist positions (as America is discovering with Donald Trump) will never deliver the respect and reason that will command the support of the vast majority.
    As Hilario Belloc wrote, about the child who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion: ‘Always keep a hold of nurse / For fear of finding something worse.’

  6. Lorna Duffy says:

    Thank you to Fr. Flannery and Fr. McDonagh for their bravery in speaking out.

  7. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Hilarious, John@5, but as one of your somewhat inconstant responders I cannot recall among the ACP’s original courageous objectives from, I think, September 2010 this centre-ground-clinging load of Belloc’s: “Always keep a hold of nurse / For fear of finding something worse.” What a battle-cry for a group in pursuit of reform, or even for some septu/octogenarian sons of Vatican II ! Something tells me that Tony Flannery, Seán McDonagh, Seamus Ahearne, Brendan Hoban, Wilfrid Harrington or r a dozen other good APC men we could name will NOT readily subscribesubscribe to that hilarious objective either. But good that you’ve found your voice. As I keep saying, It’s what it says on the ACP tin.

  8. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Sean @ 1 ” “But it is that system, not ‘the church’, that is now in collapse in Ireland. There is no reason why the Gospel cannot flourish among honest people of all persuasions while that collapse is ongoing…”
    The system is in collapse and they know it. It’s impossible to maintain so the question is : does it get burned down and then built back up or is there a quiet replacement of a better model. The Pope inverting the pyramid is a start but there has to be the emergence of a model that can cut through the noise of a dissolving hierarchical society based on material wealth.

  9. I listened in growing bafflement this morning (2nd Feb) to Sean O’Rourke’s interview of Dermot Martin on RTE radio. Asked about the banned clergy Dermot Martin said “the dialogue should continue” (presumably with CDF) and that “it should be both ways”. I was under the impression that no dialogue was allowed by the CDF. DM managed to make the impression that the banned clergy should make an effort to “continue the dialogue”. DM recognised that young women had been alienated from the church, but manifested no idea what could be done and he wasn’t asked. The matter of the banned clergy was discussed by the bishops in the meeting with Pope Francis, but Sean O’Rourke didn’t think to ask did the matter come up because Enda Kenny raised it. I got the impression of a waffling bishop without convictions and an unprepared interviewer. Sean O’Rourke didn’t simply let DM off the hook. He never came near to getting him onto the hook. Young women : It’s not just young women are fed up with this church establishment.

  10. Phil Greene says:

    Co-dependant relationships are so unhealthy. There are users/misusers and the used/misused, sometimes both at the same time! When we recognise these types of relationships within our lives we can strive to heal them, when it becomes a useless exercise which wastes valuable energy and precious time then we must look to the alternative, one being letting go. Part of the healing is talking as adults to one another regardless of gender , of course this is easy to say here as I am very aware i am preaching to the converted, which relieves the sense of isolation and gives one hope. Some find it easy to attack secularism (an issue which can divide and distract). Secularism tries to treat people as equals and immediately is at odds with the teaching of the institution of the Church. One has the right under law to bring a case of “constructive dismissal” against their employer, it simply is not an option in the institution of churches..how can we tell our children that this is ok , we need them to know that we try to make the world a better place for them, we need their support. We want them to look to their Faith , but they are immediately distracted by all these archaic laws that hold no place in our society. We can talk forever here but the clergy have the upper hand, it is your/their leadership (or lack thereof) that determines whether people stay or go…

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