“They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.”

Editorial, Irish Examiner, 22 august 2015
SOME things never change, at least in the institution of the Catholic Church.
Despite all of the warm, touchy-feely rhetoric about being a listening, inclusive Church, one that values the input of its laity, it remains an autocratic, anti-democratic organisation happy to stifle free speech if its authority or teachings are challenged in even the most gentle way.
Today we report that a priest has been prevented from speaking at a parish event in east Cork by the local bishop William Crean. Killeagh Parish Pastoral Council had invited Redemptorist Tony Flannery to speak in September but, according to Fr Flannery, that invitation was withdrawn after Bishop Crean became aware of the invitation. The crozier was used to good effect to stifle debate, close down a necessary discourse, and bully a community group into accepting an unwelcome diktat from a blinkered hierarchy.
The Killeagh group might, in time, explain why they felt obliged to bend to such pressure, one absolutely unacceptable in civic life, but it is unlikely that Bishop Crean will feel the need to be any more expansive than he has been already.
This is another example of the deeply conservative nature of the Irish Catholic Church, a conservatism at the root of the — again — anti-democratic stonewalling of Government policy on school patronage. The Catholic Church’s influence is at an all-time low in Ireland and this top-down whip-cracking is one of the many reasons for that inevitable loss of respect.
Perhaps these comments should be read in contrast with comments made by Pope Francis speaking with people from Brazil on 25 July 2015 as reported by Vatican Radio;
“When leaders in various fields ask me for advice, my response is always the same: dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. It is the only way for individuals, families and societies to grow, the only way for the life of peoples to progress, along with the culture of encounter, a culture in which all have something good to give and all can receive something good in return. Others always have something to give me, if we know how to approach them in a spirit of openness and without prejudice. I call this attitude of openness and availability without prejudice, social humility, and it is this that favours dialogue. Only in this way can understanding grow between cultures and religions, mutual esteem without needless preconceptions, respectful of the rights of everyone. Today, either we stand together with the culture of dialogue and encounter, or we all loose, we all loose; from here we can take the right road that makes the journey fruitful and secure.”
Background to this story is to be found in the article in the same paper by Irish Examiner reporter Stephen Rogers:
Fr Tony Flannery has said the Bishop of Cloyne’s intervention to stop him addressing a parish event in East Cork shows the Church’s claim of wanting to give voice to the laity was “empty and meaningless talk”.
He had been asked two months ago to give a lecture and take part in a question and answer session at Killeagh Parish Pastoral Council’s ‘Spiritfest’ event.
The founder of the Association of Catholic Priests said the invite had been issued to him by the pastoral council and the talk was due to take part in the community hall, “not on church property”.
However, according to Fr Tim Hazelwood, parish priest in Killeagh, a notice in this weekend’s parish newsletter will inform parishioners that “Fr Flannery will not be speaking because he is out of ministry and the bishop has asked that he not speak”.
It is understood Bishop William Crean of Cloyne travelled to the parish earlier this week and met with the pastoral council and said the talk should not go ahead.
Last night Fr Flannery said: “To find that an Irish bishop, and indeed one of the younger recently appointed ones, is pushing the notion of silencing and going to the extreme of not allowing me to give a talk in a community hall, is utterly unacceptable.
“I think it is quite appalling in the era of Pope Francis who is constantly urging people to speak their minds and speak freely to each other, to have an Irish bishop so blatantly preventing someone like me from speaking.”
He said the invite had been issued by a group of lay people at a time when the Church and bishops “have been talking constantly in the last while about the importance of the laity and giving a voice to the laity”.
“This shows up what an empty, meaningless talk that is,” he said. “That the bishop can come, which he did the other evening, and just quote his authority, and say ‘no, you cannot do that’, and they have no comeback to him. The question I would have when lay people see something like this happening is what is the point in any lay person involving themselves in the church when, ultimately, they can be pushed aside like a fly?”
Fr Flannery, who espoused what had been perceived in Rome in the past to be liberal views on contraception, celibacy, and female priests, said the move by the bishop was “very foolish”.
He said he gave more than 20 talks around Ireland last year without fuss.
“I mainly talked about Pope Francis because I am a greater admirer of his. They all went off quietly and it was grand. This would have been the same. Now it has descended into this and that is just utter stupidity on the part of the bishop.”
Last night the bishop said in a statement: “While the Parish Pastoral Council extended this invitation in good faith, I have been obliged to inform the members that — having spoken with Fr Flannery’s superior, the Provincial of the Redemptorist Order in Ireland — I am unable to approve the extension of this invitation at this time.
“The reason being is that Fr Flannery is currently out of ministry and the policy of the Diocese of Cloyne is that a priest who is out of ministry, for whatever reason, cannot exercise a public ministry.”
Patsy McGarry also covered the story in the Irish Times:
A talk to be given by Fr Tony Flannery at a community centre in Cloyne diocese has been cancelled by order of Bishop William Crean.
It’s understood the invitation was issued to Fr Flannery by the parish pastoral council of Killeagh in east Cork and he had agreed to give the opening address at its Spiritfest 2015 over the last weekend in September.
In 2012 Fr Flannery was suspended from public ministry by the Vatican’s Congregation of the Faith (CDF) for his more liberal views on women priests, homosexuality and contraception.
When he became aware of the invitation to Fr Flannery, Bishop Crean made personal representations to the parish priest of Killeagh, Fr Timothy Hazelwood, and to Fr Flannery’s superiors in the Redemptorist congregation.
He followed up with a visit to Killeagh parish this week where he met pastoral council members, after which the invitation to Fr Flannery was withdrawn.
In a statement on Friday afternoon, Bishop Crean said while the parish pastoral council extended the invitation to Fr Flannery in good faith, he had “been obliged to inform the members that, having spoken with Fr Flannery’s superior, the provincial of the Redemptorist Order in Ireland, I am unable to approve the extension of this invitation at this time”.
He added: “The reason being is that Fr Flannery is currently out of ministry and the policy of the diocese of Cloyne is that a priest who is out of ministry, for whatever reason, cannot exercise a public ministry.
“I wish for the diocese to be consistent in its position in order to continue to earn the trust of the faithful.
“Having now discussed the matter with the parish pastoral council, the members have agreed to extend an invitation to another speaker to launch Spiritfest 2015.”
Fr Flannery told The Irish Times he found the actions of Bishop Crean “quite extraordinary……particularly in the age of Pope Francis”.
He felt that “the ease with which the Bishop dismissed the pastoral council and told them what to do” illustrated “how meaningless is all this talk of giving more power to the laity”.

“They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.”
Following the French Revolution  a large number of people emigrated. When the Bourbons were restored in 1814, these émigrés returned to their country with the same mentality they had left with 25 years earlier.
Talleyrand, possibly borrowing from other sources, is reputed to have said of them: “They learned nothing and forgot nothing.”

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  1. Alan McGill says:

    It is disgusting to see a concern for child protection being subtly manipulated to stifle dialogue about church teaching and practice.The newspaper reports suggest that Bishop Crean forbade the speaking engagement based on the argument that Fr. Flannery is “out of ministry” and that it is against diocesan policy to allow priests who are out of ministry to minster in the diocese. This insidiously places Fr. Flannery in the same category as child abusers. I have observed that ‘safe environment’ policies in the US being invoked in a similar way to target priests and religious because of theological issues when the policies were never intended to be used in this way. It is a low move that appeals to public support under the guise of protecting people from predators. I have no doubt that had such policies existed in the 1950’s, they would have been used against Rahner and Schillebeeckx. On a side note, it is true that parish councils are advisory and not executive bodies according to canon law, but the bishop had discretion in this matter – and giving a talk in a community center does not even require delegation priestly faculties. The parish priest who was effectively vetoed may be in a tough position and need some support.God bless him – and of course Fr. Flannery!

  2. Kay McGinty says:

    I’m utterly appalled at Bishop Crean’s order to the pastoral council of Killeagh.. In my humble opinion Church Hibernicus has learned nothing .

  3. Teresa Mee says:

    I sympathise with Fr Tony Flannery for having to endure what the ‘Lay’ members of the community have to endure on a permanent basis – obliged as we are to listen but forbidden to speak in public or enter into dialogue on the word of God when the faith community assembles.
    Imagine the joy we look forward to when we in Ireland will be able to enter into dialogue over the word of God when the Community comes together for worship. Rules and doctrines of faith will then have to give way to faith conviction.
    ‘Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue’. Yes indeed, but let’s get beyond the words.

  4. These recent events, as detailed in this item, are not just an Irish problem but part of a larger one. It is clear that it is only one of many problems facing the church and that the source of these problems lies in Rome. Many see the credibility of the Vatican as poor indeed.
    However, all is not doom and gloom, Pope Francis is manfully doing all he can to sort out the Vatican, please God with the help of the Holy Spirit he will continue to make meaningful progress in this regard.
    It is not fully realised how bad things are in Ireland. In today’s Irish Times (22nd August, Weekend Review) there is a report by Patsy McGarry of an interview with the Nuncio to Ireland who is reported as having said, in regard to the Abuse of Children and the lack of cooperation of the Vatican in not providing documents to the Murphy Commission, that “The Holy See was following what international law required in those cases”.
    Well really! where does this show any concern for the protection of innocent potential victims or justice and care for those who were abused as children?

  5. The Nuncio is not being straight here.
    Following international law, or more properly practice, only applies to States. The Vatican has the choice of being a State when it wants and not so being when it doesn’t. It chose to hide behind its Statehood in the example referred to.

  6. roydonovan says:

    This is bullying – no other word for it. It is not acceptable.
    There are no lions in the hierarchy as Joe Dunn once wrote and at the way things are going there will be nothing left of the Irish Church.
    Anyway I believe that the institutional Church has to die completely and a totally new system is required to represent Jesus and his message in the modern twenty second century world.
    This silly Cloyne stuff is a symptom of the pathology of the universal institutional Church.
    Why are so many living in a bubble and can’t see that the Church is like the Titanic supposedly unsinkable but is sinking fast?
    Or to put it another way ‘the tide in the Irish Church has gone very far out/ very very far out’ (the Irish Examiner editorial spells this out) but most fool themselves by thinking it has only gone out a little – so far is the institutional Church gone out of the radar of not only young people but all the generations now.
    Those in our country who are doing their best to build an underground Church that represents the revolutionary Jesus are to be lauded.
    It is inspiring that there are lions (lionesses) in the USA Sisters who are on fire with a Jesus who refuses to be bullied!

  7. Chris (England) says:

    “When will they (our Bishops) ever learn?” Why are they so afraid of debate and challenge, when apathy is the real problem? When will they have the courage to forsake their ivory towers and engage in genuine dialogue with their lay sisters and brother, rather than patronising them or assuming they cannot understand doctrinal or ethical issues?
    People like Tony Flannery, prophets of our times, need to be heard, listened to by people in the pews as well as those who have abandoned said pews.
    In this instance, I think The Examiner, or another publication, should ask Tony to provide a copy of what would have been his presentation, and publish it for a wider audience.

  8. Maureen Mulvaney says:

    Yes, I totally agree with the seven responses above. Maybe it’s time to take on the courage shown by “Women of the Killaloe Diocese”. These women spoke out and objected at the proposed introduction of a male-only permanent deaconate in the diocese. These women were involved in their parishes and working for an open and inclusive church. Click in to http://www.acireland.ie/women-of-the-killaloe-diocese-speak-up/ to see more.

  9. Press Statement on the ban on Fr. Tony Flannery’s talk in Killeagh, Co. Cork
    In this new age of openness promoted by Pope Francis in the Catholic Church ‘We Are Church Ireland‘ is shocked to learn that Bishop William Crean of the Diocese Of Cloyne, County Cork has banned Fr. Tony Flannery from addressing a meeting organised by the Parish Pastoral Council of Killeagh, East Cork for the last weekend of September 2015.
    Bishop Crean overruled the decision of the Parish Pastoral Council in Killeagh which had issued the invitation to Fr Tony Flannery.
    ‘This decision of Bishop Crean is very heavyhanded and incomprehensible in refusing to respect the conscientious decision of the Killeagh Parish Council.
    ‘I call upon Bishop Crean to reverse his autocratic decision to ban Fr. Tony Flannery from addressing the People of God in the diocese of Cloyne‘ stated Brendan Butler spokesperson, We are Church Ireland.
    23 August 2015
    Further information : Brendan Butler, We are Church Ireland
    mob. 0864054984.

  10. Willie Herlihy says:

    The majority of the Irish Hierarchy, are a product of a template drawn up by Pope John 11.
    Basically this template requires conservative, autocratic “yes” men.
    This crop of Bishops are basically defending the status quo of a previous time i.e. when the laity were seen and not heard.They are oblivious to the fact that our Churches are half empty,the Parents of the next generations by and large do not go to Church.To put it simply the Church in Ireland is dying.
    Pope Francis is locked in a bitter struggle trying to reform the Curia. I hope and pray that he succeeds, but as the old adage says “culture eats change “. He will need all the help the the Holy Spirit gives him to reform that lot.
    In the meantime Parishes like Killeagh have thriving Parish Councils and a Parish Priest who is not suffering from that deadly disease called clericalism. Incidentally this disease is very prevalent among Priests in our dying Church in Ireland today.
    Until the reform of the Curia is resolved to the Popes satisfaction, progressive Parish Councils like the one in Killeagh, will have to continue swimming against the tide of the Roman Curia. They need our prayers.

  11. Brendan Cafferty says:

    I am disappointed by the action of Bishop Crean here. He is a new Bishop and comes from outside the Diocese of Cloyne as is the norm nowadays.As this talk by Fr Flannery was supposed to take place away from church property,what authority did the Bishop have to seek to stop it ? I would hope that other concerned lay people in Cork or Killeagh will renew the invitation to Fr Tony to come and address them.It may be that Bishop Crean felt he has some hold and jurisdiction over pastoral councils,but how independent are they and are they really just yesmen and yeswomen ? I think this will do enormous damage to the image of pastoral councils.I think the Bishop of Cloyne and other Bishops should intervene with Rome to have the likes of Fr Flannery restored to full ministry. Cloyne has had its problems in the past but it was not and never will be from the likes of Tony Flannery who represent the thinking of many coping Catholics at the present time.

  12. Mary Burke says:

    If Billy Crean wants to learn how to be a good bishop, he doesn’t have to look beyond his Church of Ireland counterpart, Paul Colton. A few words of wisdom would go a long way to avoid further embarrassment to the people and clergy of the much maligned Diocese of Cloyne.

  13. Kevin Walters says:

    Willie Herlithy@11
    The majority of the Irish Hierarchy are a product of a template drawn up by Pope John 11.
    Basically this template requires conservative, autocratic “yes” men.
    Willie, I believe that this template is not just applicable solely to Ireland but is applied throughout the Church in the West. I do not believe that they The Hierarchy of the Church and many of our Shepherds are oblivious to the fact that our Churches are half empty, the reality is that many are good men ensnared in the Web of Clericalism, many are institutionalized, having courageously dedicated they lives to God from virtually leaving school. We must always search for a way to go forward IN UNITY OF PERPOSE the web of clericalism needs to be broken, that spider that has caught so many in its web of deceit and arrogance.
    If this were to happen it would release the true potential of many within the Hierarchy and those of our Shepherds who serve Jesus Christ within the heart, then their true potential would have the opportunity to blossom.
    I have written a long article on v2catholic.com. The Web of Clericalism, it offers a way forward in dealing with that spider (Clericalism). I believe that its web can only be broken by a true act of humility by the Hierarchy of the Church before God and mankind. Perhaps you would consider reading it, link below
    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  14. Dolores Carroll says:

    Why is there surprise? Why do catholics think anything has or is changing? Is it blind faith? Desperation? Time to spell the coffee and accept that outrage and words are simply not enough. The reality is that the people have shown the church with their non attendance that it’s dying a slow and very painful death. As the song says “let it go”!

  15. Des Gilroy says:

    Bishop William Crean has adopted as his motto “Cor Novum Vitale”, (Heart with new vitality. How ironic. This whole incident is a total contradiction to that – totally lacking in heart and certainly stifling the vitality which the pastoral council wished to bring to the Spiritfest and which the Church so badly needs.
    Bishop Crean can be contacted at info@cloynediocese.ie. I would urge those making their views known on this page to do so directly to the bishop. I certainly am.

  16. Thank you Des. I have just written to the Bishop as follows. The bit below the dots is just a signature that goes with all emails from my address, but on this occasion seems particularly apt.
    Dear Bishop
    I am very saddened by your shortsighted decision to ban Tony Flannery from speaking in your new diocese.
    It reminds me of the actions of John Charles McQuaid in the Dublin diocese in the 1960s when, in a futile effort to keep the minds of his flock safe from the onslaughts of the Holy Spirit, he banned a number of eminent Catholic theologians from speaking in his diocese.
    Shame on you.
    Pól Ó Duibhir
    – – – –
    Grant me
    the hindsight to know where I’ve been,
    the foresight to know where I’m going,
    and the insight to know when I’ve gone too far

  17. Donal O'C says:

    The Tony Flannery saga is dragging on for far too long. It seems to me that the buck is continually being passed from the Vatican to the Redemptorists and to anyone else who may be involved, in this case Bishop Crean. Then, there is the Nuncio saying that its the Religious Order who imposed the restriction. And then there is the Redemptorists saying its the CDF who’s responsible. No-one has the courage to take responsibility for this situation. It is symptomatic of the larger context of the Irish Catholic Church where the buck is continually passed along with the tough calls being by-passed.

  18. Richard O'Donnell says:

    Fr.Tony Flannery is a very fine priest.
    Bishop Crean is certainly not following the same God as I am, or,it would seem, the God most Irish people are following. He continues to lead where his predecessor lead:to utter failure.
    But why does the parish council follow his instructions?
    Surely, there is a mature parish council-somewhere in the Coyne diocese-which would extent a similar invitation to Fr.Tony.
    As for writing to Bishop Crean-I wouldn’t bother. There are none so blind…

  19. Mícheál says:

    Sad but no surprise here. The bishop is one of those whose appointments Charlie Brown has overseen. The toxic effects of these appointments will continue to damage what remains of the Irish church. They may be decent men, but one suspects they were chosen for their orthodoxy and docility rather than their committment to the gospel or their ability to think outside the box.

  20. I recently was involved in organising an event in Belfast at which Fr Tony Flannery was the speaker. The event was held in an arts centre and although every parish in the diocese (over 80 in total) received an email invite either to their parish office or directly to their priest, not one fellow priest attended. However over 60 people from across the diocese and beyond did attend. We had a wonderful day of inspiring input and dialogue together. It was obvious from what Fr Flannery had to say that his heart was for the church and his fight was against clericalism in line with the reforms being pursued by Pope Francis.
    We need to decide, do we want comfortable, neatly packaged religion for its own sake, or the adventure of finding spiritual hope and meaning for our lives and the lives of our families and communities? If its the latter, more than ever before we need to be prepared to sail a little further from the shore to find it.
    I therefore agree with Brendan Cafferty (@12) when he says he hopes that other concerned lay people in Cork or Killeagh will renew the invitation to Fr Tony (and others like him) to come and address them (in a neutral venue if necessary). This is not about getting back at the bishop. Its about people having confidence in themselves and being prepared to take responsibility for their own spiritual growth and development. The dearth of spirituality in our society is such that we are well past the days of filtering everything through a sterile hierarchical sieve before anything can happen. And we might well ask, ‘whats the worst that can happen?’ Maybe a difference of opinion surfacing in the community? Good. We need to learn to move beyond the petty squabbles of over-dependent children and learn how to live maturely with difference.
    Life involves risk. Choose life.

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