Tony Flannery talks with Michael Enright on Canadian radio
For 39 years Tony Flannery has been a priest of the the Redemptorist Order, in Ireland. He has done many of the things priests do … celebrate Mass, hear confession, administer last rites, baptise babies, counsel sinners and console the bereft.
In addition to the practical pastoral duties he agreed to undertake, Tony Flannery has written about faith, morality and religion in the modern world. He has published 6 books and written for numerous publications.
By all accounts, Tony Flannery is a man of the cloth, a man of the people and a man who pays close attention to his own conscience.Tony Flannery is also a priest at odds with the most powerful body in the Vatican, next to the Pope of course, The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In earlier times, it was known as The Inquisition. Nowadays, the Congregation, which was once headed by Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict XVI, spends much of its time rooting out heresy, controversy and any hint of straying from the official line of the Church.
Awhile back, the Congregation turned its attention to Tony Flannery, primarily for his opinons about the nature of the priesthood, whether women could be priests and a number of quarrels with the Church’s stance on matters relating to sexuality. The fact that Tony Flannery was a founder of the Association of Priests and a fierce critic of the way the Church had handled the sex abuse tragedy in Ireland may have also alerted the Congregation to Father Flannery.
The Congregation, after some “investigation and negotiation”, ordered Father Flannery to stop administering the sacraments, cease publication of his writings, avoid the media and formally and publicly agree to a certain set of statements about his acceptance and endorsement of Church teachings on the priesthood, sexuality and the ultimate authority of the Church in interpreting the word of God.
Late in January, Father Flannery publicly suggested that if he was to agree to the demands of the Congregation, he would be unable to look himself in the mirror. He spoke to Michael Enright from Galway, Ireland.
• Go to website here and press LISTEN button, bottom right hand corner under photo of St Peter’s.
Fr. Tony, I listened to your interview and found it thought provoking and I support you in your efforts to promote reform and renewal in the Catholic Church in keeping with what was promulgated in Vatican II, much of which has still not been fulfilled.
I wish people would stop applying the nomenclature ‘dissident priest’ in light of the conscientious stance you are taking. If it were fair to do so, then by your own findings, 75% of the church attending Catholic community would also be ‘dissidents’. Keep strong in the knowledge that the prayers, support and best wishes of many colleagues and members of our Church are with you – and let’s pray that some of the episcopate manage to ‘grow a pair’ and do what they know in their hearts to be true.
This is a direct link to the audio:
Thank you Father Flannery for your candid evaluation of the Church and in particular the leadership, or lack of leadership, of the Irish Bishops. Given, the situation, that the Bishops do not want to appear disobedient to Rome, and that the principles of subsidiarty and collegiality are not the way the “powers of be” do business, I am certain, that the bishops, will simply take matters into their own hands, no listening and consulting with priests or people, and as a matter of course, present the priests and the rest of the Church, with a PLAN and you’ll be expected to implement it. If the bishops intent is to do for Ireland, only what Rome would approve, then, they really won’t be doing much that really suggests that they’ve listened to the priests or the people. If that happens, where the bishops only do what Rome wants, well, that could be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”.
Having listened to Fr Flannery’s interview, he is as usual clear and to the point. Rome may not like to hear what he has to say, but the majority of what is left of the faithful, in this country, knows that he is right. I was privileged to hear Fr Tony preach in the Redemptorists Church Limerick on many occasions, when he was Rector there over an 8 year period. Regardless of what his subject was, his passion and belief captivated his audience.
If the Bishops of this country want to rejuvenate our Church, they should give Fr Tony a car full of petrol and request that he goes and preach in each of the 26 Diocese within our Country. If Rome had any sense they should send the Papal Nuncio with him, and he may then learn a little of what our great Priest’s mean to us.
With reference to Fr. Tony Flannery’s current situation, allow me to share the following event which occured this weekend. In the Diocese of Cloyne, St Patrick’s Church, Fermoy a celebrant, recently ordained, used the homily as a personal attack on Fr. Tony Flannery, CSsR. The celebrant used the homily, which is meant to be a breaking the God’s Word, in a partisan manner. A small number of the congregation were motivated to walk out of the Mass, thereby depriving themselves of the Eucharist. This was not the response of ‘mavericks’. Some of those who walked out are actively involved in the parish. Committed Catholics walked out as their only response to the abuse of a homily.
On another occasion, another parishioner, whilst praying the way of the Cross after a Mass, was informed by the same priest that she was late for Mass and thus should not have received the Eucharist at Holy Communion. The lady in question had brought her children with her to the same Mass. One therefore may conclude that the intention of the lady was good. She was met with hostility.
I cite these factual examples just to show what is happening ‘on the ground’ in one parish on a particular Sunday. It is not representative of the other clergy in that parish. It’s ironic that the gospel text (Luke 5:1-11) related the honest confession of Peter to Jesus after Jesus had performed a miracle. Peter casts himself before Jesus, who witnessing Peter’s lack of faith, then proceeds to invite him to follow Jesus. Jesus did not use Peter’s lack of faith as a stick with which to beat him. Today’s gospel shows that Jesus can work with all who are open to grace. By contrast, our newly ordained priest appears, on both occasions above, to be operating from the premise that grace and the Eucharist are for only those who give notional assent to Magesterium teaching; and that the Eucharist is only for the perfect and the punctual.
The Eucharist as a source of unity, in this instance, was turned into a partisan event.
My citing this event is not meant as a personal attack on the priest involved. He is a newly ordained priest – who had an extended formation prior to ordination. One can make allowances for a homiletics learning-curve. One is not, however, allowed to use the sacraments or the Eucharist as a stick with which to beat people. This, in summary, is what factually occurred in this parish on this Sunday. It goes in some way, to explain why some good people are voting with their feet.
A final comment. The thrust of the celebrant’s homily was about obedience and full notional assent to clerical promises. Since he judged Fr. Tony Flannery, CSsR as disobedient, he felt justified in his partisan use or abuse of the space meant for sharing the Sacred Word of God. Perhaps the good Father should be alerted to the various meanings of ‘knowledge’ in a biblical context. One such, drawn from the biblical and the ascetical tradition of the Catholic Church, understands ‘knowledge’ as ‘union with God’. A sharing in the life of God through our experience. Ths is not to be limited to passive notional assent. One finds this also in Newman. So, a narrow undertaning of ‘ knowledge as consent’ as opposed to ‘ knowledge as union with God’, is to rob one of the possibility of grace working through the brokenness of life. Like Peter in today’s gospel, we sometimes come to Him broken, saying, “Leave me, Lord; i am a sinful person’. We come as graced sinners, to the ‘uncovenanted graces of God’. This is far wilder and filled with graced-possibilities then obedience. One is of the soul, the other, of the institution.
The people who walked out today, have no forum to expose their views. What happened to them, and those exposed to this partisan event, should have their experience heard.
Fr. Flannery, pack your bags for Rome!
Let’s hope the Spirit will inspire the Conclave.
In defence of the good young Priest, he was only preaching what he was taught in the seminary. Our seminaries are now controlled by the Cardinal Dolans of our world, and shortly only those with SIMPLE HEARTS, PURE MINDS, WITH TOTAL OBEDIENCE TO THE MAGISTERUIM IN ALL THINGS, will be allowed to attend mass. Those of us, still hanging on in there, have another reason to re-assess our situation.
At the moment there are two Twitter accounts purporting to be from Fr. Tony Flannery.
(i) @tonyflannery which seems to have been dormant since March 2012, and
(ii)@frtonyflannery which has just sprung up.
Given the number of spoof accounts on Twitter, it would be very helpful if Fr. Tony could clarify through this site what the position is.
Ger, maybe a new pope will give us reason to re-assess our situation!
Darlene, we now need the Holy Spirits intervention more than ever before.
” Our seminaries are now controlled by the Cardinal Dolans of our world, ” Apparently he charmed the seminarians in the Irish College Rome off their feet!
My only worry is what will they interview Vincent Twomey about from now on if his other friend, Christoph Scho(e)nborn of Wien, doesn’t get the Holy Spirit’s nod. Besides I have a few quid on Christoph for nearly a year now, and a small side bet on Peter Turkson ar eagla na heagla. ABD (Anyone But Dolan).
Thanks Pól. Benny as always is on the ball. If Vincent gets the white smoke on St Patrick’s Day, will he be Patricius I, or just plain Patricius without regnal number, or Patricius II ?
We’ve had a JR. We certainly don’t want a TD in the Vatican!
Thank you Eddie (No.15)
An alternative line of thought led me to think that Fr. Twomey might be regularly interviewed on his profound (more profound than his Mentor’s) understanding of the “informed conscience”, which concept is now being regressed to enable it to fit into pre-Vatican II vestments.
Benny was on the ball here a whole half a decade ago. It was his first introduction to both Vincent Twomey and Seán Fagan.