Fr Tony Flannery (RTÉ News)

Fr Tony Flannery (RTÉ News) 

The Vatican is threatening to dismiss an Irish priest from the Redemptorist order who has unorthodox views on the question of women priests and contraception. Fr Tony Flannery was told nearly a year ago he was suspended from his ministry in County Galway. He was advised to go to a monastery and in the Latin expression credited to Saint Ignatius of Loyola, to think with the church: “sentire cum ecclesia”. He had been a founding member of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland in autumn 2010. Now the 66 year-old cleric who was ordained in 1975 has been given an ultimatum by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. According to the Irish Times, he told a news conference in Dublin he will only be allowed back into ministry if he writes, signs and publishes an article – to be pre-approved by the CDF – accepting that the Catholic Church can never ordain women to the priesthood and accepting all church stances on contraception, homosexuality, as well as the refusal of the sacraments to people in second relationships.

As Fr Flannery himself summed up his situation: “I either put my name to a document that would be a lie, and would impugn my integrity and my conscience, or I face the reality of never again ministering as a priest”. Fr Flannery says he believes the real aim of the CDF is to suppress the Association of Catholic Priests. But he is adamant that “no matter what sanctions the Vatican imposes on me I will continue, in whatever way I can, to try to bring about reform in the church and to make it again a place where all who want to follow Christ will be welcome”.

The letters columns in the Irish Times contains a number of responses to the situation the priest finds himself in. From another rebel cleric self-styled “Bishop” Pat Buckley from Larne came the following:  “Sir, – Twenty-six years ago they came for me and no one did anything. Today they have come for Fr Tony Flannery. Tomorrow they will come for you”. A lay group called We Are Church Ireland will be staging a vigil at the Papal Nunciature in Dublin on Sunday 27th January at 3pm in support of the Redemptorist. A representative of the group also welcomed the statement from Fr Flannery’s order. They said although not all Redemptorists would accept Fr Flannery’s views on all matters, they do understand and support his efforts to listen carefully to and at times to articulate the views of people he encounters in the course of his ministry. They expressed the hope that even at this late stage, an agreed resolution could be found. Update: THIS STATEMENT TO WHICH I HAD PROVIDED A LINK HAS NOW BEEN REPLACED ON THE IRISH CONGREGATION’S WEBSITE BY A NEW STATEMENT FROM THE SUPERIOR GENERAL (see below).

One correspondent from County Dublin however poses the following question: why does Fr Tony not have the courage of his convictions by officially becoming a Protestant? The writer claims that the cleric’s views are Protestant ones, not Catholic. Fr Tony certainly finds himself now with a very difficult choice to make. Many non-Catholics might be left wondering whether the curia in Rome is more intent on expelling turbulent priests who disagree with some church teachings, rather than cracking down on the problem of clerical sexual abuse in Ireland and elsewhere, which remained hidden for so many years.

In further developments, the Rome-based Superior of the Redemptorist Order, Fr Michael Brehl C.Ss.R., has said he deeply regrets the recent actions by Fr Flannery who as mentioned earlier, had held a news conference in Dublin. The full statement by Fr Brehl in which he asks Fr Flannery to renew efforts to find an agreed solution to the concerns raised by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can be found here, replacing a statement issued earlier in the week by Fr Flannery’s confreres in the Irish Province.

In the Irish Times, Patsy McGarry reports that documents seen by the paper confirm that Fr Flannery was threatened with excommunication by the Vatican. It looks like there will be more developments in this case over the next few months.


Faith Matters page 28 Irish News Thursday 13th September 2012.

Six Siblings Achieved More Than 350 Years Service to the Catholic Church

AS THE Poor Clare Order marks its 800th anniversary, a Co Monaghan family has celebrated its own milestone of service to the Catholic Church, writes Michael Fisher. It’s a record of service to the Church in Ireland that must be unique — three priests and three nuns from the same Inniskeen family who between them have achieved more than 350 years in the religious life. Two of the McCluskey family — a priest, Fr Peter, and a nun, Sr Ethna — held their diamond (60) and platinum (70) jubilees respectively earlier this summer at the St Louis Convent in Dundalk. Mass was concelebrated by Fr Peter and their youngest brother, Canon Brian, a priest for 52 years who served in Roslea, Co.Fermanagh and other parishes in the diocese of Clogher. Sr Ethna is a former superior of the St Louis convent in Kilkeel, Co.Down. Patrick Kavanagh was a near neighbour of the McCluskey family at Inniskeen and Canon Brian recalls how the poet used to borrow books from his mother’s private library at the local national school where she taught. Six of the McCluskeys gathered at the convent in Dundalk for the Mass. Fr Peter now lives at Inchicore in Dublin and Sr Ethna at the St Louis Convent in Dundalk. Canon Brian now lives in Belfast with his sister Maire — who used to work for the Northern Ireland orthopaedic service — and celebrated his golden jubilee two years ago. He still says Mass at St Brigid’s Parish in Belfast. They were joined by two other sisters — Una McMahon, a retired nurse living in Belfast, and Sr Nuala, a St Louis nun for 57 years and now retired and living at the convent in Dundalk. Two members of the family, both with 59 years in religious life, were unable to be present. Fr Gerry McCluskey is a Kiltegan priest in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Sr Aileen is a Mercy nun who is in Dublin and, like her brother Fr Gerry, is just one year short of her diamond jubilee. The contribution of the McCluskey family to religious life so far is 357 years — Sr Ethna SSL (70 years); Fr Peter OMI (60); Sr Nuala SSL (57); Fr Gerard SPS (59); Sr Aileen RSM (59); and Canon Brian (52).

Faith Matters column

Faith Matters column


Queen at St Michael’s    © Parish Website

While most of the media concentrated on the historic handshake between Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin, there was in my view a much more important greeting the day before in Enniskillen. After leaving St Macartin’s Anglican Cathedral along with Dean Kenneth Hall, the Queen walked a short distance across the road and was greeted by Canon Peter O’Reilly, the Catholic parish priest. Cardinal Sean Brady and the Bishop of Clogher Liam MacDaid were waiting to greet her inside, in what was her first ever visit to a Catholic church on the island of Ireland. More pictures of the event can be found on the St Michael’s parish website. This week’s edition of the Irish Catholic carries my report of the event under the heading: “Enniskillen PP Meets Queen”. Photo used was by Julian Behal of PA.

Enniskillen Parish Priest Canon Peter O’Reilly was among those to greet Britain’s Queen Elizabeth during her two day visit to the North this week as part of her diamond jubilee celebrations. He greeted the royal visitor at the entrance to St Michael’s church and she was then introduced to members of various parish groups. It is believed to be the first time the Queen has visited a Catholic church in Ireland. Among those present were Cardinal Brady as well as local children and representatives from a number of sectors including sport, farming and business. Earlier Cardinal Brady attended a service of thanksgiving at the nearby St Macartin’s Cathedral along with senior Protestant clergy. The lesson was read by the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson. The prayers of intercession were led by Reverend Ken Lindsay, Methodist President, Cardinal Brady and Dr Roy Patton, Presbyterian Moderator. The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh Alan Harper gave the sermon and praised the Queen’s visit to the Republic last year. He said her conciliatory words and gestures had allowed many to throw off the “shackles” that had been loosening since 1998’s Good Friday Agreement, and “positively” to be themselves“.