Fr Tony Flannery has said he believes he should no longer be called a dissident because he is now ‘mainstream’.
The co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests has also questioned why senior members of the Catholic Church are not being sanctioned, as he was, for airing their views in favour of women being ordained.
His public expression of support for women’s ordination and same-sex marriage, as well as more liberal views on homosexuality, led him to be suspended from public ministry by the Vatican in 2012.
He has been told he can return to ministry if he vows in writing to obey the Church’s teaching on women and LGBT+ people.
However, he has now noted that two senior members of the Catholic Church – one of them the Archbishop-elect of Dublin – have made statements similar to his own about the position of women in the Church, and specifically about women’s ordination.
Fr Flannery said: ‘Given that the opinions I have expressed on these matters are now being held and expressed by many people of all levels right across the Church, without any apparent sanction, I am curious to know how any Church authority, ecclesiastical or religious, can justify and condone the sentences that have been imposed upon me.’
He said the Archbishop-elect of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, in an interview with The Irish Times, had said he would like to see women becoming deacons in the Church.
Fr Flannery said: ‘He is reported to say that “the biggest barrier to having female priests in the Catholic Church is probably tradition, not the Scriptures”.
‘In saying this, he appears to undercut the main argument used by the Church against the ordination of women.’
Fr Flannery said that Bishop Batzing, the president of the German Bishops Conference, had been reported as saying he was in favour of women being ordained deacons.
Bishop Batzing went on to say, in relation to the arguments against the ordination of women: ‘I must honestly say that I am also aware that these arguments are becoming less and less convincing and that there are well-developed arguments in theology in favour of opening up the sacramental ministry to women as well.’
Fr Flannery said: ‘So now the German bishop who supports women’s ordination has been joined by the new man in Dublin, who supports women deacons, and undercuts the main argument about ordination – that Scripture forbids it. No longer dissident, I am now mainstream!’
He added: ‘Will these two senior clerics be asked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to sign a document which states “a baptised male alone receives ordination validly”?
‘It is not my wish that they be requested to do so, but it is worth pointing out that this is what I have been ordered to sign as a precondition of being “gradually” restored to ministry.’
Fr Flannery also noted that Bishop Batzing had said he believed it was necessary to change Church teaching on homosexuality, while Pope Francis disliked the Church’s description of homosexuality as an ‘intrinsic moral evil’.
He queried if either of them would be asked, like him, to sign a statement declaring homosexual practices to be ‘contrary to the natural law’.
Their ranks include ex-federal prosecutors, a retired judge, a one-time assistant police chief, even a former priest. But a group of prominent Catholics say they still can’t get an audience with Seattle’s new archbishop in their push to address the fallout of a lingering scandal.
Members of Heal Our Church, a Seattle-based alliance of practicing Catholics who seek a public review of how the Roman Catholic Church’s worldwide sexual abuse scandal secretly festered within the parishes of Western Washington, contend they’re being stonewalled by Archbishop Paul Etienne.
Since requesting a meeting with Etienne in January, group members said the archbishop has refused to discuss their call for a citizen-led review of the Seattle Archdiocese’s private records on clergy abuse. Group members contend only full disclosure of the secret files — with a public airing about the archdiocese’s known pedophile clergy members and how the church dealt with them — can ultimately heal the church and rebuild trust within the broader community.
“What we’re proposing is not radical,” said Clark Kimerer, a retired Seattle police assistant chief and core member of Heal Our Church. “It’s truth and reconciliation — a time-tested process that provides healing.”
But so far, Etienne has responded with only impersonal, pro-forma letters that dispute the necessity for such an initiative, group members said.
In a recent email, a spokesperson for the archdiocese partly blamed the coronavirus lockdown for scuttling the archbishop’s plan for an in-person discussion with the group.
“We had a meeting set but the pandemic came, which postponed this meeting,” according to the archdiocese’s email. “This is a meeting that would be better done in person, which can’t be done right now.”
But the email added that a “thorough outside review of the files by qualified lay people (and) a review of allegations by a group of qualified lay experts has already been done.”
Before Etienne’s appointment to Seattle in 2019, the archdiocese undertook various efforts to examine and address clergy sexual-abuse cases. They included creating a case review board in 2004 to examine child sex-abuse claims against several priests, and hiring former FBI-agent-turned-consultant Kathleen McChesney to evaluate the archdiocese’s clergy-abuse archives. McChesney’s review resulted in the archdiocese’s 2016 publication of a list naming 77 clergy members with credible accusations of rape or other abuse dating back decades.
Etienne has since established a pastoral council to take input from the laity, and the archdiocese continues to keep a review board of appointed citizens for consultation on sex-abuse cases, the email said. It also has quietly updated its “credibly accused” list with the names of scores of clergy on loan from other dioceses or religious orders who worked in Western Washington schools and churches but were left off the archdiocese’s initial accounting.
“Given our history and deep commitment to healing and transparency, as well as our deep respect for and trust in the experts like Kathleen McChesney and review board members, we are not planning to replace them or create parallel structures or processes,” the archdiocese’s email said.
But the church’s efforts to date have failed to fully address the scandal and continue to promote secrecy, according to the Heal Our Church group members.
They contend the archdiocese has failed to explicitly reveal how much church officials knew about credibly accused clergy members and when they first learned of individual abuse allegations. The archdiocese also hasn’t provided details as to whether its high-ranking officials played any role in enabling or covering up cases of abuse, and if so, why that happened, the members said.
“There’s never been discussion of the how and why this all evolved,” said Terry Carroll, a retired King County judge. “We think a lot has to do with the bishops and decisions by the church, but there’s been no real accountability for that era because the whole story hasn’t been told.”
At times, such details have separately emerged in lawsuits brought against the archdiocese by abuse victims. In one case, the archdiocese’s required legal disclosures of portions of the secret file kept on one notorious priest, the Rev. Michael Cody, showed the late Seattle Archbishop Thomas Connolly knew Cody was a pedophile but nonetheless moved him from parish to parish. After The Seattle Times detailed the case in 2016, Seattle University removed Connolly’s name from its athletics and recreation center.
Carroll and Mike McKay, the former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, both served on the Seattle Archdiocese’s first review panel. They’ve since become outspoken critics of what they’ve described as the archdiocese’s opaque handling of the scandal. The two were among a core group who helped launch Heal Our Church and the latest push for more transparency.
More than 250 practicing Catholics in the Seattle Archdiocese have signed on as supporters of the group, including Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes. Heal Our Church, which runs a website to promote its cause, hosted a webinar in October and invited Etienne, but the archbishop was a no-show.
The group plans to broaden its effort in the New Year and hasn’t ruled out taking legal action, Kimerer and Carroll said.
Released in November, the 449-page report found that years of allegations against McCarrick were ignored or covered up by bishops and other officials, allowing him to rise to the highest levels of Catholic church hierarchy. But the report downplayed the roles of surviving officials, placing the lion’s share of blame on the late Pope John Paul II.
“They tend to come together and circle the wagons when things go wrong,” Sullivan said of church authority.
The pandemic appears to be the archdiocese’s latest excuse for putting off dealing with the latest calls for transparency, Sullivan added.
“We’ve offered to meet virtually or with social distancing,” he said. “But (the archdiocese) refused those opportunities.”
Group members contend that ignoring the church faithful’s efforts for a definitive public airing only serves to further undermine the archdiocese’s credibility and diminish trust at a time of plummeting membership.
“We’re seeing a church in crisis,” said Kimerer, the former assistant police chief. “The faithful (are) leaving the church in droves and credibility is at an all-time low. But if, indeed, the archdiocese has addressed these issues, then why are they so averse to having a lay-led group validate that? We’d call that a clue.”
Residential school survivor Evelyn Korkmaz is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to release thousands of documents that detail the sexual and physical abuse of thousands of Indigenous children at St. Anne’s residential school in the last century.
Korkmaz said the federal government has not turned over 12,300 reports from Ontario Provincial Police investigations of violations at St. Anne’s in Fort Albany, Ont. despite an Ontario Superior Court order.
Following the court order in 2014, Ottawa released heavily redacted copies of materials generated by the OPP between 1992 and 1996.
“They’re useless if they’re redacted,” Korkmaz said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “This is part of Canada’s Indigenous history. We can learn from this.”
St. Anne’s Indian Residential School was run by the Catholic orders of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Grey Sisters of the Cross from 1902 until 1976 and was funded by the federal government starting in 1906.
It was one of Canada’s most notorious residential schools. Indigenous children from Fort Albany First Nation in northern Ontario were sexually abused, punished by shocks delivered in electric chairs and forced to eat their own vomit, according to Edmund Metatawabin, a survivor and former chief of the First Nation.
Metatawabin was forced to attend the school between 1956 and 1963. He became a chief of his nation in 1988 and used his position to sponsor a panel for survivors to share their stories, putting together a report that triggered the police investigation in autumn 1992.
“The residential school issue is a very sensitive case for us. It was an embarrassing thing for us to face.” he said in an interview.
“It’s hard to say you were abused as a child. You want to keep that private.”
Metatawabin said more than 900 survivors of St. Anne’s decided to talk about their painful memories and testified to the police in the 1990s, resulting in a trove of information and criminal convictions of six former employees at the school.
In 2006, lawyers for former students and for the churches that ran residential schools, the Assembly of First Nations, other Indigenous organizations and the government approved the Indian Residential School Settlement, which included independent assessment processes to set compensation for claims of sexual or serious physical abuse.
However, many survivors of St. Anne’s have taken the federal government to court, seeking to reopen compensation cases that were settled before the partial release of the police documents in 2014.
A group of 60 survivors launched a case in 2013, claiming that the federal government failed to turn over those documents and breached the settlement agreement.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Perell, who has spent years supervising implementation of the settlement agreement, ruled earlier this year the case should be heard by a judge in British Columbia.
Perell had recused himself over his previous criticism of one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
In November, the Ontario Court of Appeal found Perell wrong to order the legal fight to be heard in B.C., saying the case pressed by survivors of St. Anne’s should remain in Ontario. The next hearing is to take place virtually on Dec. 31.
But Justice Brenda Brown of British Columbia Supreme Court issued a court order in May that permits the federal government to destroy the police documents in the new year.
The federal Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Department said in a statement Tuesday the government will retain the police reports until the courts determine the matters before them.
Metatawabin said the documents reveal wrongdoing by the government and the churches. “Instead of making amends, (the government) tried to hide these documents from survivors and from the public.”
The documents have significant value for the Fort Albany First Nation people because they contain elders’ testimonies on their history, Metatawabin said.
“These are sacred words from the elders,” he said. “It’s an insult to the memory of those elders that told their story, that the government took their words from them, and now they want to erase history.”
Korkmaz said these documents are important evidence of the violations committed at St. Anne’s.
“The government for some strange reason is protecting the pedophiles that were at our school,” she said. “A normal citizen of any country, who is caught sexually abusing a child goes to jail. … Why are the priests, the bishops, the cardinals being protected? Why are they allowed to do it?”
The pop of pepper ball pellets echoed in the night as police converged on demonstrators who gathered in front of a church to protest the death of Daniel Prude.
“Sanctuary!” an activist filming the protest shouted to his peers. “Go inside!”
Protesters streamed into Spiritus Christi Church, a congregation led by the Rev. Myra Brown, one of Rochester’s most vocal advocates for racial justice. That night, she stepped into a new, unofficial role, trying to bridge the divide between a growing group of Rochester residents fed up with city leadership and the officials still struggling to handle a city in crisis
Video of Prude’s March encounter with Rochester police shows him naked, handcuffed and hooded; he died a week later. The images, which were not released until September, sparked days of protest. Prude’s name — along with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and other Black Americans killed by police this year — is now invoked in the nationwide racial justice movement.
It also galvanized Rochester, an industrial city on Lake Ontario where residents have, for decades, pushed for police reform and fought against racism
A respected community leader whose golden singing voice fills the church, Brown has the ear of both the city’s leadership and its grass-roots advocates. A former nurse whose ministry is as tied to racial justice as it is to God, she emerged as a key channel of reason and understanding as tensions between police and protesters escalated, helping change the trajectory of the protests.
She was at home when she got the call that the church, home to a breakaway Catholic congregation, was being hit by pepper balls and the injured were taking refuge inside.
“I need you to get your officers to stand down,” Brown told then-Police Chief La’Ron Singletary. After some haggling with the top police official — who has since been fired amid revelations that he may have tried to minimize the department’s role in Prude’s death — a line of officers surrounding the building receded and those taking refuge inside began to leave.
The following day, Brown brokered a deal with Mayor Lovely Warren: the police would pull back and activists could march freely. Brown and 100 “elders” from the community and area churches served as a buffer between protesters and police that night.
The protests stayed peaceful. Brown was later thanked by city officials and painted as a partner in their efforts — a role she said she did not play.
She said she felt “used” by the city. Brown believed she was “negotiating a better path and a better response for the community” in her talks with Warren and Singletary, a goal she was easily behind.
The message, she said, should not have been, “Reverend Myra partnering to save the system.”
‘We like to deny’
Brown believes Rochester has not recognized how that system, along with historical wrongs and discriminatory policies that include putting Black children in substandard schools, have contributed to systemic racism in a city that is 40 percent Black.
“We like to shift the narrative here,” Brown said. “We like to deny.”
Raised in Rochester by parents who were farmworkers in the South, Brown, 55, saw the difference up close when she and other members of a racial justice convoy spent a week in 2017 touring six cities that have significance to their mission. Stops included Selma and Montgomery, Ala. They went to Cleveland, where a police officer in 2014 shot and killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old playing with a toy gun.
On the trip, the complicated nature of American racism revealed itself through a candid conversation with a parole officer in Ohio who admitted to feeling like “every Black youth is equally dangerous,” Brown recalled
The officer, who was Black, was worn down by the system and was repeatedly troubled by “the boys he was working with,” Brown said.
Brown, in an essay about the trip, said the group learned that they “must work tirelessly to end racism where we live.”
“To become our best selves,” she wrote, “we must humbly hold ourselves accountable and be open to being held to account when we yield to our worst selves.”
For years, Brown has been working to change Rochester from the pulpit of Spiritus Christi. She spent years worshiping and serving in various positions with the Rev. James Callan, a Catholic priest who violated strict Vatican guidelines by blessing same-sex couples and allowing women to perform the functions of priests. The Vatican forced Callan, who made civil rights the centerpiece of his ministry, from his church.
Callan’s ousting and final Mass was front-page news in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: “Huge goodbye to Callan,” the headline read. The mayor at the time told Callan, “Wherever they send you, Jim, give ‘em hell
In 1999, Callan helped found Spiritus Christi, where he is now the associate pastor. Brown was ordained a priest in 2017 and started leading the congregation two years ago. Women are not allowed to be Catholic priests, but Spiritus Christi is not recognized by the Vatican
Brown delivers sermons, wearing a stole with “Black Lives Matter” etched in gold, that highlight a moral obligation to address racial injustices. At a Sunday this fall, a White congregant with a long gray beard showed up to church in a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt. Equality is Spiritus Christi’s mission.
The church is working on building an outdoor museum in Rochester’s Baden Park — a site of unrest in the 1960s — to raise awareness for the area’s history of housing and employment inequality, and what Brown said was Black community’s mistreatment by police.
Brown tells congregants and community members that the political system was established generations ago by the White, male, elite and was built to serve its creators. She says that modern-day policing is derived from Southern slave patrols. The diversity we see now in government and the private sector is “because people pushed their way in,” Brown said.
Brown, who greets both strangers and friends with her inviting smile, believes Rochester is no exception. Yet she has faith she can help enlighten hearts and minds through education, kindness and respect. It will be no easy task.
“We haven’t done anything to change the structure, we’ve simply moved the pieces around,” she said. “That is why you have what happened to Daniel Prude.”
Brown finds herself working within the confines of what she believes is a broken system, and hoping for the best. She spent four hours facilitating a discussion on race in September with 18 guests, mostly candidates for local office.
The group covered, with her guidance, how the legacy of slavery and broader systems of racism in this country applies to issues they face in their lives and work
New York State Assemblyman Harry Bronson (D) said Brown is able to convey the history that informs structural racism because she is willing to listen to others and treats all with respect.
“Even if they don’t agree with her, they’re open to having those conversations,” he said
Bronson, who is White, said he left with a deeper understanding of White guilt and White fragility, as well as how to recognize racism. Candidates also discussed structural, cultural and institutional racism in society.
“Those kind of thoughts and ideas are going to be beneficial as I continue to develop policy,” Bronson said.
Demond Meeks, a Rochester organizer recently elected to the state assembly, said Brown earns trust by showing respect while facilitating judgment-free conversations about difficult issues.
“She’s someone that can speak to both sides and try to get people to come to a consensus of sorts,” Meeks said
Meeks said community relations with the police have been fractured for years. Many protesters are still haunted by the 2002 fatal police shooting of 14-year-Craig Heard. The eighth-grader was allegedly driving a stolen car. According to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, police alleged the boy was trying to run an officer over.
“People are quick to speak about George Floyd and other situations that have happened throughout the country,” Meeks said. “But we have a history of these things happening right here in Rochester.”
Warren said it is “no secret” that Rochester — along with every other city in the country — has issues with systemic racism and police brutality.
“The problems of the past cannot be changed or erased, but we can learn from them,” she said in a statement.
A ‘pathway forward,’ despite a broken system
Days after the video of Prude being detained by police was made public, Brown was among the throngs of protesters gathered in front of Rochester’s Public Safety building — a facility that, to many, represented systemic injustice. The group had been blocked from getting close to the building on previous nights, fueling discontent.
Earlier in the day, Brown brokered a deal with Warren to get the police to pull back its roving detail and allow the activists to march freely. She also pushed for the ability to intervene on site, giving her time to try to diffuse a problem before police responded with force.
On the ground, she and about 100 other elders from the community and area churches were serving as a buffer between the police and protesters. It was tense at times, but the tactic worked: That night was the first of many relatively peaceful ones to come.
Throughout the night, Brown fielded calls from Singletary, who believed some in the crowd were getting out of hand. She convinced Singletary and Warren to give her “at least five minutes” to diffuse situations before officers “start to get trigger-happy and nervous,” she said. The officials agreed to work with Brown.
Brown said her goal was to create a “pathway forward to make sure the community was safe to grieve,” that they “were not attacked by police and not re-traumatized.”
Elders, she reasoned, could provide the life experience and patience that some of the young people needed. They should also be willing to listen.
That night, a young Black man she encountered was visibly hurting, his voice shrill and intense. As others fell silent, he continued to chant by himself in a way that was “coming out sideways,” she said.
Hi sweetie, how you doing?” Brown asked the young man. She saw an opportunity to show him love and see that his hurt did not get the best of him, leading to conflict. She said she asked him in her “softest and gentlest voice” to please lower his volume so she could hear the speaker on the megaphone.
The young man said he was sorry.
“You don’t need to apologize,” Brown said. “I hear the pain in your voice, and I know its real for you, and I’m sorry about whatever you have gone through.”
Ashley Gantt, one of the main organizers of the Black Lives Matter movement in Rochester, said Brown has a reputation for doing good in the area.
“She’s like a mentor, slash activist, slash spiritual counselor,” she said. “And she can sing.”
Activists in Rochester have paused protest activity as coronavirus infection rates rise. They have turned their attention to advocating for a law that would remove police officers from mental health crisis calls like Prude’s, mirroring similar efforts around the country, Gantt said.
Brown’s negotiation with Singletary and Warren resulted in a news conference where she was thanked for her role. In public statements after the meeting, she was painted as a “partner” of those in power, a role she did not agree with. There was also confusion over Brown’s role in bringing elders to the protest; Gantt said others deserve credit for organizing their presence.
“Myra just let the mayor know what was happening, and then the mayor co-opted it,” Gantt said.
Brown was also unhappy with the city’s portrayal of her role as one that denoted a community partnership, which was not her intention.
“I felt used in that,” Brown said. “I never want to be framed as somebody working with the system that’s oppressive for people
In a statement, Warren said those considered to be elders are the most trusted and respected voices in the community and have been “instrumental in bringing together opposing sides.
“The presence of our city’s elders during recent protests and periods of unrest has been vital to the well-being of the Rochester community,” Warren said.
Brown told a Rochester television station that she was ultimately happy to have helped secure “a pathway forward” for the city, and acknowledged it would not have happened without Warren pushing Singletary to stand down.
“I can establish relationships with people without being tied to the oppression,” Brown said.
A Paris court on Wednesday convicted a former Vatican ambassador to France of sexually assaulting five men in 2018 and 2019, and handed him a suspended 8-month prison sentence.
Retired Archbishop Luigi Ventura, 76 — who was not present in court — was “shattered” by the verdict, according to his lawyer, Solange Doumic. She said she was uncertain whether he would lodge an appeal because the procedure “has been extremely painful for him.”
Ventura has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. Sexual assault is punishable in France by up to five years’ imprisonment and fines in France.
The path for the prosecution of Ventura was cleared after the Vatican lifted his immunity in July 2019. His trial in absentia was held Nov. 10.
The sentence imposed Wednesday was more lenient than the suspended 10 months the prosecution had sought.
Doumic said her client had “explained himself multiple times,” over what the defense has described as “minor” accusations.
But the court decision “shows he wasn’t heard, despite a 7-hour hearing on gestures which are simple, light,” she said after the verdict.
Five men alleged that they had suffered Ventura’s “hands on the buttocks” during his public diplomatic duties in France. The case erupted in February 2019 amid multiple sex scandals affecting the Catholic Church.
Among the accusers was a former seminarian, Mahe Thouvenel, who said he was grabbed repeatedly by the clergyman when they celebrated Mass in December 2018. Another, Mathieu De La Souchere, alleged that Ventura touched his behind repeatedly during a reception at Paris City Hall.
Thouvenel said his seminary kicked him out after he filed a police complaint. Under questioning from Ventura’s lawyer, he put his right hand on the top of his right buttock to show one of the spots where he was allegedly groped.
“It’s violent,” Thouvenel said during the trial. “It sticks in your memory.”
The judge said at the time that, during prior questioning, Ventura had explained his behavior by saying he had a “Latin” temperament and that there was nothing sexual about his gestures.
“These types of verdicts, when it involves a Vatican ambassador, can give other victims the courage to come forward in other cases potentially involving the church,” said Antoinette Frety, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “They know now that they will be heard no matter what the rank of the aggressor is within the church. And that’s very important.”
Another lawyer for the plaintiffs, Edmond-Claude Frety, said the verdict should encourage potential victims not to give up.
“It means that victims have to be brave, have to leave the silence and to talk,” he said. Ventura “will not be in jail tonight, of course, but it’s quite an important conviction because it means that these facts are now considered very severely by the courts.”
The former envoy had produced a doctor’s note saying it was too dangerous for him to travel from Rome to Paris for the November trial amid France’s resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic.