Meet the 71-year-old Catholic priest who wants his church to repeal the celibacy rule

Father Tony Flannery

by Peter Swindon

A CONTROVERSIAL Catholic priest has claimed the vow of celibacy is one of the causes of clerical child abuse and called on the church to repeal the ancient law.

Father Tony Flannery will deliver a lecture at the University of Edinburgh next month entitled “Celibacy, sexuality and the crisis in the priesthood” when he will also demand the ordination of women.

The Catholic Church forbids women from joining the priesthood and men who are ordained must promise not to have sex, a rule which Flannery claims is deterring young men.

The Catholic Church has distanced itself from Flannery, denied that the celibacy rule was off-putting and said there were 12 priests ordained in Scotland last year, the highest number in 20 years.

Flannery was suspended by the church in 2012 and threatened with ex-communication unless he stayed silent, but he is set to bring his message to Scotland on February 28 and risk further sanctions by the church.

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Herald, he said: “The rule on celibacy has to be changed because it is not working. Fewer and fewer young men are interested in becoming priests because the oath of celibacy is a big deterrent.

“Catholic priests could marry up until the 13th century. It’s purely a church regulation and as such it can be changed.

“In my experience, for a lot of priests, celibacy has been a struggle which can lead to difficulties, such as addictive behaviours.”

Flannery went on to say celibacy can be “a factor” in clerical child abuse cases. “It’s something that should be examined carefully by the Catholic church,” he said.

“The Australian investigation into child sexual abuse in institutions, in the final summing up which came out a month ago, suggests compulsory celibacy was a factor. One of the recommendations they made was the Catholic church lift the rule on compulsory celibacy.”

Flannery, who lives in Killimordaly in County Galway, was ordained more than 40 years ago and took the vow of celibacy, but he would not confirm whether he had adhered to the rule. “I have many relationships, but I don’t want to go into my personal life,” he said. “One thing I will say is I am a 71-year-old man so…”

Flannery also wants to see an end to the patriarchy which governs the church and decrees that women can’t be priests.

“I am fully supportive of the ordination of women,” he said. “I want women to have full equality in the church. At the moment women have no voice in decision-making in the church. That is so wrong and outdated that it has to change. I see women as essential for the credibility of the Catholic church going forward.”

A spokesman for the Catholic church said: “Ordination and decision-making are completely different things – the former is not a pre-requisite for the latter.”

When asked about celibacy the church spokesman added: “To suggest celibacy is a deterrent to vocations is demonstrably not true…in Scotland the number of men studying for the priesthood has increased every year for the last 10 years. In 2017 there were 12 ordinations of priests in Scotland, the highest figure in 20 years. There are currently 18 seminarians studying for the priesthood, the highest figure for over a decade.”

Flannery’s views led to sanctions by the church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was founded in 1542 to defend the church from heresy.

Flannery said: “I am no longer allowed to minister publicly as a priest. That happened six years ago. As a consequence, I have been on the fringes of the church. It’s affected my opinion of the Vatican.

“My main dispute there wasn’t so much that they objected to things I had written. I don’t mind that. The authority structure has the right to question people. My main problem was the process in which the Vatican dealt with me was totally unjust.

“I had no opportunity to defend myself. I was never told who accused me or the nature of the allegation. I was never communicated with directly by the Vatican. There was no court of appeal.”

A church spokesman said: “The Vatican processes are far from unjust and ensure the right of defence for all involved.”

FLANNERY COULD FACE PROTESTS BY CATHOLIC STUDENTS AT EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY

Diego Maria Malara, a lecturer in social anthropology, is organising Flannery’s visit and expects opposition. He said: “Father Flannery’s scheduled appearance at the University in February will be boycotted by more conservative members of the Catholic Student Union, but many of Edinburgh’s Catholics will welcome the chance to hear this charismatic speaker, who represents the progressive side of the Catholic Church.”

Maya Mayblin, who is also a lecturer in social anthropology, invited Flannery to speak. She is researching how sexuality affects the lives of Catholic priests.

She said: “Father Flannery is one of relatively few people within the church to have addressed this issue directly and publicly, so I think people will be very interested in what he has to say. I haven’t encountered any opposition and my hope is that even those who disagree him will want to attend his talk.

“Father Flannery is an important figure because he’s in a position to give voice to opinions which lots of priests hold, but are unable to express due to something of a culture of silence within the priesthood.

“The church is a very centralised institution, so any divergent voice, especially from a priest, can seem troubling to the institution.”

The Sunday Herald contacted the University of Edinburgh’s Catholic Students’ Union for comment, but did not receive a response.

Flannery said: “If they turn up with placards and try to interrupt me I would find it hilarious.”

Complete Article HERE!

Children of Catholic priests chalk up win in fight for recognition

The Vatican has at last broken its silence on priests who become fathers, as their children reveal the pain of secrecy

By

When he was a boy, Vincent Doyle spent most weekends with a priest he believed was his godfather.

Every Friday night they would watch MacGyver and Vincent would stay in a room that the priest, who was called JJ, kept for him. And every morning before school, he would call Vincent to wish him well.

It was not until years later when Doyle, a psychotherapist based in Galway, was sitting in the kitchen with his mother, leafing through old poems the late priest had written, that he asked the question he innately knew the answer to. “I said: ‘He was my father, wasn’t he?’ And I saw a tear come out of her,” Doyle says.

Catholic priests have been breaking their vows of celibacy and fathering children for decades, if not centuries. For just as long, the Vatican has not publicly addressed the question of what, if any, responsibility the church has to provide emotional and financial support to those children and their mothers. Until now.

A commission created by Pope Francis to tackle clerical sexual abuse will develop guidelines on how dioceses should respond to the issue of the children of priests.

The pontifical commission for the protection of minors has been criticised for doing too little on child sexual abuse. Its decision to take up the issue of priest fathers comes after Irish bishops published guidelines this year that have been hailed as a global model.

They say a child’s wellbeing must be the first consideration of a priest father, and that he must “face up” to his personal, legal, moral, and financial responsibilities.

Acknowledgement of the issue has come about in part because people such as Doyle, who has launched an organisation designed to help priests’ children cope with their difficult childhood circumstances, are speaking out like never before.

It is, says John Allen, a veteran Vatican journalist, an example of the “Francis effect”. “He has encouraged a spirit of open discussion. There is a vast global loosening up under Pope Francis, and this is one expression of it,” he says.

In the past, a bishop who was confronted with a priest father would have been most concerned about the priest breaking his vow of celibacy, Allen says. The priest would probably have been urged to avoid being “tempted” by the mother again and told to ensure the child was taken care of, but not have a personal relationship.

Doyle has loving memories of his father, whose surname he adopted. He will not talk about his parents’ relationship out of respect for his mother’s privacy, except to say one thing: they loved each other.

“He did everything he could for me in the circumstances,” Doyle says. “I simply loved him like a son would. The only problem is, you cannot say it.”

When he was a child, he says, his mother was under pressure and lacked visible social support. “People were led to believe that you were the only one.”

While he is encouraged by the signs of progress, Doyle wants the pope to confront the issue personally. When secrecy has been imposed on a child for their whole life, he says, it is a form of abuse that must be addressed.

“The big problem with children of priests is that they technically don’t exist, and until someone says they actually exist, it is a psychological battle that the children face,” Doyle says.

John Anderson, 72, contacted Doyle after hearing about his organisation, Coping International, and was moved to share his story for the first time.

Anderson says he was 18 when he learned that his father was a French priest. He never knew him and his birth certificate still states that his father is unknown. It was not supposed to be that way.

When Anderson’s mother was pregnant, he says, the plan was that she would enter a convent and that he would be adopted by his mother’s doctor.

Instead, his mother kept him and the pair took a £10 ticket to Australia when Anderson was three, armed with a letter of recommendation written by his father, which stated that his mother was a “creditable emigrant”.

As an adult, Anderson underwent years of psychotherapy and experienced bouts of mental illness, an issue he traces back to his difficult childhood with a mother who was incapable of caring for him.

Anderson says he was unable to be a proper father to his three daughters because he was too insecure and incapable of trusting anyone.

“I turned into this ice man in a way,” he says. Anderson went on to be an artist, but it was challenging because he was still unable to access his emotions.

“I had a rotten childhood. I used to pray to God to send me a friend,” he says. After learning who his father was, he wrote a letter to the priest’s order to try to find out more about him. They wrote back, calling him a gold-digger.

“My mother would have gone to her grave with the information, bless her. It’s like lifting the stone, isn’t it? Rolling the rock back from the cave mouth,” Anderson says.

“It has caused so many people so much grief. I’d just like the whole thing in the open. Jesus Christ, he wouldn’t have wanted this.”

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic Church Singled Out In Australian Sex Abuse Report


The bronze statue of Cardinal Moran stands by the entrance of St. Mary’s Cathedral, in Sydney, Australia.

By

In a far-reaching report on child sex abuse in Australia, a government commission is recommending that the country’s Catholic Church lift its celibacy requirement for diocesan clergy and be required to report evidence of abuse revealed in confession.

Those are among the 400 recommendations contained in the 17-volume final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, which is wrapping up a five-year investigation – the longest in Australia’s history.

“We have concluded that there were catastrophic failures of leadership of Catholic Church authorities over many decades,” the report said.

The Australian reports: “More than 15,000 people contacted the commission to share their experiences of abuse, more than 8,000 of them spoke personally with the commissioner about the trauma it caused, and approximately 2,500 cases have now been referred to police.”

The commission said the church failed to properly address allegations and concerns of victims, calling the Church’s response to them “remarkably and disturbingly similar.”

The report also detailed abuse in churches of other denominations and at such institutions as schools and sports clubs. However, it concluded that the greatest number of alleged abuse perpetrators were found in Catholic institutions. The commission has concluded that 7 percent of priests who worked in Australia between 1950 and 2009 had been accused of child sex abuse.

Among the report’s recommendations:

  • A national strategy to prevent child abuse, with a national office of child safety.
  • Making failure to protect a child from risk of abuse within an institution a criminal offense on the state and territory level.
  • Implementing preventative training for children in schools and early childhood center.
  • A requirement that candidates for religious ministry undergo external psychological testing.
  • Any person in a religious ministry subject to a substantiated child sex abuse complaint should be permanently removed from the ministry.

Currently, Australian law exempts confessional evidence from the rules that apply to other kinds of evidence in court, according to The National Catholic Register.

“We recommend that canon law be amended so that the ‘pontifical secret’ does not apply to any aspect of allegations or canonical disciplinary processes relating to child sexual abuse,” the report said.

It said that “Religious ministers, out-of-home care workers, childcare workers, registered psychologists and school [counselors] should be brought into line with police, doctors and nurses who are all obliged by law to report sexual abuse,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

“Without a legal obligation to tell police about abuses, many staff and volunteers failed to let anyone outside the institution know, the commission found,” the Herald reported.

The commission called for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to ask the Vatican to introduce voluntary celibacy for clergy. The commission found that clerical celibacy was not a direct cause of abuse, but that it increased the risk of abuse when celibate male clergy had privileged access to children.

In an official statement, Archbishop Denis Hart of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, apologized for past abuse, calling it a “shameful past” and said the commission’s report “will be taken very seriously.”

However, speaking to reporters later, Hart said the commission’s report “hasn’t damaged the credibility of the church” and called the recommendations on the confessional “a distraction.”

“The seal of the confessional, or the relationship with God that’s carried through the priest and with the person, is inviolable. It can’t be broken,” Hart told reporters.

“I think everyone understands that this Catholic and orthodox practice of confession is always confidential,” he said.

Hart also pushed back on the subject of celibacy: “We know very well that institutions who have celibate clergy and institutions that don’t have celibate clergy both face these problems. We know very well that this happens in families that are certainly not observing celibacy.”

The commission’s findings follow numerous allegations of sex abuse by Catholic priests in Australia in recent years. In June, Police in Victoria charged Cardinal George Pell, now a high-ranking Vatican official, with sex abuse dating to his time as a priest in Australia in the 1970s and 80s. Pell has denied the allegations.

The report concluded: “Tens of thousands of children have been sexually abused in many Australian institutions. We will never know the true number.” the report concluded.

“It is not a case of a few ‘rotten apples.’ Society’s major institutions have seriously failed,” it said.

Complete Article HERE!

NZ priest’s secret children to come out of hiding

The secret children of a Catholic priest in New Zealand are about to reveal their identity to their local bishop, and a New Zealander who personally briefed the Pope on the topic says the Vatican has recognised the right to know one’s parents

By Phil Pennington

The adult siblings are among thousands internationally who have contacted the Coping International website, which offers support to the children of clergy.

The site’s founder Vincent Doyle – an Irish man who himself is the son of a priest – said he expected many more New Zealanders who are priests’ children, or their mothers, to come forward as they gained courage to speak up.

“We’ve been contacted from a number of people in New Zealand – one family where there’s more than one child to the same priest, to the same woman – but they’re going to be making moves in the coming future to the respective diocese and they’ll be contacting the bishop concerned.”

The family had contacted his website in the last three months, and granted him permission to speak a little about their situation, but most details remained confidential such as how many children there were and where they had grown up.

They were among 13,500 people worldwide who had been in touch with Mr Doyle since he started the website in late 2014.

Vincent Doyle meets Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations, in mid-October to talk about the children of clergy.

His site gained international prominence in August this year when featured in a new series by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight unit, which is famous for exposing clerical sex abuse of children.

The response to the website has forced the Vatican to acknowledge the issue, and last month it began working on guidelines for how to respond.

“The expectation would be that the [priest] should go and be a father to his child,” said Bill Kilgallon, an Aucklander who personally briefed the Pope last month on the issue as part of the Pontifical Commission to help protect children.

Mr Kilgallon said the Catholic Church had no idea yet how many children have been conceived by priests.

The search phrase “I am pregnant and the father is a Catholic priest” featured in about 1500 of 96,000 hits on Coping International’s website, which its founder pointed out would be mostly from English speakers with Internet access.

“How many don’t fall into that category?” Mr Doyle said.

A psychotherapist in his 30s, he found out six years ago that his godfather, Father John Doyle, was also his biological father.

He made the realisation when he came across some poetry the priest had written, and had since taken his father’s name.

The church hierarchy had mostly responded well when children had come forward, Mr Doyle said, although some priests had been shocked or resistant.

The youngest child they had been alerted to was just three years old, and the oldest an 80-year-old woman. In one case, they knew of a priest who had six children by different women, while one priest who worked in the United States had a family in the Philippines.

Mr Doyle insisted the clerical response was not the priority for his organisation, but rather the goal was to help children whose mental health had suffered without knowledge of their father, or having to keep that knowledge secret as with the New Zealand family.

“There have been efforts to kind of stifle their wellbeing, and to keep them quiet and enforce secrecy,” Mr Doyle said.

“This secrecy more than often comes from family or relatives or friends: the community around you. Not the Pope, the Vatican, the bishop, especially in today’s society in a country like New Zealand.

“They must, must get this right. This is the first time in history the church has really done this … they can’t just put out some guidelines… If they mess this up they will traumatise thousands of people.”

Mr Kilgallon acknowledged there might be complications, such as a priest’s financial obligations to a child, or the need for DNA paternity testing, but these were purely secondary to the primary responsibility of the priest.

“We’ve acknowledged … children have rights and one of the rights is to know their parents.”

“The difficulty is when children are born in a situation where the father is a priest who’s not supposed to be in a relationship and fathering children. This can often lead to the relationship being kept secret, the identity of the father being denied to the child.”

Complete Article HERE!

Website to help children of Catholic priests contacted by women from around world

Issue of priests having children is ongoing says Coping International founder

Peter Murphy, son of late Bishop of Galway Eamonn Casey was 17 when his story was made public.

By Patsy McGarry

A self-help website set up in Ireland to assist children of Catholic priests has been contacted by women of all ages from around the world, ranging from a Boston lady in her late 80s to the mother of a three-year-old child in the Philippines.

“It proves that this is an issue that is not just confined to the past. It is ongoing,” said Vincent Doyle (34) founder of www.copinginternational.com which is funded byArchbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.

Mr Doyle told The Irish Times on Tuesday that, since mid-August, 1,062 individuals had logged on to the website which has had 8,000 separate visits and 38, 000 hits from 53 countries.

Mr Doyle’s father, Co Longford priest Fr John J Doyle, died in 1995. On confirming that the priest was his father in 2011, he assumed the surname.

An article posted on the website in 2015 claims confidentiality agreements made by mothers of children fathered by priests were “a form of blackmail against the mother and the child.” Written by well-known US canon lawyer Fr Tom Doyle, it says “there is no valid reason for such agreements or contracts under any circumstances.”

In a 2015 response to Fr Doyle’s observations, Ireland’s Catholic bishops said a confidentiality agreement was possible “if the parties enter it freely with the primary purpose of protecting the best interests of the child.”

Such agreement would be “unjust” if “undue pressure is brought to bear on the mother” or if used “primarily to protect the reputation of the priest or the institutional Church by creating a veil of secrecy,” they said.

In an open letter endorsing the work of Coping International, Archbishop Martin said it was there “to help, free of charge, any child of a priest who wishes to come forward.”

Peter Murphy, son of the late Bishop of Galway Eamonn Casey, told the Boston Globe recently that disclosure in 1992 of who his father was meant instant celebrity. He was 17–years–old then and living with his mother Annie Murphy in Connecticut in the US.

In a Spotlight article about Coping International Mr Murphy said: “I talked to an Irish (reporter) in the morning and went to school and thought, ‘OK, that will be it.’ But when I came home, I’d say there were more than 100 reporters slathering round our condo complex,” he told the Globe.

The Irish reporter he spoke to was Conor O’Clery, then Washington Correspondent of this newspaper.

Complete Article HERE!