By Noel Baker
A Redemptorist priest who has been suspended from active ministry for the past eight years has described comments by a senior Vatican Cardinal as “like Trump” amid a deepening row over potential reforms in the Catholic Church.
Fr Tony Flannery, a co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests and an advocate of the ordination of women priests, made his comments after a report this week in the National Catholic Reporter quoted Cardinal Luis Ladaria of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) as saying it had done “everything possible” to come to some type of resolution with him, but this had been unsuccessful.
In the same article, Cardinal Ladaria defended his office’s request that Fr Flannery sign four strict oaths of fidelity to Catholic teaching, saying while this was “very unpleasant”, it was required to maintain fealty to Church guidelines.
The Cardinal was quoted as saying: “We have tried always to maintain our respect towards Fr Flannery, but the duty that we have, according to the arrangement of the church, is to protect the faith and therefore to indicate some things that do not conform with this faith.”
Fr Flannery, 73, had said that unless he signed the oaths he had been informed he should not return to public ministry.
The row has now deepened, with the ACP tweeting a link to the NCR article and stating it is “very disturbed” by the comments as to the nature of the engagement with Fr Flannery.
It said if the report had quoted the Cardinal accurately “then it must be said, that he is misleading Catholics and the public. This is disturbing.”
Fr Flannery himself tweeted on Tuesday night “Ladaria is a Jesuit; he knows what ‘dialogue’ entails. He must know this statement is false. This has upset me this evening”.
He told the Irish Examiner he has no intention of leaving the priesthood or the Redemptorists, but could not rule out the possibility that he might be fired.
He said in eight years he had had no direct correspondence from the CDF and so the Cardinal’s assertion to the contrary was, in his view, “totally false”.
“The only thing I can compare that to is Trump,” he said, adding that what was said is “clearly contrary to all the evidence”.
Fr Flannery said there are “polarised positions” in the Church and in the Vatican itself on possible reform, but that the recent issue over the oaths of fidelity “in tone and content is like something from the 19th century”.
“To some extent this is like the end of the road in dealing with the Vatican,” he said.
In a comprehensive statement issued earlier on his website by way of response to the comments made by the Cardinal, Fr Flannery said the CDF under Cardinal Ladaria or his two predecessors “never communicated directly with me”.
“How do you dialogue with someone when you won’t speak to them?” he asked.
He said he was “totally unaware” of any other discussions held at a higher level and added: “All I ever got were demands for statements and signatures, and lists of punishments meted out to me. In fact the very first I knew of the whole process was, in 2012, when I was presented with two documents, outlining my ‘heretical’ writings, and the sentence being imposed. And the Cardinal says they have done everything to dialogue with me.”
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