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Vatican’s censuring of priest stirs divisions

11 April 2012

by Gregg Ryan, Ireland Correspondent

A RIFT is looming between the Vatican and hundreds of RC priests in Ireland after the silencing of two Redemptorist clerics over their ex­pressed views on celibacy, married priesthood, and contraception.

Fr Tony Flannery, who wrote a regular column in the Redemptorist Order’s monthly magazine Reality, and its editor, Fr Gerard Molony, have both been censured by the Con­gregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Fr Flannery was told to stop writing; and Fr Moloney was pro­hibited from penning an opinion on “certain issues”.

Both are prominent members of the (Irish) Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), which, with a membership of more than 800 clergy, has become a strong voice for more liberal clerics concerned at the growing disconnection between the authorities in Rome and the RC Church in the country after nu­merous sex-abuse scandals; falling attendances at mass; and the per­ceived high-handed and dis­missive approach by the Vatican to the Irish Government’s tribunals of inquiry into clerical misbehaviour.

Last month, Fr Flannery, who voiced his personal approval at Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s description of the Vatican as “élitist” and “narcissistic”, was summoned to Rome and advised to go to a monastery for six weeks, to “pray and reflect” on his position.

News of the Vatican’s action against the two priests has prompted strong condemnation by the ACP. The intervention by Rome did no service to Irish Catholicism, it said.

Another priest, Fr Kevin Hegarty, who, in 1994, was banished to a remote parish in the west of Ireland by the Irish bishops for allowing debate on controversial subjects under his editorship of Intercom, published by the Bishops’ own communications commission, said in the Irish Times on Tuesday that, since the 1980s, Rome had been in retreat from the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

He described Pope Benedict XVI’s apparent view that a small coterie of conservatives would transform the Church in Europe as being “like a polite euphemism for an assembly of Rick Santorum looka­likes”.

It remains to be seen whether Fr Hegarty will soon be boarding a flight bound for Rome to answer for his own “unorthodox” views.

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