THE HEAD of the Redemptorist Order in Limerick has said he is “sad” and “disappointed” at the action taken against fellow priest Fr Tony Flannery by the Vatican.
Fr Flannery - who was himself rector in Limerick for six years in the mid-90s - has been silenced by the Vatican for his outspoken views on reform in the Catholic Church. The Athenry-based priest, who wrote a column in the Redemptorists’ Reality magazine for 14 years, has now been advised to go to a monastery and “reflect on his situation” for a six-week period.
Rome had earlier put an end to Fr Flannery’s monthly column in Reality, which is edited by Doon priest, Fr Gerry Moloney, who is also allegedly the subject of scrutiny from the Vatican. Fr Moloney is believed to have been told not to print any articles on celibacy, the use of contraception and the involvement of women in the clergy, for an unspecified period.
While stressing that he was “speaking on my own behalf”, Fr Egan told the Limerick Leader he was disappointed at how the situation had been handled.
“I am sad to see what is happening because Tony and also Gerry Moloney in Reality - although their situations are different - I have lived and worked with them, prayed and studied with them, given missions with them. They are two very fine priests, very compassionate men, very pastoral men and excellent preachers who have given their lives in this work and service and done a huge amount of good for thousands of people,” he explained.
“To see that being called into question now is very disappointing and unfortunate and not necessarily the way I would want things to happen.
“However, there would be some who are glad to see what is happening to these men because there is an element within the church that feels that we need to return to orthodoxy and a black and white, non-questioning, non-challenging position, and that is reflected a bit in what is going on.”
Fr Egan added that he has received an overwhelming amount of messages of support both for Fr Flannery and the stance he has taken in support of his friend and former colleague.
“In terms of the reaction, it has been, from the vast majority of people, very supportive, people calling, ringing, sending emails, stopping you on the street. That has been very encouraging,” said Fr Egan. “And then there are a small few others who would be quite critical of Tony and others like myself who are supporting him and have said they are glad that there is an investigation going on.”
Asked about the fall-out from such a situation, Fr Egan said it was “hard to know” what it might be.
“I think it does, whether it intends to or not, generate a sense of fear that if you question anything, especially headings such as the role of women in the church, the church’s teaching on sexuality and the way it is governed and the issue of celibacy - they seem to be areas that the church would prefer that there wouldn’t be much debate around.”