Concern at Vatican 'silencing' of Irish priest

Pope Benedict
Image caption Pope Benedict has warned that the church will not tolerate priests speaking out against Catholic teaching

The body that represents priests in Ireland has said it is disturbed over the Vatican's silencing of one of its members for his liberal views.

The leaders of the 800-strong Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) have warned that forcing Father Tony Flannery, who is based in Athenry in County Galway, to stop writing for a Redemptorist Order magazine would fuel belief of a disconnect between Irish Catholics and Rome.

"We believe that such an approach, in its individual focus on Fr Flannery and inevitably by implication on the members of the association, is an extremely ill-advised intervention in the present pastoral context in Ireland," the group said.

Fr Flannery, who has written on religious matters in the Redemptorist magazine for 14 years, is under investigation by the Vatican over his views, including an opposition to clerical celibacy.

As well as also expressing opposition to the church's ban on contraception and women priests, Fr Flannery publicly supported the Taoiseach Enda Kenny's unprecedented attack on the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the aftermath of the Cloyne Report on child sex abuse last year.

In a Holy Thursday homily at St Peter's Basilica in Rome, Pope Benedict warned that the church will not tolerate priests speaking out against Catholic teaching.

However, the Association of Catholic Priests denies that Fr Flannery's writings should be seen as an attack on, or rejection of the fundamental teachings of the church and said they are a reflection on issues surfacing in parishes.

"At this critical juncture in our history, the ACP believes that this form of intervention - what Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (Archbishop of Dublin) recently called 'heresy-hunting' - is of no service to the Irish Catholic Church and may have the unintended effect of exacerbating a growing perception of a significant 'disconnect' between the Irish church and Rome", the Association adds.

The move against Fr Flannery comes just weeks after the report of the Apostolic Visitation said there was a tendency among some priests in Ireland to hold theological opinions at variance with church doctrine.

In two months' time, Dublin will also host the 50th International Eucharistic Congress when Catholics from all over the world will gather to celebrate their faith and traditions.

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