‘One of the greatest scandals of the Church since the New Testament is how it treated women’
Censured priest Tony Flannery has called on the Vatican to apologise to the way it has treated women and to give them a greater role within the Church.
The co-founder of the outspoken Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), Fr Flannery has clashed with authorities in Rome on several occasions. He has frequently refused to back down on his liberal views concerning homosexuality, contraception and female ordination and, as a result, was banned from the public ministry in 2012.
However, last week he held an illicit Mass in his home village of Killimordaly, Co. Galway in front of more than 800 people. Speaking to Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio 1, Fr Flannery explained how he wasn’t contacted by the Vatican before it barred him from saying Mass. He added that the way he and priests of a similar mindset have been treated is “completely unjust and abusive”.
Last week the Redemptorist preacher said that the response to his public service showed that “the power of the Church to dictate to people has collapsed”.
“People don’t allow bishops or Popes or the Vatican to dictate to them anymore. And the sooner the Irish bishops realise that and, instead of issuing diktats, start listening to people, the better,” he said.
Church and Women
He was backed up on the radio show by fellow ACP co-founder Sean McDonagh, who took particular issue with the way the Church has handled women in the past.
“One of the greatest scandals of the Church is, from the New Testament period right up to now, how [it] treated women,” he said.
“Women are the elephant in the Church’s reality at the moment. They have to be brought into the structures of governance – the Church has to make a huge apology to women.”
He argued that it should adopt an equal gender- split when it comes to the people who govern it, while Fr Flannery said it had “blatantly” disrespected women. Both priests spoke of the dwindling numbers when it comes to Church membership – in terms of both lay people and the clergy. Fr McDonagh noted how when he was a student at a seminary in Maynooth, there were around 600 students whereas now there are around 30.
Fr Flannery called for drastic action to stop people “leaving the Church in droves” and, while he said he never contemplated leaving the Church, looking back, he would not have joined the priesthood as a young man. He also said that, given the opportunity to live his life again, he would have liked to have got married.
It was reported by The Sunday Times in Ireland that Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to ask Pope Francis to review the cases of the five priests who were disciplined by the Vatican, including Fr Flannery.
The hope is that this will “improve the environment” of Catholicism in Ireland in time for the Papal visit next year.
Fr Flannery said he would be grateful to Mr Kenny for his efforts but that he would remain unimpressed with the way the Vatican has treated its priests. The 70-year old has expressed his affection for the current Pontiff and that he is “very much in tune” with him and the way he approaches things.
He praised Pope Francis for his attitude towards the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith – the body which banned him from the public ministry – but said he is unsure whether he has the power “to really” change how it operates.
Condoms row charity boss reinstated by Pope
The head of the ancient Catholic order the Knights of Malta stepped down from his position after he became embroiled in a public ‘condom row’ with the Pope. Grand Master Matthew Festing, 67, had refused to cooperate with a Vatican inquiry into why the Grand Chancellor of the Knights, Albrecht von Boeselager had been dismissed.
Mr Boeselager, 67, was sacked last month following revelations that the Knights’ charity branch had been distributing thousands of condoms in Myanmar.
The Church forbids the use of artificial contraception, though when it comes to how this policy is enforced, Pope Francis has previously encouraged tolerance.
Mr Boeselager said he was unaware of the condom distribution programme – which was being carried out as part of an HIV/AIDS prevention scheme – and that he ordered it to be stopped once he found out about it. He has since been reinstated by the 900-year-old Order after the allegations against him were found to be untrue.
Following Mr Festing’s resignation, the Order will be run by its second in command, the Grand Commander, until a new head is elected.