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Too liberal to lead his parish?

January 24th, 2013
04:39 PM ET

By Samuel Burke, CNN

A Catholic priest in Ireland says he is being threatened with excommunication by the Vatican because of his liberal stances on homosexuality and contraception.

Last year, Father Tony Flannery says he was asked to sign a document accepting the Vatican tenet barring women from becoming priests and accepting all the sexual and moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

“I cannot put my name to that document,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday. His unwillingness to sign it means he is now prevented from ministering as a priest.  

“It would contradict what I've been saying for years and what, indeed, most Irish Catholics believe.”

CNN tried to get a response from the Vatican, without success.

Father Flannery was previously in hot water for writing that he cannot accept a thesis that would suggest that the spirit of God speaks more powerfully through him than it does through a female theologian with whom he worked.

“I'm stating something that I believe – that my understanding of church is a community where all people are treated equally, we are all baptized, we are all equal members of the church, and our gender should not enter into it.”

He said his vision fits in with the Second Vatican Council that he grew up with.

While that period opened up many reforms – it never condoned homosexuality or the ordination of female priests.

But Flannery says he has no intention to leave the Catholic Church, whether or not he is allowed to minister.

“I'm not looking for these changes over night. I'm not looking for, expecting the ordination of women overnight. My problem is that we're not even allowed to discuss these things.”

Deeming homosexual acts as “intrinsically evil” is not compatible with ministering the parents of sons and daughters who have come out as gay, he says.

“That's happening a lot in Ireland for the moment, and I could see the enormous pain that was being caused to them by the public stances of the Vatican.”

While Flannery has progressive stances on many issues, some groups contended that he has not been sufficiently critical on the issue of child abuse.

He rejects that notion, and said he condemns the sexual abuse and violence by Catholic priests. He is one of the founders and leaders of the Association of Catholic Priests that works to help and support priests in every situation.

“But, I absolutely condemn the sexual abuse of children by anybody and I have very good reason to do that, because I myself was a victim of child sexual abuse, when I was young, not by a priest, but by a neighbor. So, I have very personal experience of the awfulness and the destructiveness of that. So, I absolutely and totally condemn that.”

Read more stories that CNN covers about faith and religion at the CNN Belief Blog.

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soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. razvan slabu

    my case when i sued the romanian orthodox church cus i was baptised was to unimportant to you,thats ok ,i like how you share justice.

    January 24, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Reply
  2. sheer

    for me,as a devoted roman catholic...we must follow the rules of the church......

    January 24, 2013 at 5:00 pm | Reply
    • Josh

      Except, sometimes the rules change. How would they ever change if no one can speak their mind?

      January 25, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Reply
    • Jeremy

      I was once Catholic. i was raised catholic by my parents. All though my life something was missing. Most catholics blindly follow what the priests, bishops, cardnials, and pope says. The problem is that regardless if you are a parishioner or the pope we are all sinful people. When ever you put your spiritual trust in a sinful person eventually you will be let down. If priests are divinely confirmed by God then all of the molestation cases were caused by God. How silly does that sound? The faith of a Christian is more solidified in a relationship with Jesus, not an organization. God created Man (to include woman) in his image, so to suggest that women are inferior to men when it comes to being a priest is to go against the teachings of one of the first books in the bible. If you are going to blindly follow the catholic church, try blindly following the teachings of Jesus and see for yourself what relationship is better.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Reply
      • Chew Chew

        If priests are divinely confirmed by God then all of the molestation cases were caused by God. How silly does that sound?

        Very silly. You yourself even find your own words silly........ Priest are blessed to teach the Word of God... and are trained to be aware enough to perform the sacraments of the Eucharist, Confession, and Holy Orders......
        That is where they are working in the Holy Spirit.... when they are not.. they are just people.... and so when you say that these molestations were caused by God? Then what about those from other regular people? Are they not caused by God? .... Remember . Jesus was not alone in the desert, he was accompanied by the devil.... if Jesus could not banish the devil, or did not banish the devil... and only rejected him.... then what could we expect from our preist and anyone who deals with temptation???

        January 28, 2013 at 5:32 am |
  3. Mary from Maryland

    God bless the good father for staying true to his conscience and at the same time staying in the Church.

    January 24, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Reply
  4. nokorpathorn

    This priest could get excommunicated because he supports gay marriage, I dont remember the pedophile priests being excommunicated by the church after being accused. Thats roman catholic justice . I am a roman catholic but ashamed of the church.

    January 25, 2013 at 2:43 am | Reply
    • Marcia Groh

      I agree with your words. The Catholic church has lost credibility and followers because of such decisons and actions.
      Bottom line is..they should have thinked twice before placing this "German Rabit" as the Head of the Catholic Church..he is controversial/denyal and manipulative in his actions towards those who are different thinkers.

      January 25, 2013 at 8:47 am | Reply
  5. fonseka

    If you are "liberal" and do not agree with the Catholic teachings Why complain???, LEAVE THE CHURCH!!!!! simple as that

    January 25, 2013 at 4:29 am | Reply
    • bally buisan

      Yeah, just leave the roman catholic church simply because this church can not guarantee your salvation, most of it's teachings are not what the Bible says, in actuality, it contradicts most what is written in the Bible.

      January 25, 2013 at 11:59 am | Reply
      • juggler523

        About a billion people on the planet (and the number is GROWING) disagree with you.

        January 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
      • juggler523

        What you CLEARLY have no clue about is that the BIBLE was compiled under the watchful eye of the Catholic Church under the inspiration of God. For more than 1500 years, there only Christianity that existed was Catholicism, and the only Bible was the Catholic Bible. to say the Catholic Church and the Bible's teachings are in contradiction with each other is like saying water is not wet. You simply disagree with the teachings of the Catholic church, and YOU believe that YOUR un-scholarly interpretation of the Bible means more than the interpretation of the one true Catholic Bible by the Church where it originated – an interpretation that has existed for basically 1700 years – is flawed. IGNORANT!!

        January 25, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  6. umph

    If you want to be a member of Club Rome, you've got to live by their statutes or whatever they call their membership rules. There's really no point arguing with those people. If I were this "priest", I'd get out of the "god" business altogether and get a life! He could help his community much better as a free person.

    January 25, 2013 at 5:23 am | Reply
  7. Chew Chew

    To say the Church condones child abuse is utterly ridiculous... Problem with the Church is it is a forgiving faith, and lacks priests, and in their eyes I believe any public happening was a lose.lose scenario for them...... so they tried to keep it "in-house".. but they failed in many cases..... Other thing to consider is what evidence was really there? Claims are only claims in law... and by law there is more ways to get out of it..... The Church needed a wake up call though, for sure... they Church has to protect kids with more effort... hopefully they are doing that now

    January 25, 2013 at 5:27 am | Reply
  8. eviltony

    A small quibble.

    I am Irish and a supporter of Fr Flannery's concepts, although I am a lapsed Catholic.

    Fr Flannery is a member of the Redemptorist and was not a "parish' priest.
    Whilst the author of the article seems to know this, the sub-editor who put the headline on the item doesn't.
    It would be useful to be accurate when dealing with people's problems so as not to give rise to misconceptions.

    January 25, 2013 at 5:32 am | Reply
  9. gerald

    This of coruse will go the same way as the priest who was caught on the beach with the hottie. He even got his own tv show. The media loves everyone who dissents from Church teaching and exalts them. They of course revel in it and go with the flow. It becomes about them really and not Jesus and truth.

    January 25, 2013 at 9:56 am | Reply
    • robert

      "It becomes about them really and not Jesus and truth." Jesus and Truth rarely have anything to do with each other.

      January 25, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Reply
  10. Chrtofatwa

    Time to do away with this evil ancient cult – we are better than that!

    January 25, 2013 at 10:05 am | Reply
    • Chew Chew

      This cult? This cult lead to social justice, without the teachings of this cult... modern liberal secularist woul dhave no foundation on social justice.... because in the example of Richard Dawkins... he is a materialist that simply can not let go the social justice teachings presented by this cult.... i.e. Love your neighbor as yourself... Let he without sin cast the first stone......

      January 27, 2013 at 4:02 am | Reply
  11. D.A.

    He may lose his job but will save his soul

    January 25, 2013 at 10:06 am | Reply
  12. spacecalculus

    “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
    ― Mark Twain

    January 25, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Reply
    • Humanist11

      "Surely the ass who invented the first religion ought to be the first ass damned" – Mark Twain

      "Faith is believing in that which I know ain't so." – Mark Twain

      January 25, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Reply
      • spacecalculus

        “To be is to do”
        ― Socrates

        January 25, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  13. robert

    The catholic church is nothing more than a cult of hatred and intolerance who's only objective is to increase its power base and wealth by manipulating the ignorant masses with bronze age myths. I applaud Father Tony Flannery for seeing beyond the dogma of the church and I would suggest he wear excommunication from the Catholic Church as a badge of honor. You are experiencing your own reformation. Its time you supported the people of your congregation rather than advance the agenda of a self-appointed group of ignorant misogynists.

    January 25, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Reply
    • juggler523

      People like you who write that kind of tripe clearly do NOT even understand the catholic Church's teachings.

      January 25, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Reply
  14. juggler523

    Pope John Paul II issued an announcement during his tenure ex cathedra that women were not to be priests. When speaking ex cathedra, the Pope has on only a few rare occasions delivered what must be considered a message from God. Thus, it is dogma, something that must believed for one to be Catholic. This Irish priest should be excommunicated for openly denying the dogma of the Catholic Church. If he does not believe what is inherently Catholic, he should move along.

    January 25, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Reply
    • Jeremy

      So you are saying that the Pope received a direct message from God for the entire world. You know it is kinda odd that when God directs a message in the old or new testament it is called scripture. The bible in revelation states that no one is to add to or take anything away. The idea that the Pope has a message that was breathed by God, and in itself is scripture by the direct link between God and the pope is hypocritical of biblical teaching. What do you think will last longer actual scripture of what Pope JPII said?

      January 26, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Reply
  15. Henry VIII

    The present pope is the former Hitlerjugend. He learned the Nazi mentality and applied it to the poor Catholic church. Shame on the present Nazi pope.

    January 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Reply
  16. Marion

    Jesus said love thy neighbor – what happens if your neighbor happens to be Gay, Transgender, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Catholic, Athiest, Agnostic or into scientology does it really matter – we are ALL in the same boat – all brothers and sisters regardless of your beliefs or not. Remember people love thy neighbor – and if you do, you will see the world change.

    January 25, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Reply
    • Chew Chew

      Jesus does say love thy neighbor... Jesus also sat at the table with sinners...... But after meeting with them, he told them to sin no more..... It is not the individual, but the sin we should not like, or even detest... Destest it so much that we respond to it by loving what is Good and True....But to hear the message.. and then CONTINUALLY live in sin by lifestyle choice is the sin.... not for being a human being..... Forgiveness is the call, we all sin, being a sinner is nothing new to any person... but to continue to live in sin by choice is something all together.. it is not a moment of weakness, it is a outright denial

      January 27, 2013 at 4:09 am | Reply
  17. Graham

    I am a devout Roman Catholic and I hold true to my beliefs because it is what is honest to me and my heart. That being said, if Father Flannery cannot accept in his good conscience that the Catholic Church teaches this, and teaches that--as he has also said that the Spirit of God speaks "no more" through him and the priesthood than a woman. Or that the hierarchy of the Roman Church is false and not Christian,

    then by all means.. you have the free will and freedom to Leave the church. Lucifer had his choice too. So did Adam & Eve. And so did the Blessed Virgin Mary when she became the Mother of God.

    Follow your conscience and just be done with it. I am sure the Episcopalian Church is waiting for you and I say that in true sincerity without sarcasm.

    January 25, 2013 at 10:41 pm | Reply
    • Jeremy

      As Christ followers we are told by Jesus that we should love one another as we love ourselves. Love in the bible is defined as patient and kind. Jesus defined love by sacrificing his life and body so that "We may live". The question I would ask myself after that statement you made would be are you I follower of the catholic (universal) church, or a follower of Christ? A follower of the Catholic church does that they follow that the Catholic church says. Since the Church is human it is prevented from being a "Holy Catholic Church" Sin prevents anything from being Holy or Divine. The only person that was Holy and Divine was Jesus because he was without sin. Why follow teachings from a Church who has good intentions but is sinful, when you could have a personal relationship with Jesus and follow his Holy and divine teachings?

      January 26, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Reply
      • Chew Chew

        Read Isaiah 22 .. and if God gave power to Abraham and Moses... why couldn't God preserve his own covnenant... The Pope as leader of his Church is in descendance with these earlier Fathers of Faith..... the tradition continues to this day.... Isn't a bit ridiculous to say that the one who Ressurrected and defeated death, can not sanctify His Church?

        January 27, 2013 at 4:14 am |
      • Chew Chew

        Let me present the point of reference to you. Isaiah 22 : 20 – 25
        20 “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. 21 I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah. 22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 23 I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a seat[a] of honor for the house of his father. 24 All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots—all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.

        25 “In that day,” declares the Lord Almighty, “the peg driven into the firm place will give way; it will be sheared off and will fall, and the load hanging on it will be cut down.” The Lord has spoken.

        January 27, 2013 at 4:16 am |
    • Tim

      Graham you must not get out of the house to often, even talking to other Catholics. I live in a small town in Wisconsin where our local church is almost going to close. This area once vibrant with many rural Catholic parishes are either consoldating or closed and falling down. Don't you think its time for ordination of women and married priests. Um the first millennium the priests, bishops and even the pope was married.

      February 26, 2013 at 10:13 pm | Reply
  18. Concepcion Cidro

    I have nothing to say to any printed opinion herewith. Why? It would be difficult to discuss things in this regard, because the true God did not authorize religions that many. There is one bible that is closest to the manuscript wherein all questions on faith are answered withot finding contradiction in a part of the whole bible from cover to cover. And of all the places where this manuscript is found in nowhere than the British library and museum. I use the the KJV bible. Over the centuries, there has not been one denomination that could follow this sacred writigs to the letter. (12:4 of Daniel)-"But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro,and knowledge shall increase. (28:20 of Matthew)-teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. If Jesus Christ did not put up many religions, and why should He, but there is a certainty that one faith is of God, and not by His enemies.

    January 25, 2013 at 10:42 pm | Reply
    • Graham

      I hope that you are aware that you are using a Protestant Bible instead of a Catholic one. Yours does not derive from the Latin Vulgate, but a version corrupted by King James for the sake of promoting Protestant agenda. That being said, you have the freedom to do as you wish.

      January 26, 2013 at 1:54 am | Reply
      • Jeremy

        Actually parts of the inclusion of the extra material that the protestants reject is not without merit. If we are saved by the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ and we believe that he lived after being dead for 3 days we will live life eternally in heaven when we die. I doubt no one catholic or protestant would deny this. You can find that passage in Romans. One Catholic idea from the extra material they have compared to the protestants is the book of tobit. In this book it tells a story that people ,who were pagans, died on a battle field. It also stated that we are to pray for the dead. Either someone is saved by the blood and sacrifice of Jesus or they are not. You cannot say that they did not believe this while they are alive so i am going to pray them in to heaven. That makes absolutely no sense. One argument negates the other. If the latter were true and we could pray for people that are dead, then Jesus' sacrifice would have been for nothing.

        January 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  19. gabrielf1

    If you belong to a church and don´t agree with their beliefs, you should quit that church or stay for a reason. So for me either this priest is still a catholic because the reasons to stay inside are bigger than his desagreement or his opinion about gay marriage isn´t that importan to him as compare to other beliefs. I would say he should just quit and join a church that follows his opinion, or stay inside and don´t make that noice.

    January 27, 2013 at 11:01 am | Reply
  20. Chew Chew

    If priests are divinely confirmed by God then all of the molestation cases were caused by God. How silly does that sound?

    Very silly. You yourself even find your own words silly........ Priest are blessed to teach the Word of God... and are trained to be aware enough to perform the sacraments of the Eucharist, Confession, and Holy Orders......
    That is where they are working in the Holy Spirit.... when they are not.. they are just people.... and so when you say that these molestations were caused by God? Then what about those from other regular people? Are they not caused by God? .... Remember . Jesus was not alone in the desert, he was accompanied by the devil.... if Jesus could not banish the devil, or did not banish the devil... and only rejected him.... then what could we expect from our preist and anyone who deals with temptation???

    January 28, 2013 at 5:31 am | Reply
    • Jeremy

      Priests are blessed to teach the Word of God..
      exodus 19:6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation
      Revelation 1:6 and he made us in a kingdom of priest
      Matthew 28 18-20 go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
      To suggest that these scriptures were for only Catholic Priest is the complete opposite. We are all called to make disciples. We are all called to be a kingdom of priests. The idea that places Priest on a different level than non priest, or blessed in inaccurate. There are missionaries all over the world today, and church planters, take mongolia, and most of them have difficulty reading and writing. This does not stop them from converting non christians to christians Does a degree in religious studies make someone more blessed than someone doing the same thing without that degree?
      2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. We are all servants of God. Likewise our position as a priest does not make us blessed. The blessing we receive is through understand and implementing scripture.

      January 28, 2013 at 8:14 am | Reply
  21. USA Catholic

    Near 80% of American Catholics support having women priests. Most attendees of Catholic school have been taught Religion daily by nuns and women lay teachers. Even Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdeline. The Church should be more concerned with helping hurt souls than preserving their patriarchal political structure. God bless Fr. Flannery!

    January 28, 2013 at 8:08 am | Reply
  22. Compassion leads

    After reading this, I drove hours to participate in a Mass with one if the 100 ordained women priests in the US. I have never felt the embrace if the Holy Spirit as warmly as I did in that Eucharistic celebration. Fr . Flannery is right in standing in truth WITHIN the church. Maybe the Church should open their hearts more than their rule books.

    January 28, 2013 at 8:18 am | Reply
    • Chew Chew ????? interesting.

      January 29, 2013 at 7:35 am | Reply
    • Tim

      Very nice but not a Roman Catholic this an independent catholic church?

      February 26, 2013 at 10:09 pm | Reply
  23. Kombir Cyril

    The catholic church has shown that is built on firm foundation and principles. No amount of insults and critic can shake it.

    January 28, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  24. Tim

    I swear even if they told you straight in the face, you would still kiss their ring. Time to wake up catholics. Be a progressive and join the many independent catholic churches around the country. They open and affirming, believe in ordination of women and married priests. Follow many of the same traditions.

    February 26, 2013 at 10:00 pm | Reply
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