By Sarah Mac Donald - 09 February, 2014
Writing in a blog on the ACP website, the priest who has been out of ministry for two years following a clampdown on dissident clergy in Ireland by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the ACP has consistently sought a real discussion with the bishops since it was founded three years ago “but without success”.
Referring to the “new reality” under Pope Francis, the Redemptorist said “Pope Francis wishes real discussion and listening to go on at all levels in the Church. So it is now time for our bishops to sit down with us, the ACP, and for all of us to begin to talk openly and fearlessly with each other.”
He continued, “The days of fear, of secrecy, of oppression are happily in the past. Beginning with a dialogue between bishops and priests, it can be broadened to include all the faithful, and with no topic of concern being excluded from the discussion.”
He concluded his blog by describing it as a “time of grace, a time of opportunity in our Church.”
“It is undoubtedly the work of the Spirit. If we fail to respond I believe we will be guilty of a great sin. So let the talk begin. There is no time to lose.”
Elsewhere in his blog, Fr Flannery referred to the recent ad limina visit by the Austrian bishops to Rome.
“They brought with them the results of the Vatican survey, which they had taken very seriously and about which they had consulted widely. Among other findings was that 95% of Austrian Catholics believe that people who are divorced and remarried should be admitted to the sacraments.”
“They seem to have had no fear bringing such findings to Rome, and neither was Francis shocked by them. Schönborn says that he responded by saying: ‘Don’t judge, but look closely and listen very carefully’.”
According to Fr Flannery, Cardinal Schönborn said in an interview after the meeting that he regretted that the Austrian bishops haven’t dared to speak out openly on necessary church reforms in the past.
“We were far too hesitant. I beat my own breast here. We certainly lacked the courage to speak out openly.”
The Austrian bishops also discussed with the Pope the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, which has called for the ordination of married men and women, and their ‘Call to Disobedience,’ Schönborn said.
The Pope advised them that the most important thing for bishops is always to be in close contact with their priests, the Cardinal said.
“The message is obvious”, Fr Flannery claimed, “Francis was telling the Austrian bishops to speak to their priests, to discuss the issues and concerns with them.
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