By Sarah Mac Donald - 22 August, 2015
The Bishop of Cloyne on Friday issued a statement announcing that an invitation to censured priest, Fr Tony Flannery, to give the keynote address at Spiritfest2015 at a parish in his diocese has been revoked.
Bishop William Crean said the invitation from the Killeagh/Inch parish pastoral council to Fr Flannery was extended in good faith but that he had been “obliged” to inform the parish members that he was unable to approve the invitation at this time.
The Bishop said had spoken with Fr Flannery’s Redemptorist superior in Ireland, Fr Dan Baragry.
The reason for revoking the invitation to give the keynote address, which was due to take place at the end of September, was that Fr Flannery is currently out of ministry following the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s censure, which was imposed in 2012.
The policy of the Diocese of Cloyne is that a priest who is out of ministry, for whatever reason, cannot exercise a public ministry, Dr Crean said.
He added, “I wish for the diocese to be consistent in its position in order to continue to earn the trust of the faithful.”
The Bishop, who was appointed to replace the disgraced Bishop John Magee, said that having discussed the matter with the Parish Pastoral Council in Killeagh, the members had agreed to extend an invitation to another speaker to launch Spiritfest2015.
“I wish this prayerful initiative every blessing and success and I look forward to accepting the Parish Pastoral Council’s invitation to attend the ‘Songs of Praise’ on the Sunday evening of the Spiritfest,” the Bishop concluded.
However, Fr Tony Flannery expressed disappointment over Bishop Crean’s decision.
He told CatholicIreland.net that he was invited to speak at the faith festival two months’ ago on the theme ‘Where Do We Find the Voice of the Spirit Today’.
Initially there had been no concerns raised but it was only when the parish priest advertised the talk in the local parish bulletin that Bishop Crean became involved.
While there was some indirect pressure to request that the talk be cancelled, lay members of the parish council had refused.
According to Fr Flannery, a decision was made to hold the talk in the local community hall, which is not owned by the parish, as a way around the developing impasse.
A frank discussion took place between Bishop Crean last Wednesday evening and a subcommittee of the parish pastoral council and following from that, according to Fr Flannery “the Bishop gave the order” for the invitation to be revoked.
“In the era of Pope Francis, when people are being encouraged to be open, for the Church authorities to forbid someone to speak at the invitation of a group of lay people is pushing the notion of ‘silencing’ to an extreme,” Fr Flannery commented.
He added that while the Church authorities were constantly talking about greater lay involvement in the Church, this showed “how little real ‘say’ lay people have in the Irish Church”.
One of the criticisms levelled at the Church by victims of clerical abuse in the diocese of Cloyne was that the perpetrators, who were out of ministry, were still able to wear their clerical garb and exercise ministry.
That criticism has led Bishop Crean to adopt a firm stance on those out of ministry, even though in Fr Flannery’s case he is out of ministry because of the CDF’s unease over his views on issues such as women priests and so it has nothing to do with clerical abuse.