A PORTLAOISE priest has defended the Irish priest threatened with excomunication by the Catholic church.
Writing in the Portlaoise Parish newsletter to be distributed at masses this weekend, Fr Paddy Byrne describes the silencing and threatened expulsion of Fr Tony Flannery as “distressing”.
Up to now Fr Byrne had used twitter to question the church’s stance but this weekend he speaks directly to his parishioners in defence of Fr Flannery and equates what is happening as “repression”.
“The recent silencing and possible excommunication of Fr Tony Flannery makes for distressing news. The gift of conversation is both valuable and necessary, when reflection is silenced and those who do so punished, it creates an atmosphere of fear and repression,” writes Fr Bryne.
Fr Byrne says Fr Tony Flannery, the founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, has hit out at the procedures of the Vatican.
“His writings and preaching was always challenging, engaging and deeply fuelled by a passionate enthusiasm for the Good News. I suggest that maintaining a culture of silence within the church and labelling courageous men like Fr Tony Flannery as “dissident priests”, is most worrying,” writes the Portlaoise priest.
Fr Byrne says the Redemptorist priest and wel-known missionary, was summoned to Rome a year ago to be censored for his views on women priests, contraception and homosexuality. He has not been allowed to practice as a priest since then or to take part in the work of the Association of Catholic Priests.
In his weekly letter to parishioners Fr Byrne says Fr Flannery is threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church for suggesting that, in the future, women might become priests and calling for this and other matters to be open for discussion.
Fr Byrne tells parishioners that Fr Flannery must also guarantee not to attend meetings of the Association of Catholic Priests until he has publicly agreed to the conditions laid down.
The Portlaoise priest, who is a Carlow native, recently appeared on an RTÉ documentary with Hector Ó hEochagáin and Fr Brian D’Arcy.