Outspoken priest Fr. Tony Flannery has expressed his disappointment at being refused permission to give a talk by the Bishop of Cloyne, “particularly in the age of Pope Francis”.

Fr. Flannery has described the bishop’s intervention as an example of him using his authority to “lay down the law” despite the Church’s previous claims that they wanted to give a further voice to the laity. He slams these claims as “empty and meaningless talk”.

Two months ago, Fr Flannery was asked to participate in a session at Killeagh Parish Pastoral Council’s ‘Spiritfest’ event in Co. Cork, speaking “on the subject of where the voice of the Spirit could be heard in today’s Church”, he said.

He was due to give his lecture in the parish’s community hall, not on church property.

It is reported, however, that Bishop of Cloyne, Bishop William Crean, was not happy about his involvement as Fr. Flannery is forbidden to publicly minister as a priest.

Fr. Flannery previously gained notoriety due to his liberal views on the subject of contraception, women priests and homosexuality. He was suspended from public ministry in 2012 by the Vatican’s Congregation of the Faith (CDF) for speaking about these views.

Bishop Crean traveled to Killeagh last week to speak to the pastoral council that extended the invitation to Fr. Flannery and told them that the talk could not go ahead as he was out of ministry.

Commenting on the bishop’s actions, Fr. Flannery stated in a post on his website: “To find that an Irish bishop, and indeed one of the younger recently appointed ones, is pushing the notion of silencing and going to the extreme of not allowing me to give a talk in a community hall, is utterly unacceptable.

“I think it is quite appalling in the era of Pope Francis who is constantly urging people to speak their minds and speak freely to each other, to have an Irish bishop so blatantly preventing someone like me from speaking.”

He was particularly critical of what he feels is the hypocrisy the bishop’s actions in dismissing decisions and events organized by the laity.

“That the bishop can come, which he did the other evening, and just quote his authority, and say ‘no, you cannot do that’, and they have no comeback to him,” he argued.

“The question I would have when lay people see something like this happening is what is the point in any lay person involving themselves in the church when, ultimately, they can be pushed aside like a fly?”

Last weekend, Bishop Crean defended his actions stating: “While the Parish Pastoral Council extended this invitation in good faith, I have been obliged to inform the members that — having spoken with Fr Flannery’s superior, the Provincial of the Redemptorist Order in Ireland — I am unable to approve the extension of this invitation at this time.

“The reason being is that Fr Flannery is currently out of ministry and the policy of the Diocese of Cloyne is that a priest who is out of ministry, for whatever reason, cannot exercise a public ministry.”

He has given as many as 20 talks around Ireland, UK and the US this year, mainly on the subject of Pope Francis.

“I mainly talked about Pope Francis because I am a greater admirer of his,” he commented.

“They all went off quietly and it was grand. This would have been the same. Now it has descended into this and that is just utter stupidity on the part of the bishop.”

“How long and at what cost do these bishops imagine they can keep the lid on every boiling pot?”

 H/T: Irish Examiner

Fr. Tony Flannery has previously displayed liberal views on the subject of contraception, women priests and homosexuality.Photocall Ireland/Mark Stedman