Father Tony Flannery, a Catholic priest who has been outspoken in his criticism of the abuse crisis in Ireland, has found himself under investigation by the Vatican for his liberal views.
Founder of the Association of Irish Priests, Father Flannery told TheJournal.ie that the Vatican has contacted him to inform him of the investigation.
The effect of the investigation was immediate. This week The Irish Catholic newspaper reports that Father Flannery had to cease writing his monthly column in the Redemptorist Reality magazine in response to news of the investigation.
The Irish Catholic writer Michael Kelly reported that, “It is understood that while Fr Flannery has the support of his superiors in the Redemptorist Order, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome has expressed disquiet about some of his articles and publications.
“It is believed that the views which have come under most scrutiny are Fr Flannery’s opposition to the Church’s ban on artificial birth control and his support for the ordination of women.”
Last year, Father Flannery welcomed Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny's hard hitting criticism of the Church's decades long mishandling of the child sex abuse scandals in Ireland.
The investigation is seen by critics as a crackdown on the association, which has been described as a 'dissident group' by more conservative members of the Church.
In recent months, the association has called for changes in the Church, including its theology on sexuality. Some of the association’s priests contend that priests should be allowed to marry and that the Church should permit the ordination of female priests.
A Redemptorist, Flannery is a native of Attymon, Athenry in County Galway, Ireland. He is the youngest in the family of four. He has two brothers: Peter, who is a fellow Redemptorist at Esker Monastery in Athenry, and Frank, the Fine Gael Director of Organisation and Strategy.
The crackdown comes on the heels of the Vatican ordered Apostolic Visitation, which found evidence of what it called a 'certain tendency' for Irish priests to hold opinions that conflict with those of the orthodox Magisterium, the Catholic Church’s teaching authority.
In a sign of hardening attitudes, the Visitation participants underlined that any dissent from the formal teachings of the Church were 'not the authentic path towards renewal.'
Under the current circumstances, Father Flannery has been effectively silenced, with no indication of how long it will last.
On Holy Thursday Pope Benedict issued a very direct statement which slammed those priests who refuse to conform to church teachings.