What did the bishop achieve?

Association of Catholic Priests

Brendan Hoban, writing in his column in the Western People, gives his reaction to Bishop Crean recently forcing a Pastoral Council to withdraw an invitation to Tony Flannery to speak in a local community hall.

“It has brought the Irish Catholic Church once more into disrepute in that it showed that other voices have no place in it, even if Pope Francis encourages them in the wider Church. It insulted Tony Flannery …… it shows once again that the people are ahead of the priests, the priests are ahead of the bishops and the bishops, caught in the nineteenth century, are either out of touch or in abject denial.” …

Fr Tony Flannery has paid a high price for his membership of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP). A founder member, over five years ago, in the dog-days of the Pope Benedict era, Tony and others (including myself) spelled out as our platform the need for an agenda of reform for the Church we had served for decades – and which everyone (or almost everyone) could see was dying by the day.

That we struck a nerve with our fellow-priests was obvious. Within a year or so over 1,000 priests has signed on as members. But because we didn’t fit into the tradition of priests being seen and not heard and because bishops were in denial of the reality of Catholic life in Ireland, we were regarded as ‘dissidents’, partly responsible (as Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Visitation team would later report) for the bleak situation of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. The high-powered ‘Visitors’ from overseas (Cardinals and archbishops) looked in from afar for scapegoats and the ACP, to their mind, fitted the bill. We were part of the reason, they concluded, why the Church in Ireland was in such disarray!

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