As I see it, one of the greatest hindrances to progress on LGBT issues in the Catholic Church is not just the intransigence of many hierarchical leaders, but the fact that many “mid-level” leaders do not speak their mind about their support for such issues. The fear of retaliation, no doubt, is strong, but it has always been a puzzle why so many so often give into this fear.
An inspiring story out of Ireland gives a shining example of one priest who has not succumbed to such fear. The New York Times reports:
“The Rev. Tony Flannery, 66, who was suspended by the Vatican last year, said he was told by the Vatican that he would be allowed to return to ministry only if he agreed to write, sign and publish a statement agreeing, among other things, that women should never be ordained as priests and that he would adhere to church orthodoxy on matters like contraception and homosexuality.”
Fr. Flannery’s words, I hope, will give courage to many other church leaders:
“ ‘How can I put my name to such a document when it goes against everything I believe in,’ he said in an interview on Wednesday. ‘If I signed this, it would be a betrayal not only of myself but of my fellow priests and lay Catholics who want change. I refuse to be terrified into submission.’ ”
What is inspiring is not only his bravery, but his willingness to expose the fear tactics that are often used at higher levels in our church.
A member of the Redemptorists, Fr. Flannery is also a leader of Ireland’s Association of Catholic Priests, which the New York Times describes as “ a group formed in 2009 to articulate the views of rank-and-file members of the clergy.” He commented on what he sees as the scare tactics of the current papacy:
“He believes the church’s treatment of him, which he described as a ‘Spanish Inquisition-style campaign,’ is symptomatic of a definite conservative shift under Pope Benedict XVI.
“ ‘I have been writing thought-provoking articles and books for decades without hindrance,’ he said. ‘This campaign is being orchestrated by a secretive body that refuses to meet me. Surely I should at least be allowed to explain my views to my accusers.’ ”
Fr. Flannery will be holding a press conference later today, and so more news may be forthcoming about this story. Bondings 2.0 will be on the alert for any new developments and will share them with you.
Along with Fr. Roy Bourgeois, who was recently dismissed from the Maryknoll community for his support of women’s ordination, Fr. Flannery is a beacon of hope for those who work and pray for a renwal of our church’s approach to gender and sexuality.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry