Update on my situation with the Vatican and the Redemptorist authorities

Clarity and brevity can be rare enough commodities in theological writing. A new book, due out later in the year, by the Augustinian theologian, Gabriel Daly, is a great example of both, especially in the little section that deals with myself and my saga with the Vatican. This is what he says:

The case of Tony Flannery is fairly well known, owing to his courage in exposing the actions of his victimisers. His book, A Question of Conscience gives a personal account of the CDF’s pursuit of him. As a founder of the Association of Catholic Priests he has been in the Vatican’s sights and has been the subject of close investigation. I focus here on an article he wrote for the journal Reality, because it reveals that the CDF is not merely tyrannical; it can be theologically inept. In the course of his article he writes “whatever Jesus intended, I don’t think anyone can credibly claim that he intended the type of system we now have in the church.” “I no longer believe that the priesthood, as we currently have it in the Church, originated with Jesus.” His views here are both theologically and historically unexceptionable. His attackers have simply failed to reckon with his qualification “as we currently have it in the Church”. Their view seems to be that everything we have in the church today can be attributed to the authority of Jesus – which is palpably untrue.

I always thought that was an obvious point, but since I am not a theologian, and my colleagues in the Redemptorists who are qualified in this area didn’t pick up on it, I thought I might be wrong. I am grateful to Gabriel for bringing this out, and I am looking forward to the publication of his book.

Other small developments in relation to my situation. Because Cardinal Levada, in a visit to Ireland some months ago, declared that I was ‘formally in heresy’, I looked for some response from my Redemptorist authorities to ascertain if they agreed with this assessment. The response I got from the Superior General, Fr. Brehl, is as follow:

Once again I assure you that I have never received any notification that you are “formally in heresy”. I do not think that there is any need for a process to determine if you are “formally in heresy”. Such a charge has not been levelled against you.

And from my own Provincial, Fr. Kelleher, the following:

Fr. Brehl sent me a copy of his response to you last Thursday (and I’m sending a copy of this response to him as you’ll see above). I understand and fully accept his point that as he has never received any notification that you are “formally in heresy,” his judgement is that there is no need for a process to determine if you are “formally in heresy”.
In my turn, I have no reason to believe that you are “formally in heresy,” despite periodic reports in some sections of the media. I brought reflection on this matter to the OPC and EPC last Friday and from those conversations it is clear that as a leadership team, we do not understand you to be “formally in heresy.”

He did add this sentence: ‘That said, there’s no doubt that you are in a very challenging and difficult situation.’

So that is where I am in relation to Church authorities. I find it hard to understand. Gabriel Daly’s commentary on what I was accused of is hard to dispute. If I had the opportunity to dialogue with the CDF I would love to hear their response to it. The Redemptorists are clear that I am not a heretic, but yet they say I am in a very challenging and difficult situation. It seems to me that it is the Redemptorist authorities that are in a ‘very challenging and difficult situation’ They know that there is no justification for banning me from ministry, but they are afraid to take a stand against the CDF, even though Pope Francis has created the climate in which this is very possible.