Letter to the Papal Nuncio
Dear Archbishop Brown,
As members of the Steering Group of the Association of Catholics in Ireland [ACI], we are saddened
by the impasse which has developed in the case of Fr. Tony Flannery. The clarifications issued by Fr.
Tony since his Press Conference last Sunday, in our view, only serve to highlight the apparent
intransigence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in its dealings with priests who
express an opinion contrary to that of the Congregation.
The ACI is a new association comprised of committed Irish Catholics who are deeply concerned
about the future survival of our Church. We have observed quietly, over the past decade in
particular, as the reputation of our Church has been gravely undermined by one damaging revelation
after another. These were revelations, in the main, connected to scandalous behaviour by priests
and religious, the impact of which was significantly exacerbated by – using an extremely charitable
interpretation – the extraordinary ineptitude and subservience of the Irish Hierarchy. One is
tempted to pose the question where was the CDF while these scandals were being grossly mismanaged by the Irish bishops? We are not aware of an individual Irish bishop being summoned to
Rome to explain his actions throughout these traumatic years for our Church.
The management of Fr. Tony’s case by comparison bears all the hallmarks of the ruthless ‘efficiency’
traditionally associated with the CDF, particularly in their dealings with priests and religious who
show any tendency to question the Church authorities. Many Irish Catholics who care deeply about
the survival of our Church are no longer prepared to quietly accept our priests being subjected to a
disciplinary process which appears to be totally lacking in any fairness and balance – the
fundamental characteristics of any system of investigation which has justice as its ultimate aim. If
this is an inaccurate description of the procedures used currently by the CDF in their dealing with Fr.
Tony, and indeed other Irish Priests, clarification of the process being followed could contribute
significantly to alleviating the anxiety felt by concerned Irish Catholics in regard to, what is perceived
by many, as the unjust treatment of our priests.
We are praying and hoping that constructive dialogue between Fr. Tony and the CDF is still possible.
Such dialogue, if approached in the right spirit, has the potential to resolve this impasse. We,
therefore, urge you to listen to the opinions of those who have expressed views in favour of a more
just approach to dealing with our priests who speak out as Fr. Tony has. As you are well aware we
have a shortage of priests in our country and we can ill afford to lose the services of priests like Fr.
Tony who have given a life-time of diligent and committed service to our people.
We acknowledge that your role is a very challenging one, particularly given the damage inflicted on
our Church in recent decades. The consequences of this damage will not be overcome or reversed
unless we all work in unison towards a new style of Church in Ireland. We as an emerging association
of committed catholics are ready to play our part in the reform and renewal of the Irish Church in
the years ahead in partnership with our priests and bishops. Every crisis, no matter how grave the
issues involved, invariably offers opportunities for new beginnings. We believe and pray that ‘new
beginnings’ will surface for our Church from a resolution of this issue.
Association of Catholics in Ireland [Steering Group]