06 November 2014, The Tablet

US archbishop orders priest to bar pro-reform Irish Redemptorist

An American parish priest has refused a request from his archbishop to cancel or change the venue of a talk by the pro-reform Irish priest, Fr Tony Flannery.

Fr Mike Tegeder of the parish of St Frances Cabrini in central Minneapolis was summoned to a meeting by Archbishop John Nienstedt of St Paul and Minneapolis, who asked that the venue of Fr Flannery’s talk be changed from the parish to a non-Catholic location.

Writing on the parish website, Fr Tegeder said the archbishop wanted a change of venue so as “not to cause scandal”. He also said that Archbishop Nienstedt described the Irish priest as “not a Catholic”.

During the 30-minute meeting with the archbishop, Fr Tegeder said he pointed out that Fr Flannery is a Catholic of good standing and has been, and remains, a member of the Redemptorist order for more than 40 years.

“To say he is not Catholic is to suggest he has been excommunicated, which is not the case, and in fact is a defamatory statement,” Fr Tegeder said, adding that he queried what scandal could be caused by adult Catholics having a discussion about “needed church reform”.

“I pointed out that the very issues Flannery raises are those discussed by the bishops and cardinals at the Synod on the Family last week: if these issues can be raised in the Vatican, they can be talked about in a small, little parish in south Minneapolis,” said Fr Tegeder.

In follow-up correspondence, Archbishop Nienstedt dispatched a registered letter to Fr Tegeder requesting that Fr Flannery “not be perceived in any way as being sponsored by the Catholic Church.”
Responding to the letter, the parish priest agreed to “announce this publicly” and said he would “have a sign up at the lectern to that effect noting that it comes from you, the Chief Catechist of our Archdiocese”.

Fr Flannery is currently on an 18-city tour of the United States talking about reform in the Church and his censure by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. The CDF ordered him to be silent after questioning elements of Church teaching including whether current understanding of the priesthood directly reflected Jesus’ actions at the Last Supper.

Speaking to The Tablet from the US, Fr Flannery said he found “the ban on me speaking at Catholic venues hurtful and offensive, but I get on with it”.

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