23 January 2017, The Tablet

More than 800 people witness censured priest defy Vatican ban and celebrate Mass

Irish Redemptorist Fr Tony Flannery celebrates 70th birthday with public Mass near his home town in Co Galway

Hundreds of people have attended an illicit Mass led by censured Irish priest Fr Tony Flannery.

The Redemptorist Father, who was banned from public ministry in 2012 by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), celebrated Mass on Sunday at Killimordaly Community Centre, near to his hometown of east Co Galway. An estimated 800 attended, many of whom had to stand during the service for lack of seats.

Flannery - who was criticised by the CDF for expressing views contrary to Church teaching on women priests, sexuality and the Eucharist - said the diverse attendance showed “the power of the Church to dictate to people has collapsed”.

“People don’t allow bishops or popes or the Vatican to dictate to them anymore. And the sooner the Irish bishops realise that and instead of issuing dictates, start listening to the people, the better”, he said.

The Mass took place as Ireland’s 26 bishops attended their Ad Limina meeting in Rome; a five-yearly visit to share with the Pope the state of Catholicism in Ireland.

During the meeting, the bishops discussed the role of women in church life, clerical sexual abuse and the importance of Catholic schools, among other topics.

The Association of Catholic Priests, of which Flannery is a co-founder, said the comments from the bishops regarding the Ad Limina constituted a “public relations gloss on the condition of the Irish Church”.

“If Archbishop Martin's comment represents the thrust of the bishops' reports, it will constitute a blatant refusal to name important truths and a failure to accept responsibility for taking the necessary decisions to arrest the decline of the Irish Church” the group said.

70-year-old Flannery said he had no plans to stop his work on Church reform and was not worried about excommunication.

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