Tony Flannery to speak at conference on women’s ordination

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Martin Sheen endorses US event at which banned priest will speak prior to pope’s visit

Fr Tony Flannery, who in 2012 was suspended from public ministry by the Vatican, celebrated Mass in a Co Galway family home last week. Photograph: Alan Betson. Fr Tony Flannery, who in 2012 was suspended from public ministry by the Vatican, celebrated Mass in a Co Galway family home last week. Photograph: Alan Betson.

Actor Martin Sheen and leading American Benedictine nun Sr Joan Chittister have endorsed the third international Women’s Ordination Worldwide conference, at which Redemptorist priest Fr Tony Flannery will speak in Philadelphia next month. It takes place just prior to the visit there of Pope Francis, on September 26th.

In 2012, Fr Flannery was suspended from public ministry by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) for his liberal views on the ordination of women, homosexuality and contraception.

Founded in 1996, Women’s Ordination Worldwide is an ecumenical network of national and international groups whose primary aim is the admission of Catholic women to all ordained ministries.

It held its first international conference in Dublin in 2001. There Nobel Prize winner Mairead Corrigan Maguire said the Vatican’s refusal to ordain women was “dehumanising, demoralising, and is a form of spiritual abuse”.

“Does the Vatican not realise how deeply offensive it is to women to be told that because of their biological make-up they cannot be ordained?” she asked. The conference in Philadelphia takes place from September 18th-20th.

Last week, Fr Flannery celebrated Mass in a Co Galway family home following an invitation to do so. In a comment afterwards on his website, he said, “I don’t know if that would come under the CDF definition of ‘public ministry’ or not, but I didn’t lose any sleep over that aspect of it.”

He would “always be happy” to accept such invitations “from genuine people who know my situation, and wish to celebrate with me. It is good for myself also. Being out of ministry, and so involved in reform issues, it is easy to forget how lovely it is to sit down with a group of people and celebrate the Eucharist.”

He was now “about three and a half years out of ministry, and in many ways my life has moved on, and it is good. But a few days ago, I had a long chat with a priest friend in the south of Ireland, who is the only priest in a rural parish. Listening to him talk about his life, I could see how close he is to those people, and how fulfilling his life is in many ways. And it came home to me that, yes, I lost something important the day that Vatican decree landed on my desk.”

Patsy McGarry; Irish Times; 18 August 2015