Redemptorist priest Fr Tony Flannery, who was suspended from public ministry by the Vatican five years ago, faces being excommunicated when he celebrates a public Mass in Killimordaly Community Hall on Sunday, January 22.
However, after five years in a ‘limbo state’, following the Vatican’s silencing, that threat holds no fear for him. His biggest concern at the moment is that the hall, which has a capacity of about 200, won’t be able to accommodate the numbers who intend to turn up.
The outspoken Redemptorist, who will turn 70 on January 18, says the Mass will celebrate his birthday and mark 40 years of his life as a working priest, during which time he gave missions and novenas as a member of the Redemptorist Order.
However, in 2012, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) forbade Fr Flannery from practising as a priest – he was no longer allowed to say Mass, hear confessions, conduct retreats or lead novenas, among other restrictions.
Fr Flannery – whose liberal views on issues such as women priests, celibacy, birth control and sexuality challenged traditional Vatican teachings – feels that the reason he was silenced was because of his involvement in setting up the Association of Catholic Priests with fellow clerics Fr Brendan Hoban and Fr Seán McDonagh.
“I’d be fairly certain the reason the CDF did what they did to me wasn’t because of what I’d written, it was to do with the Association of Catholic Priests. That was about giving an independent voice to priests, and priests are not supposed to have an independent voice.”
Fr Flannery doesn’t know why the CDF – the Vatican’s disciplinary arm – singled him out but says “maybe the idea was that ‘we’ll put manners on one of them and that’ll finish the organisation’”.
If that was the aim, it failed.
“The Association is still going strong, with more than 1,000 members.”
Fr Flannery says Pope Francis offers hope of change within the church, and has given the lead to bishops worldwide, asking them to contact him about the Church’s needs. But the Irish bishops have been unwilling to engage with either the Pope or their own priests.
“The bishops are not willing to have a discussion with us about the state of the Church,” he points out.
As for his own situation, while Taoiseach Enda Kenny did deliver a letter from Fr Flannery to Pope Francis, the Redemptorist feels it will have little impact.
“Pope Francis, whom I have great time for, has an awful lot more on his plate than the doings of an individual priest in the West of Ireland.
“I have been told that he doesn’t deal with individual priests. And he has problems too, with five cardinals openly and publicly accusing him of heresy.”
However, if Pope Francis visits Ireland next year, as is expected, there might be developments for Fr Flannery and five other priests who were also silenced and whose situation was referenced in his letter to the Pope.
Pope Francis has also “clipped the wings of the CDF”, which lessens the likelihood of Fr Flannery being excommunicated for saying Mass publicly.
“If I had done it five years ago, I have no doubt that I’d be informed I was officially excommunicated and the Redemptorists would be told they’d have to formally dismiss me. That’s based on priests with similar experiences. And it could still happen.”
However, he is not threatened by the “medieval concept of excommunication, which has no meaning in the modern world”, saying that his life has moved on in the last five years.
“I’m involved in the Church reform movement internationally and through that I’ve met a whole new range of people around the world.”
What upset Fr Flannery most about his dealings with the Vatican was the way in which he was treated.
“The Vatican wouldn’t even talk to me directly. They dealt with my direct superiors and gave them orders to give me orders. They showed none of the basic principles of human rights. The Church operates likes a 16th century institution, although it has very good individual people and advocates for human rights.”
At official level, Fr Flannery’s order has done exactly what the Vatican instructed it to do, and “acted as a messenger boy”, he says.
“The Redemptorists in Rome followed orders with the justification that they don’t have a choice because if not, they’d be removed. At a local level, I have received support and am still a member of the Esker community but I don’t live there. I live in Killimordaly in the family home.”
He is grateful to the committee of Killimordaly Community Hall which has granted him permission to celebrate the Mass in venue. It will take place at 2.30pm on Sunday, January 22, followed by tea and sandwiches in the Earl Inn.
Paedophile for sentencing after arrest in Ceannt Station
A man will be sentenced in December for arranging to meet a child at Ceannt Station for the purpose of sexual assault.
In the meantime, Michael Sheridan, from Cormeelick South, Milltown, must not attempt to use the internet or any other means of communication to contact any child, as set down in conditions attached to his bail.
The 63-year-old pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last Friday week to attempting to communicate with a child by means of information and communication technology within the State, for the purposes of facilitating the sexual exploitation of the child on dates between March 20 and May 26, 2018, contrary to Common Law and Section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) Act 2017.
He also pleaded guilty to attempting to meet the child on May 27, 2018, at Ceannt Railway Station in Eyre Square, having communicated by any means with the child, and did so on at least a previous occasion, and did so for the purpose of doing something that would constitute the sexual exploitation of the child, namely sexual assault of the child, contrary to Common Law. The sex of the child referred to in the charges was not revealed in court.
In reply to Judge Rory McCabe, prosecuting barrister, Geri Silke said there was no need to order a victim impact statement prior to sentence taking place as there was no victim ‘in the real sense’ in the case.
By consent with Bernard Madden SC, defending, sentence was adjourned to December 15 next, when the prosecution will outline the facts in the case against Sheridan.
His free legal aid certificate was extended to cover the cost of a medical report for mitigation purposes.
Judge McCabe also directed the preparation of a probation report at Mr Madden’s request and remanded Sheridan on continuing bail with the existing conditions attached to appear back before the court in December for sentence.
Bail was initially granted in the District Court on condition Sheridan surrender his passport and not apply for a new one or any other travel documents; sign on twice a week at Tuam Garda Station; provide a mobile phone number to Gardai and answer his phone to Gardaí at all times; undertake to the court not to make any contact with any child by any means, to include social media; and not to access the internet at any stage pending completion of the case.
Final outing for Your County, Your Colours – to honour an old colleague
It was a simple idea well executed – to deliver 32 GAA county jerseys to frontline workers in a hospital or care home in thanks for their dedication during Covid – but before the dust settled on Your County, Your Colours, there was one final and very special delivery to be made.
It is now nine years since a completely unprovoked attack left Tuam man Shane Grogan with life-changing injuries that mean he still requires round-the-clock medical care today.
Before that vicious assault, Shane was a popular member of staff with Merit Medical – who just happened to be the sponsors of the Your County, Your Colours project, dreamt up by Galway Bay FM commentator and former Galway footballer, Tommy Devane.
The team at Merit had one final request – to deliver a special, framed Galway jersey to Shane and the staff at Greenpark Nursing Home, where Shane has lived for some time.
Karen Smyth, Communications Leader with Merit Medical, said that the staff at Merit Medical had never forgotten Shane.
“We see Your County, Your Colours as a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the hard work of the frontline workers in Greenpark,” she said.
“This is just a small token of appreciation of their efforts; they do an amazing job – not just during the pandemic but every day,” she added.
Shane’s dad Joe relayed his thanks to Merit Medical for this presentation – with a special word to the Accounts Department, where Shane worked prior to his accident.
“They have always kept Shane foremost in their thoughts and hopefully, the visits will start again soon!” he said.
The original idea, as envisaged by Tommy Devane, was to honour the tireless efforts of frontline workers across the country during the pandemic.
So he has asked all 32 counties to supply one county jersey accompanied by a short message of thanks. The jersey along with their message was then framed and sent to the hospital or care setting of the county’s choice.
Greenpark Nursing Home Director of Nursing Brian McNamara thanked Merit Medical and Tommy Devane for what he called this wonderful gift.
“We are honoured to have been thought of in this manner and it is our privilege to look after Merit’s colleague Shane Grogan,” he said.
“In our caring for Shane, there will always be a special bond between Merit Medical and Greenpark Nursing Home,” he added.
(Photo: Shane Grogan (centre) with his parents Joe and Joan behind him, accepting his signed Galway jersey, joined by (from left) the McNamara family – Jane, Cora, Director of Nursing Brian and Ian – of Greenpark Nursing Home; Shane’s physical therapist Johnathan Gibson, Merit Medical’s Karen Smyth and Mark Butler, and Tommy Devane, organiser of Your County, Your Colours).
Teacher has sights set on passing ultimate Ironman test
It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted and it pretty much eats up all of your spare time – but for Claregalway schoolteacher, Rachel Farrell, the Ironman 70.3 world championship test in September is something she just cannot wait for.
Rachel (28) has always been bitten by the sports and fitness bug, being a competitive swimmer and badminton player from her school days, but now she is concentrating on what’s called the Ironman 70.3.
The 70.3 part of the title refers to the total distance in miles that competitors will cover between the swim, cycle and running legs of the event.
It works out at half the distance of the full Ironman Triathlon but that still adds up to one huge challenge for those brave enough to take it on.
The first part of the endurance test is a 1.9-kilometre (1.2 miles) swim followed by a 90km cycle (56 miles) and then a half-marathon run (21.1km or 13.1 miles).
“I did my first Ironman 70.3 in France in 2019 and the Utah event on September 17 next is actually the 2020 world championships which couldn’t be held last year because of the Covid situation.
“The course in Utah is by all accounts a pretty gruelling one and the conditions there will be tough too, but I’ve prepared well for it and am looking forward to the challenge,” said Rachel.
She will be competing in the 25 to 29 age category and in the France event two years ago, Rachel notched a top 49 finish – the target this time around is for a top-20 finishing slot.
The daughter of Josette and Hugh Farrell, Rachel is currently a secondary schoolteacher in Dubai who is hoping to travel to Utah about a week before the event to help her acclimatise to the heat and desert like conditions of the US state.
Even the journey to get there will be a mission itself with Dubai the starting off point followed by stop-offs at Elay and Las Vegas.
Rachel is pretty much committed to an all-year round preparation programme based on a four-week rota system – three weeks of intense training followed by one week of scaled down activity.
“When I was in Oman back in 2018 and the event was held there it just caught my interest. I put in on my bucket list and really enjoyed the one in France in 2019.
“I’m not sure whether I’ll keep doing them or not – I might just concentrate on swimming or cycling events into the future – but for the moment, Utah is the goal and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Rachel.