If you're monitoring your news feed today, you might get to watch Rev. Tony Flannery, a 66-year-old Irish Catholic priest with no threshold for doctrinal bullshit, throw down a serious gauntlet against the Vatican when he defies orders from Vatican authorities not to speak out about his advocacy for a more open-minded Church. What better day for theological dissention, after all, than Sunday?
According to the New York Times, the Vatican suspended Flannery last year, and subsequently told him that he could return to his ministry only when he agreed to write, sign, and publish a statement agreeing with the church that women should never be ordained as priests and that he would thenceforth fall in line with the Church's Stone Age orthodoxy on things like contraception and homosexuality. In a Wednesday interview, however, Flannery insisted that he couldn't in good faith put his name to such a document, a moral quandary that he planned to make public at a news conference in Dublin on Sunday:
How can I put my name to such a document when it goes against everything I believe in. If I signed this, it would be a betrayal not only of myself but of my fellow priests and lay Catholics who want change. I refuse to be terrified into submission.
Flannery has been rankling Vatican authorities for years, most notably with a 2010 article in the Irish religious magazine Reality in which he wrote that he no longer believed that "the priesthood as we currently have it in the church originated with Jesus" or that the J-Man designated "a special group of his followers as priests." Instead, Flannery suggested that maybe power-hungry community leaders installed themselves in positions of power because they saw a chance to capitalize on the Gospel:
It is more likely that some time after Jesus, a select and privileged group within the community who had abrogated power and authority to themselves, interpreted the occasion of the Last Supper in a manner that suited their own agenda.
Flannery is a Redemptorist priest, which means, among other things, that he takes Jesus' whole "Love one another as I have loved you" advice pretty seriously. His call for more openness from the Catholic Church has clashed with the Vatican's seemingly conservative agenda under Pope Benedict XVI, who, unlike his predecessor, is apparently not content to just let Father Flannery do his forward-thinking thing over in Ireland because if Flannery is allowed to suggest that the Church hierarchy is really just a secular power structure cloaked in the protective chainmail of holiness, than the jig is up and the Vatican will have to find another way to hold onto its authority.
Image via Dmitriy Raykin/Shutterstock.