Is Vatican Investigation of Fr. Tony Flannery Repeating a Bygone Era? And Other News

1) The National Catholic Reporter published an editorial in support of embattled Irish Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, who has been told by the Vatican that to be restored to active ministry he must sign fidelity oaths that include, among other issues, condemning LGBTQ equality. Flannery has refused, and the editorial raises the question of whether the secretive investigations of theologians that occurred under Pope John Paul II are being repeated. The editors write:

“Even if the [Vatican’s] doctrinal congregation feels the need to define certain positions as out of bounds for someone entrusted with teaching the Catholic faith, the current processes, cloaked in secrecy, are a counter-witness to the very human dignity the church so rightly defends in other regards. One of the glories of modernity is the belief that the accused have rights.

“We thought the pontificate of Francis, who has emphasized dialogue and openness, would have a different, more positive vision for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Let’s not return to the last century — or the 16th.”

2) The Boston College School of Theology and Ministry has instituted a new financial scholarship for students who have a “demonstrated research interest in the intersection of theology and sexuality through areas such as systematics, Christian ethics, or practical theology, and/or demonstrate a commitment to inclusive ministry within the LGBTQ+ community.” Named the “Building Bridges Award,” the scholarship references Fr. James Martin, SJ’s, book of a similar name, a book based on an address Martin gave upon receiving New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award in 2016.

3) Families with Dignity, which was formerly known as Fortunate Families Detroit and was barred from church property by the local archdiocese earlier this year, will be continuing its ministry as part of the DignityUSA community. The Detroit families group disaffiliated with Fortunate Families, Inc, a national network, in part over the Detroit group’s new mission statement, according to a press release. That new mission statement reads, in part:

“We welcome the day when our LGBTQ+ family members are fully accepted by the entire Church, even as we know they are accepted by God. We pray with confidence that with acceptance will come acknowledgement and support of all legal marriages, of committed and loving family units, of transgender and nonbinary people, and of workplace equality for LGBTQ+ people.”

4) The Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, posted an Advent reflection from gay Catholic Donald Maher on its Facebook page. Maher wrote about the divisions within the church, and within families, caused by LGBTQ issues. He wrote, in part:

“I am a gay man and a Catholic and have ministered to the LGBT Catholic community for decades. I have sought to make the Church more welcoming and loving than I found it to be. One of the Advent themes is that of the exile. The theme can speak to the ‘exile’ experience of not just those ancient Babylonian Hebrews, but also to the “exile” experience of contemporary gay Catholics and their families. Each year Advent gives us the opportunity to embrace all those who may in various ways be exiled from church and community. . .”

For the full reflection, click here.

5) Greg Bourke, a gay Catholic who was a plaintiff in the Obergefell case in which the U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriage equality, will be releasing a book about his experiences. The book, titled Gay, Catholic, and American: My Legal Battle for Marriage Equality and Inclusion, will be published by University of Notre Dame Press in October 2021. More information is available here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 8, 2021

1 reply
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    The Church keeps erring in the name of tradition and ‘scripture’. Maybe the Old Testament has more clout than the words of Jesus. Is it just old clerical dinosaurs keeping this less-than- charitable approach alive. It seems that the one thing that makes bishops pay attention is the collection basket. Withhold if you feel offended. I do. But not all priests or bishops fall into the rigid , judgemental ranks of Catholicism. Someday, we’ll hear sweeping apologies for what is happening now. Meanwhile, a genuine Catholic with a conscience is about to become president. This should be interesting. The Church hitched its wagon to the trump train for four years. It took them nowhere. Biden offers us hope not only as LGBT Americans but as Catholics,too.


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