From November 9-11, 2018, New Ways Ministry will offer a “retreat for LGBT Catholics, families, pastoral ministers, and allies – facilitated by Fr. Tony Flannery, CSsR.” The retreat is titled: “New Language for Old Truths.” The retreat will be held at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth located in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. The Jesuit Center is the former novitiate house of the Society’s Maryland Province. In addition to serving as a retreat center, the Jesuit Center is also the home to retired Jesuits who are still active in ministry.
Tony Flannery is a Redemptorist priest from Ireland who co-founded the dissident Association of Catholic Priests. Part of their “Constitution” includes a call for:
A re-evaluation of Catholic sexual teaching and practice that recognizes the profound mystery of human sexuality and the experience and wisdom of God’s people.
Due to his public denial of Catholic doctrine, according to Flannery’s web-site:
In 2012 it was brought to his attention that the Vatican objected to some of his articles in Reality magazine. He was summoned to Rome by the Superior General of the Redemptorists, and this began a long process which culminated in him being forbidden to minister as a priest, a situation that continues to this day. He has written a full account of his dealings with the Vatican in his latest book, A Question of Conscience.
He is under instruction from his religious authorities to remain silent, but in early 2013 he decided to ignore that stricture and go public. Since then he has been active in the reform movement around the world, and is currently giving a series of talks around the country entitled Repairing a Damaged Church.
“Reality” is the official magazine of the Redemptorists in Ireland.
In January of 2013, Flannery refused to sign a public declaration of fidelity to Catholic teaching. The following month, Pope Benedict XVI resigned. Since then, Flannery continues to speak out against Church teachings; in 2014, he began a speaking tour of the United States – appearing primarily at non-Catholic venues. In 2015, Flannery supported the Marriage Equality Referendum which legalized same-sex marriage in Ireland. During a 2016 “LGBT Pilgrimage” to Ireland by New Ways Ministry, Flannery “was on hand with his brother Redemptorists to introduce…the many ways his community is building a more inclusive church.” In defiance of his censure by the Vatican, in 2017, Flannery celebrated his first public Mass in five years. He said: “There’s a risk I know, there are consequences to doing something like this like excommunication and dismissal from my religious order. The Redemptorists wouldn’t dismiss me…”
Concerning the 2018 repeal of the 8th Amendment in the Irish Constitution – which would legalize abortion in Ireland, Flannery wrote:
Having spent a great part of my life as a member of the clerical system in a church that discriminates against women, and has blocked them from participation in any form of decision making, it will be difficult for me to cast a vote for retention of an amendment that restricts the freedom of choice and action of women.
Here are examples of some of Flannery’s public statements:
…we are told to believe in a three person God dwelling in heaven – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – predominantly, if not exclusively, male. Along with being a futile exercise, trying to explain God and, worse still, making it a doctrine of the church, was a big mistake.
…maybe the most problematic area of all Catholic doctrine is the teaching on Mary…How many of us really believe in the nativity stories and the virgin birth, and that Mary remained a virgin all her life and had no other children?
…when I was talking about the doctrine of the virginity of Mary, I said that in all probability she had more children,-that Mark’s gospel says clearly that Jesus had brothers and sisters.
We are told that Jesus had four brothers, and an indefinite number of sisters. This does not fit with the church’s need to present Jesus as the Son of God, conceived in a way that is different from other humans, and Mary as the perpetual virgin. So the scholars turned the brothers and sisters into cousins!
We must be honest and admit that the teaching of many Christian Churches in respect of any sexual contact between people of the same sex has hardly been helpful…The present teaching of the Catholic church says that there is no moral fault in being attracted to a person of the same sex, but that any physical expression of that attraction is seriously sinful. I find that hard to accept. Sexual expression plays a very important part in growing and deepening the bond of love between two people, and to the degree that two people of the same sex, created by God to love each other, cannot express that love physically, under pain of moral sin and eternal damnation, is an inhuman type of teaching.
On August 21, 2018, before his scheduled talk at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland, Jesuit priest James Martin posted a message on the Facebook timeline of Jeannine Gramick, he wrote: “I’m taking you to Dublin with me in my heart!” Gramick responded with: “Thanks, Jim, for speaking out for LGBT people at the World Meeting of Families. You are moving our Church along!”
Along with Fr. Robert Nugent, Jeanine Gramick founded the gay affirmative Catholic outreach, New Ways Ministry in 1977. Almost immediately the group’s wide divergence from official Catholic teaching caught the attention of concerned prelates in the United States, and the Vatican began an investigation into their published work and unusual pastoral practices. In 1984, both Nugent and Gramick were ordered to step down from leadership positions at New Ways Ministry. But both continued to speak out against Church prohibitions concerning homosexual activity.
In 1999, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a “Notification Regarding Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent,” both were:
Permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons…
…positions advanced by Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent regarding the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination are doctrinally unacceptable because they do not faithfully convey the clear and constant teaching of the Catholic Church in this area.
Gramick ignored the notification stating – “I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression.”
In 2010, the USCCB, then headed by Cardinal Francis George, issued a clarification on the status of New Ways Ministry – stating:
No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice. Their claim to be Catholic only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination.
In 2015, Gramick publicly supported legislation legalizing gay marriage in both Ireland and the United States, stating:
You can be a Catholic and vote for civil marriage for lesbian and gay people because it is a civil matter – it has nothing to do with your religion.
In 2016, James Martin accepted the “Bridge Building Award” from New Ways Ministry and his address at the awards ceremony served as the inspiration for his book “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.” In 2017, Martin called for the canonization of Jeannine Gramick.
On July 27, 2018, Martin posted an announcement for the retreat with Flanney to his Twitter account.