Minnesota pastor defies archbishop, hosts talk by suspended priest who opposes Catholic teaching
A Minnesota parish priest has openly defied an order from his archbishop to cancel a talk at his church by the Irish renegade Redemptorist Tony Flannery.
Father Michael Tegeder has defied Archbishop John Nienstedt of Minneapolis-St. Paul before, and even “prayerfully” urged him to resign his episcopate rather than persist in his opposition to a pro-marriage law.
Now he’s hosted a priest who dissents from the Magisterium on married priests, women priests, openness to homosexual relationships, and contraception. But Flannery has been emphatically sanctioned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith while Tegeder continues to defy Church teaching and his archbishop, sparking calls from Catholic faithful for him to be sacked. Both men cite the recent Extraordinary Synod and Pope Francis’ alleged support for questioning Church teaching on sexuality.
Father Tegeder told LifeSiteNews “it’s not true” that he is in defiance of his archbishop. “He’s allowed me to do it,” he said, noting they had a half-hour meeting shortly before visit. According to Father Tegeder, the archbishop’s concern was that Flannery’s visit not be seen to be sponsored by the Church. And Father Tegeder argues that he did just that, by posting, at St. Frances Cabrini, the archbishop’s letter. But the letter explicitly orders Tegeder to move the visit out of the church.
“I am saying that any talk by Flannery cannot take place on Catholic property here in this Archdiocese,” wrote Archbishop Nienstedt. “I am appealing to your promise of obedience, made at your ordination, to find a different venue for Flannery’s talk. The first mark of the Catholic Church is her unity. Anything that dissents from that is not of God. I ask for your cooperation in this important matter.”
“I’m officially outside the Church,” Flannery told LifeSiteNews, “but very much in line with Pope Francis.”
Fr. Tegeder even told a Minneapolis Star-Tribune reporter he “pounded the table” during his half-hour discussion with Archbishop Nienstedt. The visit, the only stop on an 18-city “Tipping Point” tour of America to be held at a Catholic institution, “was non-negotiable. You could throw my ass out of here, but I’m throwing myself in your mercy.”
In his “Pastor’s Notes” on St. Frances’ website, Fr. Tegeder admits that the archbishop had threatened to remove him twice over other disputes, but this time was only ordering him to move Flannery’s talk off church property. This was “progress.”
Archbishop Nienstedt could not be reached, but his communications office released his letter to Tegeder, which also stated, “I have read excerpts of Flannery’s writings and I share the concerns expressed by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) about them. Flannery attacks the teaching of the Church with regard to priesthood, the Holy Eucharist, the virginity of the Blessed Mother and human sexuality. He has been forbidden by the CDF to present himself as a Catholic priest, had his sacramental faculties removed and been instructed to remain silent on the matters referenced above.”
But Fr. Tegeder says Flannery’s talk at St. Frances Cabrini, was “mainstream Catholicism, just what Pope Francis is saying. We have to be open in discussing all these things. We have to let people have a voice.” Archbishop Nienstedt had been “misunderstanding” the Church’s new openness. But Father Tegeder has apparently straightened him out. “I told him it would do him good to be more flexible.”
Father Flannery ran into trouble back in Ireland for publicly expressing doubt that “the priesthood as we currently have it in the Church originated with Jesus. … It is more likely that some time after Jesus a select and privileged group within the community, who have abrogated power and authority to themselves, interpreted the occasion of the Last Supper in a manner that suited their own agenda.”
The CDF investigated and found more troubling statements. It ordered him to stop celebrating Mass or representing himself as a Catholic priest and be silent on Catholic matters until he was ready to affirm Church teaching.
He is in defiance of that command, he told LifeSiteNews, because of the “totally unjust” and arbitrary nature of the CDF’s judgement. “It is like something out of the 16th century. I was given no opportunity to defend myself. And if I was to appeal, it would be to the same body that made the original decision.”
They reportedly loved him at St. Frances, more than filling it with an estimated 400 people overflowing into the basement.
But others took a dimmer view. Virginia blogger Mary Ann Kreitzer, president of the Catholic Media Coalition, wrote last week that “when a priest publicly defies his bishop and essentially ridicules him in the media isn’t it time to give him a disciplinary boot in the hindquarters? That’s what Fr. Mike Tegeder needs and let’s pray Archbishop John Nienstedt obliges.” A few weeks earlier she described the American Catholic Council, one of the liberal groups sponsoring Flannery, as “always busy-busy, like termites, undermining the faith.”
Another priest from the diocese, Father John Echert of Holy Trinity Parish, said, “It’s totally inappropriate for Father Flannery, given what he says about Church teaching, to be hosted at a Catholic venue. But it’s certainly not surprising that Father Tegeder is the one doing it, because he has been openly rebellious against the archbishop several times. And he has been threatened with punitive action several times too, but I’m not aware of any consequences.”
Echert went on to note a wise statement from “my old philosophy professor” that “when a law is not enforced it becomes ineffective.” Fr. Tegeder, he added, clearly has learned he can get away with defying his archbishop.
Flannery and Tegeder both invoke the name of Pope Francis in defence of their dissent. “I’m officially outside the Church,” Flannery told LifeSiteNews, “but very much in line with Pope Francis.”
“This just shows,” remarks Father Echert, “how imprudent it was to open the door of the Extraordinary Synod, to let the discussion be known to the public. This just undermines the ability of faithful bishops to hold the line and defend doctrine. There can be discussion on prudential matters but not on doctrine.”