Somehow, I think we’ll be hearing more stories like this one:
A south Minneapolis church plans to bring in controversial Irish Redemptorist priest Tony Flannery to speak on Wednesday, despite warnings from Archbishop John Nienstedt. And the church’s pastor is using the words of a powerful church leader to justify it: Pope Francis.
Father Mike Tegeder, pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Church, has been intent on bringing in Flannery, who is on a speaking tour of the country. But the Cabrini visit will be the only time he speaks on Catholic Church property.
Flannery, author of several books on religion, holds controversial positions on birth control, homosexuality and the ordination of women. He was silenced by the Vatican in 2012 and told he would be allowed to return to ministry only if he signed a statement denouncing beliefs that don’t agree with current church doctrine. He has refused.
Tegeder, long an outspoken priest who has repeatedly tangled with Nienstedt, met with him late last week to discuss the issue.
“We didn’t have a meeting of the minds,” said Tegeder. “He listened to me, and I’m thankful for that. But I pounded the table, as I’m prone to do, and said this is nonnegotiable. I told him, ‘you could throw my ass right out of here, but I’m throwing myself in your mercy.”
In a letter to the archdiocese, Tegeder referenced Pope Francis in defending the speaker.
“Thank God for Pope Francis, who in a speech at the closing of the recent Synod on the Family, said, ‘Personally I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn’t been these … animated discussions … or if everyone had been in agreement or silent in a false and acquiescent peace,’ ” Tegeder wrote. He added that Francis said he “wanted a mess in our dioceses.”
Tegeder has certainly been willing to accommodate that wish. He has repeatedly fought church hierarchy, most recently over gay marriage.
In their meeting, Tegeder asked why it was fine for church bishops and Cardinals to discuss controversial issues, “and you don’t approve of those, so why can’t this little church in Minneapolis talk about them,” Tegeder said.
Even though the diocese has much bigger issues at hand, such as the relentless news accounts of child abuse, Tegeder said he’s not surprised that the issue of someone speaking at his church has gotten the attention of church leadership.
“It’s a minor thing in my opinion, but this is what these guys live for — hierarchical control,” Tegeder said.