Regional Meeting of ACP in Claremorris
Forty five priests attended the regional meeting of the Association of Catholic Priests in the Curam Centre in Claremorris on Tuesday, Oct. 26th.
After a short address from Brendan Hoban the meeting was opened to the floor.
A discussion ensued which lasted for two hours. A wide range of issues were covered, and the contributions and the listening were both of the highest quality.
At first we discussed the Association, and how it might function.
There was concern about how communication could be maintained between the members and the leadership, and a fear that a gap would develop, and the leadership might not properly represent the member’s views. So, some speakers were suggesting that there be maybe three regional meetings each year.
The importance of keeping in touch with emails, and with the website, were emphasised.
Mention was made of a membership fee, but no decision has been made on this yet.
Then the discussion began to range over the church and the lives of clergy.
Three general areas emerged:
1. The fragility of priests in relation to allegations of abuse, and how these allegations were being dealt with by the Church authorities. The divide that has developed between priests and their bishops or religious superiors became evident in some of the contributions.
There was a lengthy discussion on this, and on how the Association might be able to support priest who have been accused, and indeed those who have been convicted of serious crimes. “They are still our brothers”.
2. How can we as an association be of help to priests in their ministry. Can we support and help each other to preach the Gospel more effectively.
It was suggested that, particularly in the diocesan context, priests can inhibit each other in all sorts of subtle ways. If we can help to set each other free to express what is within us, then we will have achieved something really worthwhile.
3. Some speakers were very conscious of the dire economic situation in which we live, and how it is effecting the people with whom we work in parishes. Should we be saying something about this, and if so, what.
It was pointed out that the alternative budget from Sean Healy’s group was up on our website, and that people might get some ideas from that.
The leadership team acknowledged that in Portlaoise we were asked to bring two other priests on to our team. So far we have been unable to get anyone willing to serve, but the search will continue and we hope to have the two people in place before Christmas.
Our next meeting is in Charleville on Tuesday, Nov. 9th, in the Charleville Park Hotel.
I was very impressed by the statement issued by Tony Flannery after the Claremorris meeting. In a few short sentences he encapsulated the sense of injustice experienced by many priests who have been stood down from Ministry despite the fact it has been made abundantly clear that they do not represent any risk to children or indeed anyone else. The religious authorities hide behind the phrase “our hands are tied”. This kind of response is no longer acceptable and if I might even go so far as to say that it is in itself a form of abuse.