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ACP meets with Archbishop Martin and Dublin Priests’ Council

ACP Meeting with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
and members of the Dublin Diocesan Council of Priests
Tuesday 29 January 2013, 2.30 – 4.15pm
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Gareth Byrne (chair of Council), Séamus Ahearne OSA, Peter O’Reilly, Ciaran McDermott (members of Council).
Brendan Hoban, PJ Madden, Tim Murphy, Arthur O’Neill, Gerry O’Hanlon SJ, Pádraig McCarthy (members of ACP).
Séamus Ahearne and Peter O’Reilly are also members of ACP.
Apologies from Auxiliary Bishops Éamonn Walsh and Ray Field.
The context of the meeting:
The ACP sought a meeting with the Episcopal Conference; the Conference proposed that a better way would be for meetings with the Councils of Priests in each diocese.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin welcomed all, and welcomed the opportunity for listening, with respect for difference, out of a shared love for the Church.
Gareth Byrne chaired the meeting, which opened with prayer.
The prepared agenda:
1. Vocations
2. Procedures for dealing with allegations against priests.
3. Impending new translation of Lectionary.
4. Pastoral implications of the current economic situation.
5. Role of priests in appointment of bishops.
6. Renewal of the Church in the Year of Faith.
Matters discussed:
The agenda was used as a guide, but the discussion brought much interweaving of items.
Brief account of ACP: Two years old, over 1000 members, to provide a voice and encouragement for priests. The ACP is not, as sometimes portrayed, a rebel organisation, but an association of priests who love the church, and who wish to engage constructively with the Episcopal Conference. This meeting is the first with a Council of Priests.
The situation of vocations to ordained ministry is serious. For example, the present situation in Killala diocese: 4 priests under the age of 50. As things stand, there will be few left in 20 years time. Similar situation around the country. The various solutions proposed – clustering, bring priests from abroad, etc. are not realistic, and we need to think outside the box; the Church is in denial. Rome does not seem to appreciate the seriousness of the situation. Outlook is bleak for male celibate vocations. It is important for the life and mission of the church that existing Eucharistic communities be able to have a full celebration of Mass each Sunday. Can Episcopal Conference communicate the message to Rome? The Church needs to have a forum for voices to be heard, and bishops need not just to listen but to engage with the discussion. Young people are accustomed to a culture of freedom in their lives, which does not exist in the Church. We need a culture of open speaking – including by bishops. It would be good to see bishops taking a stand on issues such as this.
Where France was 30 years ago, we are headed. There is also a danger of a swing back to pre-Vatican II culture and mentality in the church. What kinds of applicants are coming forward? Seminarians in Dublin receive preparation for collaborative ministry. Times and models of church have changed.
The first AGM of the ACP showed clearly that priests felt the need of a forum to speak openly without fear about their experience. Many priests in the present situation have a strong sense of dissatisfaction about “what ministry means to me”.
The Regency meeting open to all brought 1200 people; many lay people feel disenfranchised in the church. They too have a strong desire for dialogue with bishops.
Dublin diocese has a programme, with a variety of forms, for the well-being of priests.
Fear of allegations against priests has been a cause of serious disquiet among priests. There has been significant progress in the procedures for dealing with allegations of abuse by priests in Dublin diocese. Handling of allegations is a complex process with many different situations. There are practical difficulties in establishing the facts in these cases.
The procedures can vary considerably from diocese to diocese. The National Board for Safeguarding Children draws up norms, which are now more flexible.
The procedures for dealing with allegations of unorthodoxy against priests (as, for example, the case of Fr Tony Flannery) are perceived to be seriously defective and unjust, and we need proper transparent structure for this. This was clearly called for by the 1971 Synod of Bishops on Justice in the World. To give witness to justice, the Church must first be seen to be just, and must undertake an examination of its own modes of acting.
In such matters, it would be better to handle the situation here in Ireland, where there could be conciliation and arbitration procedures, without first involving Rome.
We still do not have a church in Ireland where lay people can participate with fullness. Catechesis is important; we need to find ways to bring qualified lay people into this work. There are about 30 full-time pastoral lay workers in Dublin. Preparation of children for sacraments is an area which requires serious attention. Large numbers of volunteer catechists are also needed.
The translation of the Missal was very badly handled; we need to learn lessons.
The appointment of bishops exclusively by Rome is a relatively recent development in the Church, and needs to be reviewed. It is not at all adequate that the criterion be that the candidate be a safe pair of hands.
The hierarchy has not been prominent in addressing the matter of the injustices in the current economic situation in Ireland, a major concern for people, especially the less well-off. The hierarchy also needs a meaningful and effective press office which will anticipate matters where possible, rather than just a belated reaction.
The fact that this meeting has taken place is important. ACP and hierarchy can cooperate constructively. To struggle with these issues together is an expression of Communio.
The meeting covered a lot of ground, and was a good initial contact, in a cordial and honest atmosphere.

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  1. Great news and a very positive step forward.

  2. Great news, and equally great was that Archbishop Martin attended, and apologies from two other Bishops. Mutual respect is very important.

  3. Joe O'Leary says:

    great news — if good will and openness prevail on all sides, who knows what brighter horizons may open up?

  4. The “cards” are on the table…………excellent! More, spiritually put…….”……..all is brought into the light”.

  5. Laura Kuntz says:

    It would give me so much more confidence in the church if these kinds of meetings were held and reported throughout not just Ireland, but in other locations (Minnesota, USA, for example). I would have so much more confidence in the church if I saw good priests publicly brought into discussion and LISTENED to — along with a system for LISTENING to lay counterparts. I would have so much more confidence if good priests, and lay people who love the church, made the rules and set up the accountabilities for the handling of sex abuse, which has created such shame and harm. I would have so much more confidence if I heard and saw bishops LISTENING and acting on what they hear. Thank you Archbishop Martin and all for this small first step.

  6. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh says:

    “Archbishop Diarmuid Martin welcomed all, and welcomed the opportunity for listening, with respect for difference, out of a shared love for the Church.”
    It is so wonderful to read the above words, and to learn that there is constructive listening and dialogue happening between the hierarchy and priests in Ireland, and hopefully with lay people involved as well, out of a shared love for the church.
    As an Irish-American, I believe that the Irish have many gifts to share for the building up of our church, especially at this time, when there is so much fear built up by unjust legalisms and judgments from the Vatican in Rome.
    Our church no longer seems to be a healing church, to me. Fear rather than love seems to be the hallmark of the church of Pope Benedict XVI, in my view.
    It is so uplifting to reflect that Celtic Spirituality is rooted in Original Blessing, and not in Original Sin.
    Original Blessing creates in me, a deep feeling of gratitude to God, whereas the idea of Original Sin creates in me a feeling of discouragement and judgment, which is not healing.
    I personally hope and pray that someday soon the Roman Catholic Church will become a church that reflects what Jesus would want us to be.
    Thank you to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and to the Association of Catholic Priests and lay people in
    Ireland for having the courage to embark on this road to real renewal, for the greater glory of God.
    Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois, USA

  7. IAN BYRNES says:

    Good to see that the pilot is speaking with the cabin crew. Happy flight.

  8. This seemed it might not be possible not so long ago. When the Spirit has ‘primacy’ we can all become illuminated. Nice to hear this. And may the Wounded Healer be allowed to work through all of us at healing this world.
    As my father always said, “Many hands make light work.”
    Hope it can be broadcast more widely – the work and progress, as Laura suggested.
    We all need rays of hope. 🙂

  9. Brendan Cafferty says:

    Seems to have been a positive start and fair dues to Archbishop Martin for having the courage once again to step forward and for taking part -and the heavens did not fall in! I hope other members of Hierarchy will take note and follow suit.

  10. Sean McDonagh says:

    I came across this piece in UNCAN. Maybe if the Vatican listened to people like Tony Flannery the Church might have something relevant and substantive to say to young people in various countries around the world.
    Vatican admits an urgent need to understand youth
    The Vatican’s culture ministry warned on Thursday (Jan. 31) that the Catholic Church risks losing future generations if it doesn’t learn how to understand young people, their language and their culture.
    The Pontifical Council for Culture invited sociologists, web experts and theologians to a three-day, closed-door event on Feb. 6-9 aimed at studying “emerging youth cultures.”
    According to a working paper released ahead of the meeting, the church risks “offering answers to questions that are not there” if it doesn’t learn “the cultural reality of young people.”
    A study released last October by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life showed that young people are increasingly disconnected from religion, with one in three Americans aged 18-29 describing themselves as religiously unaffiliated.
    The Rev. Melchor Sanchez de Toca, undersecretary of the Vatican’s culture department, said in an interview that the church’s youth problem is not just “quantitative” — evidenced by a decline in key indicators, such as baptisms and church attendance — but also “qualitative.”
    The youth world, he said, has changed “radically,” but the church “is still offering what it has been offering for the past 500 years.”
    “We keep on giving the same answers but the way questions are posed is now totally different.”
    Even if youth culture is often marked by individualism, superficiality and hedonism, the council’s president, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, said during a Thursday press conference that its “diversity” is “not only negative” but “contains surprising seeds of fruitfulness and authenticity.”
    In his effort to understand young people’s language and feelings, Ravasi confessed to listening to a CD by the late British pop singer Amy Winehouse, noting that “a quest for meaning emerges even from her distraught music and lyrics.”
    In a first for a Vatican meeting, the event will be opened by a rock concert by Italian Christian rock band The Sun.
    Participants, mostly bishops and Catholic lay leaders, will also hear from young Catholic activists from countries such as Indonesia and Madagascar, while American blogger Pia de Solenni will speak on the “emotional alphabet” of young generations.

  11. Mary Wood says:

    This sounds very promising. I hesitate because 11 people meeting for under 2 hours does not allow time for discussion in depth of these very important matters at issue.
    All hierarchies, worldwide, need to approach “Rome” and tell them with united voice that the Church cannot continue to function on the present lines.

  12. Great news and well done to Archbishop Matrtin especially for having the courage to be part of this.

  13. Jerry Slevin says:

    With all due respect, I find the this meeting summary discouraging. Once more, priests, not laity, lead a genuflection towards Rome, while skilled diplomat, Martin, beats his breast and says the right things.
    Just too much more of the same clericalism that got the Irish Church into the mess it is in.
    Forget “talking points” and “agreed agendas”. ACP, please just give the Pope your best shot and tell him it is 2013, not 1213. Innocent III is dead and the Irish are no longer papal serfs.
    We all know what the problems are. More discussions with weak papal pawns is a waste of time and will only increase the sad skepticism of Irish Catholics!
    As the son of devout Donegal Catholics, it pains me to have to say this. But my ancestors didn’t die to save a Church for harsh German Inquisitors and corrupt Italian Cardinals to exploit for their own personal pleasures.

  14. Con Carroll says:

    all men, no women.

  15. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    @Jerry (13) and @Con (14): yes and no.
    The closing line of the report above describes it as an “initial contact”. The way every journey starts, with a first step. It was no genuflection to Rome. Yes, ACP (and I) would want it to move far faster; but we have to start somewhere. It was a meeting of ACP and the diocesan council of priest, so that limits it to men and priests in this situation. We have much further to go. I would like to get there tomorrow. ACP going directly to Benedict is unlikely to accomplish anything. But we can work to awaken the sleeping giant which is the Irish church – and churches. The one Spirit is moving all members of the Body. We need everybody’s energy behind it. My prayer is that this meeting is a prophetic start – a journey involving both comfort and affliction.
    We need to be as wise as serpents and as simple as doves.

  16. Soline Humbert says:

    14 ” All men,no women”
    Con, this is because women are not logical, don’t fix the leaks in the church roof, and have a special prayer relationship with the male Jesus.They don’t need the priesthood … Men do! Sacramental power is a small compensation for not having that special love relationship with Jesus. The Pope’s own theologian explains it all very logically.http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1300417.htm

  17. Good to see that the church authorities are meeting with the ACP. Hopefully it is the start of an open-minded approach to the present problems and future needs.
    In reading through the responses I must agree with Jerry Slevin.It is high time that the laity had a strong active voice and role in the church. At present everything is done and dealt with according to how the institutional church sees fit and according to their timetable. Any member of the laity who wishes to make their views heard must go ‘cap in hand’ to the bishop or designated person and seek permission to air their views and have a say in what happens and what is planned.
    Why are we like ‘sheep’ waiting to be told what we must and can do? It is really long overdue that the church is accountable to its ‘faithful members’. Not only should we have a clear and active role within the church, the members of the clergy and hierarchy should clearly be accountable and answerable to us ‘the baptised members’ for what they do.

  18. Bob Hayes says:

    Jerry (13), noting your observation that, ‘…my ancestors didn’t die to save a Church…’ Were your (personal) ancestors put to death for their Faith or have you been swept along on a tide of your own lawyer’s rhetoric? Rather than the florid words, would it not be more helpful if you explained why you believe the Universal Church should be dismantled?

  19. Cyril North says:

    Good for Archbishop Martin to acknowledge the ACP. He, at least, exercises initiative, quite by contrast to the majority of the hierarchy of Ireland or elsewhere.

  20. Jerry, I suppose I am what you could call an actual “devout” Donegal Catholic though I now live distant from my native shore, and I feel, in fairness, we must give Archbishop Martin his dues for taking part in this meeting. I believe him to be a good and decent man caught in a very difficult situation.

  21. Everyone has had excellent comments and I had said, more or less, that it is well and good that so much information is in the light, but my cautionary words would be, that unfortunately, the meeting would be replete with “politics and politicians”. I have prayed that the Lord take from this meeting what He wills and leads all forward.

  22. Jerry Slevin says:

    Bob, All of my ancestors died in Ireland, except for my immigrant parents who wished they could have.
    What is your point? Did Irish die to preserve their faith or not? For this? To go hat in hand to Diarmaid Martin, a long time curial clerk. I don’t buy his act, based on my exchanges with the abuse survivors of Dublin and other info.
    The Italian Cardinal clique and its German Shepherds, Ratzinger and Mueller, are making the Irish the laughing stock of the world, as I told Alan Shatter and John Cooney three years ago when I decided I owed it to my parents’ honorable memories to resist these Christian imposters.
    Is there anything more these Christian imposters can do to abuse Irish Catholics? Beats me. If the Easter Rebellion were approached with the same timidity as the ACP shows, we would all still be Brits. I don’t dislike Brits; I just believe neither political nor ecclesiastical serfdom is acceptable.
    Perhaps, I am too much a Yank; but my earliest memory is of a sweet Donegal mother who called a spade a spade, as she taught me to do.
    I have never visited Ireland; and don’t expect to. My four children have, as have some of my nine siblings. But I am still proud to call myself on occasion an Irishman and it deeply saddens me to see Irish Catholics bow to these continental barbarians who are still benefitting from the sweat of Irish monks and the prayers of Irish women.
    You got the idea, Bob.

  23. Bob Hayes says:

    Jerry (22), I would suggest that the ‘continental barbarians’ to whom some Irish Catholics (clerics and laity) are now bowing are the ‘continentals’ (European and North American) peddling an Episcopalian and Lutheran agenda on everything from abortion to priesthood, the Eucharist to the Holy Trinity. It is tragic to see Celtic knees bending before Anglo-Saxon inspired heresies.

  24. Des Gilroy says:

    A very positive step that at last a member of the Irish hierarchy should meet with the ACP – hopefully a meeting of minds as well as a meeting of bodies. What is more hopeful is the final statement that “The meeting covered a lot of ground, and was a good initial contact, in a cordial and honest atmosphere.”. The use of the word “initial” gives to believe that further meetings will now take place but it would have been more encouraging if the meeting summary had included some reference to the Archbishop agreeing to meet again in the near future. While not included in the body of the report of the meeting, the intro on the ACP page states that “It was agreed at the start of the meeting that while everything could be reported, views would not be attributed to particular people.” That said, 99% of what is reported appears to have been said by the ACP representatives and it would have been helpful if the Archbishop was reported to have given some views. It is highly unlikely that the comment that “the translation of the Missal was very badly handled” could be attributed to him.
    Hopefully now Archbishop Martin can go to the next meeting of the Irish hierarcy in Maynooth and tell them that these fellas in the ACP don’t bite, that they have good constructive ideas, are committed to the Church and are on “our side”. He might even persuade the bishops to ignore the Vatican Curia’s embargo on meeting with the ACP and to do the decent thing by talking as a body to their priests, to agreeing a strategy for the survival of Christ’s church in Ireland and to move forward as a united team . And who knows, they might even then decide to talk to the ACI and listen to the concerns of their bewildered flock, both male and female

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