ACP respond to Archbishop’s ‘ad limina’ comments and the letter of the bishops to the ACP

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) is disappointed, frustrated and angry that, after six years of attempting to engage the Irish bishops in a respectful and mutual consideration of issues central to the health and well-being of the Irish Catholic Church, the bishops have pulled the plug on any future engagement with the ACP.
While their letter to the ACP (October 24, 2016) states that they ‘are committed to working with priests at every level’ it is quite clear that the bishops are attempting to substitute other more amenable and less forthright channels of communication with priests.
The ACP protests vigorously against this attempted sidelining of our influence and the diminishment of our role. We believe it is unconscionable and irresponsible, in present circumstances, to still the voice of an association that represents over a third of Irish priests (1000-plus) who are prepared to name important and difficult truths at a critical time for the Irish Church.
It is clear, from the upbeat and optimistic language employed by the bishops in their comments in relation to the current ad limina visits to Rome, that a public relations gloss on the condition of the Irish Church, rather than a truthful presentation of our difficulties, is being employed.
An example of this PR tone is the Irish Catholic article (January 12, 2017) by Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh on the bishops’ intentions during their Roman visit. In it he states: ‘We will be able to discuss the seeds of renewal and new growth in catechesis, lay involvement, intentional discipleship and pastoral outreach that are emerging all over the country . . . I, and my fellow bishops, will be able to share with them (Curial officials) the resilience of our priests and religious under increased pressure and workload . . .’
The sad and difficult truth is that Archbishop Martin’s words bear little relationship to the realities of Irish Church life today and pretending that they do is self-serving and irresponsible. The comment on the ‘resilience’ of Irish priests in struggling to cope in a situation spiralling out of control is the equivalent of praising the ‘resilience’ of a very sick patient while refusing to consider obvious measures to relieve his/her condition.
If Archbishop Martin’s comment represents the thrust of the bishops’ reports, it will constitute a blatant refusal to name important truths and a failure to accept responsibility for taking the necessary decisions to arrest the decline of the Irish Church.
While the ACP voice may be sidelined by the bishops it will not be stilled.

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  1. Soline Humbert says:

    What ACTION(S) will the ACP members now take?

  2. John O'Brien says:

    I worry about priests. I worry about their mental health. We’ve had one too many tragic suicides among the clergy in the past few years. It is shocking that ‘resilience’ sums up the archbishop’s spin. What about all the frail octogenarians still in full time ministry? Resilience isn’t the word that comes to mind. Priests are being served very poorly.

  3. I hope Pope Francis during the Irish bishops Ad Limina visit asks them: “What part of ‘dialogue, dialogue, dialogue’ do you not understand?”

  4. So what action do you propose?

  5. Phil Greene says:

    When one man asks another man for obedience, then he bears a responsibility to earn and maintain a healthy relationship based on trust , a common bond must exist where the dignity and respect for both individuals is paramount. When respect for the individual who must obey is continually shown to be irrelevant then surely the act of obedience cannot be expected to be sustained… One is surely acting out of arrogance and behaving in a way that is completely at odds with what they preach and more importantly what is preached in the bible about how a master should treat his servant etc.. We are in the 21st century, thankfully the rest of us have laws on equality etc. to protect us… I am sure the laws on health and safety (including mental health) are there to protect all of us as citizens of this country.

  6. Eddie Finnegan says:

    No, lads, despite what the introduction claims, this is not “a strong response” to the Bishops’ repeated push-off of your patient overtures or their shrug-off of the faithful of Kilmore and Bishop Leo O’Reilly, and it isn’t a “strong response” to Archbishop Eamon Martin’s dollop of warmed up ad limina waffle in the “Irish Catholic”.
    The bishops are probably as bored as most of us with your tendency to fall back on clichés about ‘naming truths’, ‘Irish Church implosion’, ‘Eucharistic famine’etc. The bishops and the nuncio have called your bluff some time ago – they really don’t expect you to take any action.
    As Soline Humbert@1, Phil Green, Richard O’Donnell, Paddy Ferry and others keep asking, what are you doing with your troops? If you really have 1,000+(about one third of Ireland’s priests)why not call them out on strike during Holy and Easter Weeks and see if the bishops miss them? Don’t call it a strike, of course, more a fortnight’s three-centre junket (sorry, pilgrimage)ad limina Cabrensis, ad limina Arae Coeli and finally ad limina Domus Marthae. Looking forward to your report on all three receptions.

  7. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    There is a handful of lay people within your midst who would love to help you make more noise than you have. I agree that priests are not being served very well. Focus your efforts on doing something that the Church is not doing, but should be. Think outside the Church. Embrace something.

  8. Brendan Cafferty says:

    @Eddie Finnegan No 6 above: So all is working well,prayer for more vocations is yielding results? It is the duty of the ACP to point out where matters stand, they have offered some solutions but have not been listened to. It is the duty of the leadership ie the Bishops and Rome to make decisions.Will the Bishops say in 2027 in the Ad Limina visit after the next present a Comical Ali type report – that all is working well, more clustering,spreading resources is yielding fruit among the remaining elderly clergy left,and oh prayer must not be underestimated !

  9. Phil Greene says:

    “Ireland’s priests will have almost disappeared in 20 years. What then?”
    This is a post I came across on this website dated the 29th May 2013.. please read it if you get a chance and look at the comments (a massive 25 comments compared to now) and all as relevant today as they were then. But this message comes with a health warning, you will feel a loss of energy , quite deflated I’m afraid, a case of deja vue…
    Question, have the clergy here ever contacted their German colleagues, they seem to feel the same way both then and now?
    Question, – why are priests voices silent in the comments section?
    Question, – have we any up-to-date figures from each parish as to how many married priests would actually like to resume ministry?
    Question, -have we any figures regarding how many women want to become deacons ( was the question ever asked..!)?
    Question, can all priests have flu next Sunday?
    Question, if priests get what they want with the help of the parish will they feel they no longer need to engage with the Laity ?
    Question, – if the bishops come home next week and feel they need to “calm the natives” will some slight appeasement that they really do listen and they will act soon , yeah soon, (in the year whenever) be enough for the ACP to say , they have listened to us and we have done enough..?
    Interesting comment in 2013 about Mass on the internet and now in Rome the bishops are extolling the virtues of outreach programmes..perhaps in 20 years they will have robots who will say Mass, and of course,they will do what they are told, no questions asked and gender will no longer be an issue!!!

  10. The keynote speaker at the AGM of the ACP offered some good advice to the ACP. I have not been able to detect from the ACP in the pages of this website any action in response to the advice, any sign of discussion or proposals or a sign that anything has even been thought of or ideas asked for or any response to suggestions that lay people have offered. A very bishop-like response!

  11. Chris McDonnell says:

    #6 Eddie. Words, courteous words, requests, letters, articles and all to no avail. How are we to respond to the current dialogue with the deaf and unwilling that goes well beyond the borders of Ireland?
    I would have difficulty supporting the suggestion of so called ‘strike action’. However, it would appear that some form of radical action is required in order to facilitate a purposeful exchange of views. Doing nothing is not an option, painful though such action might be.

  12. When will ACP act & give ultimatum with consequences? Bishops know ACP/priests will continue doing duties so why do anything to reform. I agree with Eddie #6 to ‘down tools’ until heard and agree a reformed plan. As a lay woman, I’m a proponent of inaction in all church duties until a kinder inclusive church emerges that follows Jesus Christ’s teachings. I don’t need institution to talk & feel God’s presence. Bishops & institutional church have lost its way by solely focusing on power control & money as hierarchy is too far removed from everyday life to have compassion or empathy.

  13. John Murphy says:

    Part of the problem with the website is that so few actually contribute their opinions, including both priests and ‘ordinary’Catholics. In fact, you could count on less than the fingers of two hands the same small group of commentators giving their opinions on practically every issue. If those apostles decided to take a well earned rest and stop giving us the benefit of their wisdom (sometimes 3 and even 4 times on the same issue) the ACP site would have to fold.
    I notice recently a growing impatience among the select few with the ACP’s reluctance to take their advice. It’s almost as if they have assumed the status of a Greek chorus haranguing those they believe lack the insights and the courage God has blessed them with. Some of course have their own agendas and are trying to get the ACP to agree with them. Others are anxious to dismiss ACP members because they refuse to adopt a more robust approach. And while they contrive to send mainly aged and decrepit clergy to war to fight their fights they themselves sit at their computers whiling the day away by dispensing more advice on what the clergy need to do, if that tactic doesn’t work.
    When I was a layman I was fed up being patronised by clergy who felt they had a God-given right to expect me to do their bidding. Now that I’m a priest I’m fed up being patronised by a few lay people who want me to do theirs.

  14. Des Gilroy says:

    There may be some hope that the bishops, after their visit to the Vatican, will meet with and enter into dialogue with the ACP. The 45 minute press conference given by the bishops after their meeting with Pope Francis can be viewed on the following website – http://www.kandle.ie/bishop-nulty-on-the-ad-limina-visit-to-pope-francis-and-to-the-holy-see/
    Archbishop Eamonn Martin told the press that Pope Francis emphasised to them that theirs was ” a ministry of the ear where we are listening to our people, their joys, hopes, struggles and fears”. Hopefully, the bishops regard their priests as “people” and we might see some progress on that front. Apart from that, not a lot to give us any hope for reform and renewal.

  15. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    @13 – John, it really is a struggle. I’m one of the advice givers on this site, I’ll admit. I have an opinion on pretty much anything strategic or environmental because that’s where my passion resides. Pope Francis has set guidelines in the church which should make us lay folk looking for direction a consideration. I’m a minority on this site also. I come from a mixed media background so networking is my speciality. That’s what I help people do.
    I’m still looking for those priests who are willing to be at our service, especially those of us who continue to forge a media strategy against things like poverty and the environment as well as the health of church. When Pope Francis proclaims the Church is an inverted pyramid, he then puts himself in the service of lay people but the only way forward to him is through priests. If everyone was envisioning this inverted pyramid, ideas would be more free flowing. The Church has programmed its shepherds to believe there exists a certain prestige one must possess but then announces an inverted structure.
    Sadly, most of us do not possess the foresight to know what exactly this prestige is therefore we may never know the true potential of our ideas. This is a current issue but one of the greatest issues the world faces. Securing a future fit for all humankind will engage not only the “prestigious” but all Earth’s inhabitants in the decision-making that affects their lives. For those of us out there who prayed for this “inversion era”, I can only advise to be careful what you wish for.

  16. Phil Greene says:

    @ Chris McDonell , thank you for sharing some insights, they helped me realise that I have no right to continue as I was, and indeed I asked myself how i might feel when I am older, and what the consequences of some actions might be for these men..
    @ John Murphy, I am helping the ACP to fold, one less apostle to preach at you 🙂 It was great to see some feedback at last, there was no agenda, for me anyway, some ideas just grow legs and in the absence of any counter argument we just keep going… it is what it is , so now balance is restored again, the preaching is left to you.. take care.

  17. One significant action that might be noticed would be the amalgamation of ACP and ACI.
    That would be acknowledgement that concern for the Church doesn’t come from a divided community

  18. John@13, I agree with you completely that ” Part of the problem with the website is that so few actually contribute their opinions, including both priests and ‘ordinary’ Catholics.” Eddie has been complaining about this for as long as I have known him (on this site). So, I have to ask why it has taken you so long to express an opinion. I do wonder, occasionally, if all the 1000+ priests who are paid up members of the ACP actually share the vision/raison d’etre of the association which is to work for renewal of the Church according to the theology and vision of Vatican II . I think the way you characterise those of us who do regularly contribute—“a Greek chorus haranguing those they believe lack the insights and the courage God has blessed them with” — is very unfair. I have always been a fairly normal kind of Catholic myself, always willing to do my bit and always trying to keep myself reasonably well informed –which, before the advent of the digital age, meant getting the Tablet every week. I became more and more depressed with our Church throughout the two pontificates prior to the advent of Francis. So, to suddenly discover the ACP and this site was truly uplifting and so reassuring. I always knew many priests and even a bishop or two who shared my views but never publicly. So, to discover priests like Tony, Brendan, Padraig, Joe, Seamus and others –all great men in my opinion, willing to push their heads above the parapets and great women too like Soline and Mary OV, who were willing to engage in public discourse about the important issues, was a wonderful discovery for me. Rather than try and impose our agenda on these courageous men, I and others simply wanted to support them in what has become a shared agenda. And, surely, John, that should be obvious to you if you have been observing the discourse on the site over the years.

  19. Eddie Finnegan says:

    John Murphy@13, IT’S WHAT IT SAYS ON THE TIN !
    “We are an association for Catholic Priests who wish to have a forum, and a voice to reflect, discuss and comment on issues affecting the Irish Church and Society today.”
    Brendan,Tony and other “Founding Fathers” gave you the makings of a very good forum some six or seven years ago. They cannot give you a voice to reflect, discuss and comment – only you can do that.
    I, and I’m sure others who do occasionally comment, can agree with Mattie Long’s reminder that this site may usefully serve many thousands who use it, or at least visit it. It is said that on any such site only 1% create content, 9% comment, while 90% read, lurk or just flit in and out without really touching down. It would be nice to think that 9% of ACP diocesan priest members (about 90-93, let’s say)have found their voices on this forum this month, or last year, or even over the past six years – but we would have noticed, wouldn’t we, since apparently we sit permanently on our computers, whiling our days away.
    Meanwhile, John, Paddy Ferry@18 has said everything I would want to say. Clearly you, too, have your own agenda – but does it match the ACP’s original agenda, or are you only in it for the insurance?

  20. “Impatience among the The select few with the ACP’s reluctance to take their advice” : There appears to be a reluctance to take any advice, or take a direction including that of the keynote speaker at the ACP AGM.

  21. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Seems like people are giving out answers which usually signifies a good time to ask questions and for the sake that a few people were throwing the word “agenda” like it is a sin, I’d make one last attempt to garnish a response from the elders here.
    “Giving an opportunity for Irish priests to engage proactively with the crucial debates taking place in Irish society.” Does the ACP feel there is a more crucial debate in the world right now than the environment with perhaps poverty in second place?
    The special emphasis on “the primacy of the individual conscience.” “the status and active participation of all the baptised.” “the task of establishing a Church where all believers will be treated as equal.” Does equal mean equal voice or is that up for prestige approval as in Canon 212 §3?
    “Gifts, wisdom, and expertise…” How is this monitored? Is this by prestige per Canon 212 §3?
    These are probably the most important parts of your constitution and promoting these objectives is very difficult when you are trying to keep the Association afloat. People have voices that might be sidelined because the management and organisation of Associations like this becomes the key driver to its survival. The Roman Catholic Church is very much like this – this clericalism the Pope decries is everywhere and to think it wouldn’t creep up in the ACP well, it only could if you weren’t actively pursuing the enforcement of your own constitution.

  22. Kevin Walters says:

    Phil Greene @16
    Phil over nearly four years I have had only a few comments on my posts but I am still happy to make them as they will be read by many people with different views who do not partake actively on the site but never the less have the intellect to discern our motivation and assess our integrity I value your views as I am sure many others do, please continue making Posts.
    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  23. Phil Greene says:

    Thank you Kevin for your message and God Bless.

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