ACP Statement on complaints received from priests…
Association of Catholic Priests Statement
Monday 1st November 2021
As an association founded to represent, and if needs be to defend, our fellow-priests, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) is receiving from both members and non-members an increase in the number of complaints about the way some bishops are treating some priests.
It is important to note that this is generally not the case with most bishops. With most bishops there is a respectful engagement with their priests with whatever concerns they have and whatever difficulties they encounter. That we note and accept.
But there is a small number of bishops and archbishops who consistently represent the vast majority of complaints being received from priests, and who need to be held to account for it.
Examples of these complaints include:
(i) priests being told that they have to take responsibility for another parish at short notice, without any effort on the part of the bishop to explain the situation to parishioners, apart from a letter to be read out by the priest who is left to his own devices to negotiate the extra workload;
(ii) priests whose bishops insist on appointing them against their will to parishes, for which, by common consent, they are completely unsuited and thereby inflict an inappropriate and unnecessary limitation on their ministry and on their levels of job satisfaction;
(iii) priests who take some time out, and are then not allowed to resume active ministry. Some have been coerced and bullied into leaving the priesthood against their wishes while others have been forced to make an inappropriate public confession contingent on a continuation in ministry;
(iv) priests who have taken leave from their diocese (Diocese A) for a period and who have been refused a return to ministry by that diocese and then have applied to and are accepted by another diocese (Diocese B) in order to continue their ministry as priests but who are systematically blocked by the bishop of Diocese A;
(v) priests who are gay being refused permission to work in parishes while in other dioceses they are treated as equal and valued members of the priesthood;
(vi) priests who have concerns about the demands on their mental or physical health of remaining in full-time priestly work not being allowed to retire until they reach 75;
(vii) priests who feel unable to stand up for themselves and find themselves in inadequate accommodation and lacking a level of support that other priests in the diocese enjoy. In one diocese, the ACP had to provide legal redress for a priest on sick leave who wasn’t paid his salary for two years. In another diocese, a priest who was out of ministry was not given accommodation and had to live with his family members;
(viii) priests whose bishops comment disparagingly on their personal appearance and active ministry and who, as a result, have their confidence undermined and their pastoral effectiveness diminished;
(ix) priests who have experienced specific difficulties being refused permission to say funeral Masses for parents or close family members;
(x) priests whose bishops seem to believe that they have to dominate every encounter with their priests and who, if they ‘lose a battle’ with a priest, will later vindictively ensure that they will ‘win the war’; and
(xi) priests with no accusation against them being forced out of priesthood, on the basis of a bishop’s decision that it is ‘the ‘best thing‘ for them.
The ACP, as an association committed to supporting priests in need, is prepared to challenge bishops who fail to live up to their responsibility as bishops which is to be shepherds to their priests as well as to their people.
As Pope Francis has observed, ‘Human dignity is the same for all human beings: when I trample on the dignity of another, I am trampling on my own’.
The matter will be discussed at the ACP AGM on Wed. 10 November @ 2.00pm in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Athlone.
ACP Statement on complaints received from priests.
Recall part of the preamble to a report on a meeting of Conference of priests (Ireland) around 40+ years ago. (I am more confident of passing on the gist of it, than of quoting it precisely).
(The aim of the conference of priests) is “to assist our Bishops to help us be better ministers of the gospel”. True: this is expressed in a manner of other ways. But, the kernel of it is so apt today. It is a pity that this very pertinent statement of APC this week, reflects a terrible lack of trusting care on the part of “some” Bishops in relation to “some” priests. I would hope this statement will not only be a challenge to all our bishops: but also a clarion call to us, priests, to facilitate a trusting, fraternally pastoral relationship right across the Irish Church’s present priestly family….for the sake of the whole Body of Christ in Ireland and beyond. Lee Cahill SMA
Having reflected for the last few days on the statements made by the ACP, I have reflected that as a group one of your goals has been all about respectful dialogue, openness and transparency.
So based on that, do you not owe the faithful of the church of each diocese of the individual bishop who have treated priests poorly in theirs and your view to be named? Surely the faithful should be made aware of the faults that their shepherds carry and the bishop who has treated a priest poorly be called out?