AGM – The Rights of Priests. Healing Circles and Funerals

ACP AGM 2018





Last year the ACP launched the Rights of Priests card. Priests abroad have also requested these cards and we have obliged. We have asked the bishops to ratify Standard 4 (as proposed by the National Safeguarding Committee) in relation to accused priests but nothing has happened. We repeat that call.

Priests are still coming forward for help. The ACP role is one of support, advice and legal assistance through Robert Dore, if required. The sad reality is that many stepped-down priests are in limbo, yet they depend on dioceses/congregations for housing and support. This continues to be a big part of our work.

When we met the bishops (Jan 2018) they were upset that they didn’t receive one of the cards! They have now been sent to ALL bishops. Some didn’t like the ‘them and us’ language but it’s taken from Standard 4!

Some men feel abandoned – I ask that you contact them in your diocese or religious congregation and offer support, even a phone call. We also support priests who are in dispute with their bishops/superiors for whatever reason.



It is ironic that we meet on World Mental Health Day as it was for the mental health and well being of priests that Healing Circles were held.

At the ACP AGM 2016 – Marie Keenan stated:

“I was always concerned that in the wake of the Murphy Report, Ryan Report and Cloyne report that clergy ( as well of course as victim survivors and offenders) would need spaces in which the trauma of what was unfolding could be held… Maybe a project of Healing Circles round the country for clergy could be next on the agenda of ACP. I urge you to consider a nationwide campaign of healing circles…”

The ACP has hosted three across the country to date:

South – Cork, Oct ’17 – 14 attended;
East – Dublin, Sept ’18 – 7 attended;
West – Claremorris, Sept ’18 – 7 attended.

Another is planned for Armagh, details will be announced later.

These meetings are for ALL priests, not just priests who have been accused. The feedback from all the meetings has been extremely positive.



This is new to the ACP. Some priests have expressed concern over the funeral arrangements for stepped-down priests or those facing accusations. The ACP has acquired guidelines from one diocese and a religious congregation on this matter, so they may differ from diocese to diocese and congregation to congregation.

They state: “These guidelines are issued in order to provide clarity and ensure a proper dignified funeral, taking into account the feelings of those affected, and to avoid any confusion or embarrassment.”

We ask: Were priests consulted about these guidelines? Whose feelings are being taken into consideration?

Extract from some of the Guidelines:

Consideration could be given to have the funeral liturgies in a private chapel and/or at a time other than the usual times.

The deceased priest is not to be buried in his vestments or clerical garb.

If possible, no death notices should appear in the local or national newspapers or on internet websites…the minimum of information should be given if it does appear.

The deceased priest should be referred to by his Christian name throughout the rites.

The funeral Mass is not to be concelebrated. No vestments to be worn by priests attending the funeral.

The reality is that it’s down to the bishop/congregation leader to decide. Were we made aware of this? No! Note, funerals are to take place in chapels, and not churches, and death notices not to be published. I am not aware of any other group of people that this kind of treatment refers to.

Questions for ACP members today: Do you know of such documents and if so, were you consulted or did you ratify them? Do you know of any other group of people who have such restrictions placed on their funerals? I’d be obliged if you would forward guidelines if you are aware of them in your diocese/congregation.


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  1. Edward Butler says:

    I have been a priest for 52 years, 42 in England and the last 10 in Ireland.
    All beset with weakness and failure, and probably a greater sinner than all the people it has been my privilege to serve, I have never heard such nonsense, or total lack of compassion, for priests who have stepped down, or been stepped down, from ministry. Such instructions should be discreetly and comprehensively ignored.

  2. Paddy Conroy says:

    Edward is correct. This is shameful and should be ignored by the families of deceased priests. Clearly the phrase isrd that “standing aside does not imply any wrongdoing” is a complete fallacy. In these guidelines the bishops are saying 1) all those against whom allegations are made are guilty until proven innocent; 2) as bishops we will be the sole arbitrators of such guilt or innocence; 3) irrespective of their service we are quite prepared to throw any priest under the bus; 4) priests are on their own in such circumstances; 5) covering our episcopal asses from potential media criticism vastly outweighs justice; and 6) of course these guidelines will not apply to bishops, archbishops or cardinals.

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