An Association of Priests and People? – Mary O Vallely

I have always prayerfully supported this Association and do see the need for a forum in which priests can express their views etc;
Richard Rohr recently stated that it is we who have created a dualism between the sacred and the secular, the spiritual and the non-spiritual. They never have been separate. God put them together in one body that we call Jesus. This struck me most forcibly. Why then should we have a separate association for the ordained?  Should we not have one bigger, more productive, more life affirming and mutually self supportive association of priests and people? The acronym could stay the same.
ACP = Association of the People of God or Association of Priests and People.
You need us just as much as we need you and I do believe the only way we can move forward  effectively is by working together.
I will continue to pray for all our priests and the whole Church but I hope that somewhere a little voice may respond, “You know what, she does have a point. Let’s discuss!”
Rath Dé oraibh go léir,
Mary O Vallely, Armagh parish

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  1. Ned Quinn says:

    Mary, Please be assured that we in the ACP sincerely appreciate the support and prayers of so many people like your good self. And you certianly do have a good point. Can I refer you to the address by Brendan Hoban to the fledgling ACP on 15th Sept. 2010 at Portlaoise where he outlines the aims and priorities of the Association. I am sure that the forthcoming assembly will be inclusive and will reflect the views of all the people who share our goals and aspirations.

  2. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Strangely, we already have an Association of Priests (incluidng Bishops) and People. We call it “Church”. Of course, it is much more than an “Association”, which means a group which is united with a common purpose; the Church is the Body of Christ.
    Unfortunately, we don’t usually think of it as such an association. It is a disfunctional association, showing significant lack of integration and of shared life and work.
    Within society, those who have a specific function can form an association of their own, the better to be able to carry out their service of society. This is what the Association of Catholic Priests aims to be: to be an association which will enable its members to serve the Church more effectively, and never to set themselves up as a group apart from or above others.
    The purpose of the ordained ministerial priesthood is this: to live as “ministers”, servants of the priesthood of the whole People of God, encouraging and assisting the whole church to live that priesthood of Jesus Christ in the world today, to the praise and glory of God, and that all of God’s people may experience life to the full, as Jesus came to do (John 10:10).
    Pádraig McCarthy

  3. Mary o Vallely says:

    Thank you, Ned. I read Brendan Hoban’s stirring words. His is a very defensive voice, passionate and understandably angry.I do get the sense of isolation, the feeling of almost abandonment that comes across. However these words were written 15 months ago. I hope and pray that that sense of isolation is lessening as you must be aware that many, many lay people also feel abandoned, isolated and angry at the injustice and are eager to be a part of a new movement of hope and reform. Yes, we laity are not subject to the restraints of Canon Law and can’t be threatened with banishment to far away parishes etc; or be forbidden to speak out. We do have more freedom to express our views. (aye, but where is our forum??) Whilst Brendan Hoban speaks about the wisdom,work and experience gained by priests working alongside individuals and families, we lay folk have lived and are living that experience. There could be greater wisdom if that were shared and I look forward to hearing more and hopefully participating in this Assembly in May.
    I do hear what you are saying, Ned, and understand why you and your members may not want to include laity in the ACP at present but maybe in time this great initiative of an Association of Priests will some day be able to include all of us as we work towards inclusiveness, collegiality, ecumenism and togetherness, helping to bring the awareness of God’s love and Christian virtues to all people.
    Bail ó Dhia ar an obair and continued prayerful support as always. There is more goodwill out there than many priests realise. May that be a New Year wish for you, that awareness of support. 🙂
    Mary O Vallely (Armagh)

  4. Kevin Walters says:

    I believe only the priest have the authority to make the changes that are so badly needed within the church as they carry the responsibility for its success or failure as defined by Jesus Christ before our Father in heaven.
    “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all”
    This must truly be understood (seen) by all (Believer and non-believer).
    They have the authority and responsibility (the shepherds) to bring this about. They carry this command from God. This authority should protect the Church from the abuse of power that we now witness within the church.
    God’s Word (Will) supersedes any tradition in her magisterial office.
    I have been most grateful to be able to make postings on this site. I feel that we the laity are been listened to within the ACP and that any participation that we make must be supportive of a more trusting, honest and open priesthood that treats us the laity as adults and committed Christians.

  5. I also appreciate Mary’s point but would respectfully put forward the aspiration and hope that such an association inclusive of priests and people might one day exist and be called ‘The Church’!

  6. Mary O Vallely says:

    What we are all aiming for, Adrian, an INCLUSIVE Church. It isn’t yet but it could be.There are too many people who have been shut out and I am not going to pursue this here. It isn’t my forum and there are others who could expand on this much more eloquently. I was simply making a plea to priests to listen to all voices, to accept that there is a great deal of support for them amongst us all and not to reject that hand offered in friendship and support. Criticism is good when constructive. Better than apathy!! There is nothing more efficacious than prayer, sincerely offered from the heart but I find it frustrating when I see so many wonderful lay people, religious sisters and former priests who could offer so much to heal this Church of ours and are not given that opportunity.
    No more from me and I thank those on this site for allowing me to speak freely.
    God bless.
    Mary O Vallely

  7. Mary, as an Englishwoman in an English parish, I read the material on this site as a very sympathetic onlooker, wishing I knew of a similar organization in my own country. There are many blogs, with home bases in different countries to which layfolk can and do contribute. For the most part, priests do not contribute. The exception is the ultra-clerical, retro-trad faction.
    I think we need to appreciate the peculiarly isolating circumstances in which most priests have to live. They have to watch their step as they go forward and they have to guard their backs all the time. A priest I know describes it as a crucifixion. We who have normal relationships with our neighbours can only envisage this from the outside – no wonder priests need to befriend each other, find brethren they can trust and to whom they can express their true feelings and concerns relating to their joint vocation.
    The ACP gives evidence of true pastoral concern – the members obviously know that they were ordained for people and for service. (Unlike the pomp and glory devotees, who probably are already in possession of such reward as they will get). So although I’m in sympathy with your desire to play a part and encourage this association, I think we layfolk need to be content (at present) to express our views, and to pray for these men.
    I suspect an influx of keen layfolk would stymie further growth among priestly cohorts! What do our clergy think?

  8. I doubt Mary has any intention of suggesting an organisation to replace or compete with the Church. What I read in her suggestion is closer cooperation and networking between those of us, clergy and laity who want to contribute to a new and radically different vision for the Church but have no official forum to do so.
    In relation to the subject of authority mentioned by Kevin above – unless our world view is anarchistic, then of course we have to give authority to someone. However to my mind, any authority the clerical system has is twice given; (1) given by God and (2) given by the people. That is to say, authority is to be understood, not as something the clerical system TAKES, but rather something that the people GIVE. Of course we made the mistake in the past of giving the clerical system almost unlimited authority in our lives, (right into our bedrooms). As lay people we didn’t ask for or expect any accountability and we got none. Now we are wisely pausing and saying, “Hold on a minute. Can we just look at that authority we have given you? Let’s re-examine this relationship.” That’s were we are at. Its not disloyality. Its not disobedience. Its simply saying that in future if we give authority to anybody, we want a system that allows for accountablity and when necessary, adjustment. Also I would suggest we want to limit that authority to areas for the common good, (such as good order in the parish community). Areas of private morality are not covered. We’ll take guidance and counsel, but ultimately we will use our God given freedom of conscience for that. In other words, a less dogmatic form of church. And finally, its not good for clergy to be alone, so we want you to share that authority with the lay people we elect and appoint to work along side you, e.g. mandatory, elected pastoral councils at every level of church and the use of synods for shared envisioning. (I’m sorry, but you will notice I just don’t accept the doctrine of the difference ‘of essence and not merely of degree’ between the clerical and baptismal priesthood, which just creates a two tier caste system in the church. I just don’t see God ranking our service in that way).
    No system of church government is perfect and in the cosmic scale of things I seriously doubt if God is too bothered by what system we use, as long as it is healthy, loving, just and nobody gets hurt by it. The Catholic way is as good as any, as long as the relationship between authority and submission is exercised with adult maturity rather than the unhealthy, childish subservience that characterised the past. Maybe if we could see this relationship more like the links in a closed chain; no top or bottom; no first or last, then it has a chance. Provided the chain is well oiled by love then it can indeed serve God’s purposes in building the Kingdom of God and can free us from denominational empire building and the current obsession with status and control.

  9. Dear Mary
    I am writing to you from Austria. I am teacher of Religion and I support all what you are saying. Here in Austria we are able to support our priest initiative as laypeople. If you like, read the Priest-initiative – it is also written in English. I know, because I am still in contact with its leader Helmut Schüller, that this movement is not to be stopped. Don’t give up.
    We, here in Austria, started also a lay-initiative which is very close to the priests-initiative. Perhaps this is the first step to becoming one.
    GOD BLESS with just a half Irish SMILE
    Brigitte Patricia

  10. Kevin Walters says:

    I agree with a lot of what you say but I see the Shepherd as defined by Jesus Christ as a lynchpin in a chain holding the people of God together. I am sure that they will be changes in the structure of the Church in the future and many that you are working for will be adopted.
    But at this moment in time they The Shepherds carry the authority to make the changes that are so badly needed within the church and they have to bring this about within the Priesthood by the authority they have been given as defined by Jesus Christ before our Father In heaven. They alone have the authority to confront higher authorities within the church. The Shepherds have the authority to call the Bishops to account for their actions, up to now the Shepherds have been saying they have no authority. I am saying that they have the Legal authority and are commanded by God to use it.
    In Christ

  11. Kevin Walters says:

    For clarity
    “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
    God’s Word is inviolate and supersedes any tradition in the church’s magisterial office. A servant must give full account to the ones he serves
    And we the laity have to ( know) see this in action.
    In Christ

  12. It’s good to see that Archbishop Chaput has indicated that he intends to sell the bishop’s mansion and move into more humble accommodation. See here: http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=12838
    This is certainly in line with pope Benedict’s vision, for he sees a poorer and more humble Church as a better witness:
    “From today’s crisis, a Church will emerge tomorrow that will have lost a great deal. She will be small and, to a large extent, will have to start from the beginning. She will no longer be able to fill many of the buildings created in her period of great splendor. Because of the smaller number of her followers, she will lose many of her privileges in society. Contrary to what has happened until now, she will present herself much more as a community of volunteers… As a small community, she will demand much more from the initiative of each of her members and she will certainly also acknowledge new forms of ministry and will raise up to the priesthood proven Christians who have other jobs… There will be an interiorized Church, which neither takes advantage of its political mandate nor flirts with the left or the right. This will be achieved with effort because the process of crystallization and clarification will demand great exertion. It will make her poor and a Church of the little people… All this will require time. The process will be slow and painful.”
    See here: http://www.spiritdaily.org/remnant.htm

  13. I have no objection to Irish priests having their own association, but I deeply share Mary Vallely’s concern about the structural apartheid that has been maintained in the Irish church since Vatican II. This has left priests fearful of meeting with their people in regular assembly for genuine dialogue. As a result neither priests nor people have any clear vision of the church as a living community, working together to humanise the wider environment.
    And as a result the individualism fostered by secular influences has seriously eroded all community in Ireland – leaving too many of those individuals vulnerable to addiction, depression and loneliness. Yet still today we typically assemble only for a hurried Eucharist of ageing strangers, without taking time to build relationships between ourselves and develop a shared vision of the garden that good Pope John XXIII hoped the church would become after Vatican II.
    Instead the church has remained a dwindling museum, under museum-curator popes, replicating the vertical aristocrat-peasant relationships that characterised the medieval church. This stifles all of us – to the extent that our young people walk away and the rest of us become depressed and despondent.
    It will take more than a one-off assembly of the Irish church to fix this (too few will go anyway). I am hoping priests will take their courage in both hands and begin assembling all the willing in their own parishes on a regular basis, before or after Sunday Eucharist, to assume co-responsibility for the renewal of the church. Rather than compete over roles within the church internally, we need to realise that until we have a shared vision of the mission of the church to external society, and of the vital role of all the baptised in that mission, the museum church will continue its slow death, and its alienation of the young.
    Sean O’Conaill

  14. Con Carroll says:

    Brendan Butler has started a seris of letters in the Irish times, editions of December 2011, & January, calling for a spring time Church.
    Looking at the new Roman Missal, one can only describe it as depressing, oppresive. What I believe is needed is a spirituality which is inclusive, which is tuned into political social jutice. Spirituality is needed which identifies with people who are experiencing the obscene budget cuts and the IMF role.

  15. I fully support Sean O Conaill’s excellent suggestion of regular parish assemblies aimed at the renewal/reform of our Church.
    The seeds of change must be facilitated at grass root level.
    I realise that many of our clergy may feel ill equipped for this task. If so, may I humbly suggest that they seek out the skills of trained facilitators to assist the local communities in this task.
    Christianity is all about collaboration/communion, a sense of shared responsibility in our Church. This will occur only as a result of a deliberate choice by all.

  16. In response to Con Carroll, I agree. The Eucharist, following Christ’s example, is all about inclusion. Spirituality which guides one’s values and the practice of them cannot ignore social justice. “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men (sic) of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.” (Gaudium et Spes 1966). It is fair to say that many Church-based groups including religious congregations, take seriously this directive of Vatican II, many of them radically changing their focus in order be in solidarity with oppressed people. They are also a prophetic voice for justice when harsh budgets are announced. However,it is interesting to note that, on the Social Justice section of this website, there has not been a contribution since Dec.16th 2010!

  17. Mary o Vallely says:

    Carol makes a good point. It is all about collaboration/communion. Down and Connor have made some headway in their Listening Initiative which was led by trained facilitators, I believe. It’s an idea other dioceses could follow. What worries me is the clericalist mindset which affects lay people also. We cannot just wait for priests to take the initiative but take responsibility (not just wait for an invitation) and suggest initiatives.It may be too late to change some mindsets from that attitude of “who does she think she is” but too much precious time has been wasted already on such worries. God knows and recognises an honest heart. As Sean O’ Conaill reminds us Pope John XXIII’s beautiful image of the flourishing garden won’t be achieved unless we have the courage to step out of the museum and into the fresh air of God’s creation. (and no, there can’t be too many gardeners. All hands to the spade for the difficult work of preparing the ground. So many weeds, alas.) Mary V

  18. Carol said:
    ”If so, may I humbly suggest that they seek out the skills of trained facilitators to assist the local communities in this task.
    Christianity is all about collaboration/communion, a sense of shared responsibility in our Church. This will occur only as a result of a deliberate choice by all.”
    Oh please, Carol, spare us having to endure trained facilitators and God-awful ‘listening exercises’. This is all a lot of window dressing. What we need is POWERFUL PREACHING of the Gospel a la St. Paul or our modern day examples, such as Fr Robert Barron. Do we ever wonder why Catholics leave their Catholic parishes and go to Bible churches? It is because what is preached in their parishes is humanistic, feel-good, self-improvement drivel which can be had from any of the many titles on Amazon if you want that sort of thing. Note self help, whereas Christianity is about Christ-help. People have a thirst for Christ and if it isn’t nourished by Biblical preaching (reverent liturgy alone is not sufficient in my view), they’ll either find it elsewhere, or they will find consolation in the world. [I’m not having a go at you, I am just sounding off about something I was reading about earlier and feel VERY strongly about.]

  19. Martin,
    Thanks for sharing your views (I’m only catching up on the posts this morning )
    I share your passion for the word of God contained in Scripture,and am eternally grateful for all the gifted preachers who have fed and nourished my faith over the years (folk from all walks of life, lay, religious and ordained )
    You seem dis-satisfied with the Christ- help available in parishes at the moment.
    I wonder do others in your local community feel the same way ?
    Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a local community forum to discuss these issues / identify the Christ – needs, hungers in today’s Church/ contribute to the renewal, reform of our Church ??
    Kind regards,

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