Association of Catholic Priests and the Papal Nuncio

Association of Catholic Priests and the Papal Nuncio

Kevin Hegarty
THE Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) celebrates its sixth anniversary later this month. Over 300 priests attended its inaugural meeting in Portlaoise. It now has over 1,000 members.
It has provided priests with a forum to articulate their concerns about a declining Irish Catholic Church. It has been blessed with excellent leaders who have contributed significantly to social, moral and religious debate in our society.
Last week a further development in the evolution of the association occurred. Liamy MacNally, who shares this space with me in The Mayo News, has been appointed its first administrative secretary. He brings to the role considerable life experience as a journalist, priest and publisher. I wish him well as he takes up his new task.
Recently the ACP has raised concerns about the role of the Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Charles John Brown. His appointment in 2012 was somewhat unusual in that he was not a member of the Vatican Diplomatic corps.
Ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of New York in 1989, during his post-graduate studies in Rome he impressed Cardinal Ratzinger, then head of the ‘Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’, who was a close collaborator of Pope John Paul II. On completion of his studies, Ratzinger appointed him to the congregation.
In the Spring of 2010, Pope Benedict summoned the Irish hierarchy to Rome to account for its failures to deal effectively with the clerical sexual abuse cases, revealed by the Ferns, Ryan and Murphy Reports. Dr Brown’s appointment as Nuncio followed as part of the Pope’s plan to restore the authority of the Irish Catholic Church.
Since his arrival in Ireland he has developed a high public profile. Previous Nuncios were usually elderly men of Mediterranean background, who rarely ventured beyond the nunciature on the Navan Road. Their names were known only to ecclesiastical anoraks.
Dr Brown is different. He is a relatively young North American who starts his day by jogging in the Phoenix Park. He is often photographed in the conservative weekly, ‘The Irish Catholic’, attending pious events throughout the country. He is a regular at Knock and on Croagh Patrick on Reek Sunday. He has won plaudits from right wing catholic journalists like David Quinn and Michael Kelly. He has even attended the autumn rural extravaganza, the Ploughing Championship, possibly to experience the ‘smell of the sheep’, a condition that Pope Francis has recommended every pastor should share. Those who have met him attest to his charm.
He is however, somewhat eclectic in his choice of company. Pope Francis has recommended dialogue in the Church. In his attitude to the ACP, Dr Brown, his Irish representative, fails to take this advice. He has refused to meet the leaders of the Association, though it represents over a third of Irish priests. If a priest refused to meet a group of such magnitude in a Parish, he would be in trouble.
Currently, the ACP is somewhat perturbed about Dr Brown’s role in the appointment of bishops. Consultations with clergy about appointments, which at its best was fragile, has ended. Since his arrival ten bishops have been appointed and a further six are imminent due to retirements. Those chosen, under his watch, share similarities. None of these are priests of the diocese to which they have been appointed. They came exclusively from the conservative wing of the church. They are stolid men who display little of the imagination or creative courage needed in Church leadership today.

Similar Posts


  1. Beautifully written, Kevin.
    The Ploughing Championship bit had me in stitches, despite the desperate situation which it illustrates.
    Charlie Brown is an apparatchik beyond his sell by date. The Reek and Knock and a few more decades of the Rosary. Same message as Benedict had in his disgraceful letter to the Irish people, a while back.
    Clerical abuse caused by the lack of the faith of the people. Well really.

  2. Brendan Cafferty says:

    One again Kevin demonstrates what a great wordsmith he is- the smelling the sheep bit was hilarious.It is extraordinary that the Nuncio has refused to meet the ACP,they are a very sizeable number and are no radicals, just pastors having their fingers on the pulse I would say. As regards the “no local need apply” rule it is extraordinary that some priests are good enough to be Bishop in faraway dioceses, but not in their own. While it may be a good thing on occasion to have an outsider come in,surely it must not be the rule as seems to be happening now.
    Meanwhile this out and about Nuncio who visits a lot of places should find time to meet the ACP. He might find it enriching.

  3. declan cooney says:

    Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
    Use appropriate language. Vulgarities, slurs and personalised insults may be edited.
    Keep to the point.
    Why do you label people as conservative and right wing???
    Be respectful.
    I find the papal nuncio is doing a good job.

  4. Perhaps Declan Cooney could be a little more specific about what he seems to be suggesting is breaking the rules.
    The persona, behaviour and beliefs of the Nuncio are legitimate subjects for comment. In fact they are a serious impediment to necessary reform in the church.
    If his remarks are aimed at me, I am quite prepared to justify my comment and its phrasing.

  5. I went to tons of links before this, what was I thinikng?

    1. Pat Rogers says:

      We are very glad that you find a website useful. Spread the good word.

Join the Discussion

Keep the following in mind when writing a comment

  • Your comment must include your full name, and email. (email will not be published). You may be contacted by email, and it is possible you might be requested to supply your postal address to verify your identity.
  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger. Comments containing vulgarities, personalised insults, slanders or accusations shall be deleted.
  • Keep to the point. Deliberate digressions don't aid the discussion.
  • Including multiple links or coding in your comment will increase the chances of it being automati cally marked as spam.
  • Posts that are merely links to other sites or lengthy quotes may not be published.
  • Brevity. Like homilies keep you comments as short as possible; continued repetitions of a point over various threads will not be published.
  • The decision to publish or not publish a comment is made by the site editor. It will not be possible to reply individually to those whose comments are not published.