Irish priests: Guilt by association is unfair and unjust (Irish Times)
Catholic priests in Ireland: A ‘lost tribe’
Guilt by association is unfair and unjust
Irish Times Editorial
The lot of the Irish Catholic priest has rarely been more difficult. It might be argued that even in the persecuted past they were in a better place. Then they were revered as heroic for bringing spiritual comfort to the faithful at the risk of dungeon, fire and sword. Not so today.
As Fr. Brendan Hoban of the Association of Catholic Priests memorably put it at their annual general meeting in Athlone on Wednesday, they feel “reviled, insulted, disrespected”.
Among “the last priests in Ireland” with “a gale force wind in our faces”, he spoke of their loneliness, the high incidence of depression among them, the worrying levels of suicide.
They grow old, with an average age approaching 70. Increasingly they are isolated with few young curates or deacons to assist them even as the workload increases while colleague numbers dwindle. Entitled to retire at 75, many continue working out of loyalty, out of a sense of obligation or duty. Some feel pressured to do so. They work until they drop.
Ireland’s “lost tribe” of Catholic priests, as Fr. Hoban put it, are traumatised. The contrast between the life of a priest when most entered more than 40 years ago and now might even be described as extreme. This is due in no small part to the scandal of child abuse in the Church and how it was systematically covered up at an institutional level by some bishops and religious superiors.
The vast majority of priests were as ignorant of the abuse activities of colleagues as can be the case in families with an abuser in their midst. But, unlike innocent family members, priests have suffered grievously because of the crimes of their brothers and superiors.
Guilt by association is unfair and unjust. Most entered the priesthood with the highest of ideals and have served their people accordingly. For many it is a personal tragedy to arrive in their latter years crushed by demands, lonely, and full of doubt about the worth of a lifetime’s commitment and effort.
They deserve compassion and support. For most have done their communities and our society tremendous service.
The editorial above says:
“The vast majority of priests were as ignorant of the abuse activities of colleagues as can be the case in families with an abuser in their midst.”
The Irish Times editorial on 27 November 2009, the day following the release of the Murphy Report, said:
“The vast majority of uninvolved priests turned a blind eye.”
It has taken six years, but nonetheless welcome.
I’m not sure what the end goal is, even to this day. I’m trying to figure it out. A class action : priests against hierarchy with natural law as your offence (placing a human being in an unnatural law props open the door to ethical relativism – as Benedict has stated). What you are looking for is enforced within the civil society where you presently reside thanks to the Charter of Human Rights. Should they be afforded to the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church? This is what this website champions, first and foremost. I can’t see this moving past Francis’s tenure, like a lot of things that make sense today, be it human rights or environmental concerns – he is the light right now.
When I see the 21 children from Our Children’s Trust and the ruling of the U.S. District Court in Oregon allowing the climate case brought by them to go to trial, I have hope. 21 kids are suing their government for ruining the earth for future generations. Like them, the damages done to you are preventable – if the Vatican were concerned with your long term care and protection, you wouldn’t be asked to suffer in such a way. The only hope lies within a band of rebellious priests to take on the Vatican but if you think a court case can be avoided, you are wrong. This is the desert of the real. No one is waking up at the Vatican one morning and overturning this reality. This court case could bring hope to a billion Catholics worldwide who believe your reform is the only way forward. I’m not speaking of those old-model Catholics who are loyal till the end. I’m speaking of the upcoming Catholics who see errors in the logic of love and acceptance we are called to believe in.
If a court case is not pursued, then all you are doing is creating a distraction and point of division among Catholics. Now is not the time to divide. Now is the time to truly see that the majority of Catholics stand with you in the reforms you seek.
It seems curious that I have seen no mention of putting the proceedings of the ACP AGM on parish websites. Did no parish priest volunteer to do this? Is publicity the job solely of the Irish Times?