There were 36 people present for the ACP meeting held in Ovens, Co Cork on 21 May. The vast majority were priests but they were joined for the first time by a number of lay people. Tim Hazelwood acted as coordinator. This was the first meeting of the group in Cork since August of 2011.
The meeting began with Billy O’ Donovan giving a brief and very positive report on the meeting on “Towards an Assembly of the Irish Catholic Church” held recently in Dublin. Bernard Cotter then gave a update on happenings in the ACP since our last meeting:
- The Kevin Reynolds situation.
- The new text for the English Mass.
- The report of the Apostolic Visitors.
- ACP Survey Results.
- The Tony Flannery situation.
The leadership teams’ difficulty in keeping pace with events in the association was noted, one of these being the desire, of an increasing number of lay people, to become members. It had not been foreseen. This naturally led onto a discussion about whom the membership ought to be open to, priests only or laity and priests together? Various opinions were expressed in lively exchanges. The priesthood of the baptised was emphasised. It is a question of what the Church IS rather that what we might WANT it to be. The association needs to quietly insist on dialogue at all levels in the church and that this ought to begin in the association itself. A lay membership would create a forum for real discussion where priests can be challenged, very easy to shut people up at parish level. This in turn could facilitate an honest appraisal of why the changes envisaged in Vatican ll have not come to fruition at parish level. The role of the laity is greater than bringing Christ to the workplace, a lay membership would allow the gifts of all to be used. Another repeated contribution was the desirability of a ‘priest only’ space to address what could be termed ‘professional issues’. The very important role theACP. plays in protecting the rights of priests was also highlighted.
The second main item for discussion was the idea of holding a meeting in Munster similar to the one in Dublin about an Assembly. There was unanimous support for this. Early autumn was identified as a suitable time. Three people volunteered to make contact with ACP members in other dioceses and work towards realising same, namely Pat Moran OSA, Tom Riordan and Máire Mulcahy.
Other issues that were raised, but that the lack of time prevented detailed discussion included:
- The seal of confession.
- The importance of pastoral supervision for priests in dealing with an increasing workload.
- The reality that there will always be tension between priests’ representative groups and central authority.
The final items was the reading of the letter sent by Cardinal Brady on behalf of the Episcopal Conference in response to the individual invitations sent to each bishop to attend the meeting in Dublin. The letter could only be described as extremely disappointing at a time when dialogue is so urgently needed in the Irish Church.