It was the 7th November. It was the Buccaneers Club. It was The Bounty. The AGM of the ACP took place. The room was small. The crowd was big. The time was short. It felt much easier to be present as a member rather than as part of the Leadership team.
Gerry did an excellent job as Chair. He had too much to do. Tim spoke with honesty from personal experience. He spoke with heart and gentleness. Overall – I felt humbled. The Leadership Team has done such huge work over the past year. I can’t even imagine how they managed to do everything. They are such busy men in their own ministries and yet did all this for us! It was very impressive and a marvellous achievement. As members; as priests; as the Church in Ireland – we can only say Thank You. The unmentioned aspect of their work too is the constant contact with the media. It is a daily demand and relentless. They are the go-to people for comment on every event that happens concerning church life. Brendan, Gerry, Roy and Tim: We are very blessed in you. Mattie, Pat and Bernard: The Website is a credit to you. You have built a Forum and you provide for us a daily Liturgical commentary and glimpses of the conversations happening everywhere. We are blessed in you. Tony, Sean and Brendan – you are great men and inspirational ministers in the Church to have launched such a ‘product.’ Liamy: You were badly needed and you have brought a professionalism which was essential; The Leadership could not have continued without such back-up.
What is the ACP?
What is that ‘product’? The ACP isn’t a trade union. It isn’t Mutiny on the Bounty. It isn’t a Fifth Column. It isn’t a hit squad on an assault against the Bishops. It arose some seven years ago to take hold of the ‘project of faith’ which is the Church in Ireland. It attempts to harness the passionate faith of those involved. The ACP is fighting for the heart of the Gospel and the person of Jesus Christ. The Church in Ireland was badly battered and was on its knees. The ACP is on its knees too in real active prayer. The ACP is fighting a robust battle to support priests in their work everywhere. Whatever about the Buccaneers at Dubarry Park the brotherhood of the priesthood in Ireland is in a scrum fighting for its very life. I agree the scrum has to push together. It rather amuses me to note that the man in Rome, Pope Francis, speaks a language rather close to the Mission Statement of the ACP. He is saying in very clear terms what the ACP set out to proclaim.
Mark Patrick did not speak to the title of the talk he was given. That was a pity because he has much to say and he does say it rather well. His outline of the ACP was interesting and some of it would resonate with the general perception around (and a very convenient one). It was good to hear it spelt out in such stark terms. His battle cry – that the ACP has to work with the bishops, is fair and right. That too is the wish and hope of the ACP over the years. The ACP has tried and is trying (in every sense!) We know, and most people know, that the bishops are overwhelmed with the challenges of their office. The ACP can appear to be a further nuisance. However if politics is the ‘art of the possible’ – what was possible was very little.
His comment on consultation with the membership re every public statement to be issued, was simply naïve. He wasn’t involved sufficiently in the ACP to understand its method of working and the mandate given the Leadership. It is the immediacy of response that is important and the openness of discussion and comment. His words on Brendan were unacceptable and very unfair. Brendan has carried the ACP in his written words and in his availability to the media. He has written and spoken with great clarity and deep conviction. Mark Patrick’s general observations appeared to miss out completely on what the life of the diocesan priest is at present. I was unhappy with the invitation to Mark Patrick to speak. I knew he could deliver a refreshing vision for the future of the Irish Church but felt that it was the life of the diocesan priest that needed attention. I have also a concern with too many Religious being on the leadership of the ACP. The Religious have a different support system and have also a less deferential attitude to people in positions of authority. They have a freedom which isn’t the same for the diocesan priesthood. There was a sense of the ivory tower in what Mark Patrick said. But if the ACP is true to itself; his words have to be listened to respectfully.
That New Missal
I found Mark Patrick’s words on the New Missal illustrative. He appeared to agree that the New Missal was a disaster. Why and how was the Missal foisted on us then? How then do so many now agree that it is a disaster? Somehow, someone or some of us weren’t shouting loud enough or shouting at the Hierarchy who accepted this! Whatever about politics; we let this happen. There has to be a coherent force who work together to ensure that such things don’t happen again. Nothing that has been done or is being done by the ACP is against the bishops – the ACP is fighting for the soul of faith and fighting for the collective that is the priesthood in Ireland. Mark Patrick – you were welcome among us. If we are to speak strongly to others; we must be happy to listen to people speaking strongly to us. To the Leadership of the ACP (and for the AGM) I repeat – you have lifted our hearts and thank you. We need you.
Seamus Ahearne osa