Interview on Midwest Radio with Achonry Bishop-elect Paul Dempsey
In January, Pope Francis appointed Fr Paul Dempsey, a priest of the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin diocese to be the new Bishop of Achonry. His episcopal ordination will take place this Sunday in St. Nathy’s Cathedral, Ballaghaderreen at 3 o’clock. The bishop elect spoke to Tommy Marren live in studio today.
The ordination will be live streamed on https://achonrydiocese.org/on Sunday.
The video of the Midwest radio studio interview is available on the link below.
About a fortnight ago Paddy Ferry lamented, on the evidence of the Sarah Mac Donald interview, that we have not had the benefit over the years of young Fr Paddy Byrne’s contributions on this ACP forum. Indeed, in the virtual absence of most ACP men of the 50-80 generations, a few young men on the right side of 50 would have made a difference to the discussions. Ten years ago (in the December 2010 issue of The Furrow) Fr Paddy Byrne’s diocesan colleague Paul Dempsey, then 39, raised many of the issues that were later to exercise ordained and lay contributors over, say, the first five years of this forum’s existence. A great pity that those two Kildare & Leighlin lads didn’t find this a natural home for what they might have to say. They would have added new ingredients and been a necessary leaven in the dough of what has turned out to be a rather stodgy and sunken cake.
Since Paul Dempsey’s 2010 article, ‘Being a Priest in Ireland Today – a young priest’s view’, he finally got a new pope and a new bishop in 2013 and a new papal nuncio in 2017, so all that no doubt made a difference to the view of a youngish priest in K&L. His next Furrow article in Feb 2014, ‘A Call not a Career’, began: “We had almost forgotten what it was like to have a bishop in Kildare & Leighlin diocese until the arrival of Denis Nulty on 4 August 2013. Some cynics were saying we didn’t need a bishop, we were getting along fine without one! However after a joyful celebration of faith, welcoming our new bishop in Carlow Cathedral, the cynics’ argument was put to rest. Bishop Nulty . . . . outlined his vision of priesthood and how it is ‘a call, not a career; a way of life, not a job; an identity, not just a role’.
Maybe the priests and people of Achonry, too, have been wondering over the past two or three years whether they really need a bishop as things seem to have been ticking over fairly well without one. Well, they’ve got a young fellow of 49 who has shown every sign of being pretty grounded. They may not be able to hold on to him for the next twenty-six years but, then again, by the time he’s 75 Achonry may be just a deanery of some super Western Diocese. Meanwhile he has his job cut out for him and in the next couple of hours he can let his new people and priests have an idea of where they’re heading over the next decade.
His Furrow articles of December 2010 and February 2014 may still give us an idea of his own mid-life development.
Surely a more accurate term would be Bishop-select.This would reflect the reality that bishops are not elected by the faithful of the diocese but selected from on high according to an opaque, secretive process.
Among the issues raised by Fr Paul Dempsey in that article of December 2010 he writes:
“I am acutely aware of other major issues where people are not being heard such as women and their role within the Church, also those who find themselves in a strained relationship with the Church because of a second relationship or their sexual orientation. These are serious issues that continually need to be aired in an open, honest and comprehensive way.”
“APPOINTMENT OF BISHOPS:
Much has been written on this topic, so I do not intend to labour the point here. The diocese I am working in, Kildare and Leighlin, at the time of writing [Autumn 2010 for the December FURROW -ef] is seeking a new bishop. I know that some have received letters from the Nuncio’s office seeking information about certain candidates. This is supposed to be ‘top secret’, but it has to be the worst kept secret in Irish Catholicism! I should add that I haven’t received any correspondence from the Nuncio’s office, even though – I am 39 – the decision reached will probably influence my life for quite a number of years to come! While this very limited ‘consultation’ is to be welcomed, it seems to me that it is the very same process that has obtained around the appointment of bishops in Ireland for decades. We are told of renewal in the Irish Church in the light of recent revelations, but there seems to be a distinct lack of renewal in this very significant area of Church life. This system, as we have so clearly seen, has not served us well in the past. Surely it is time to refresh this process and open it up to far wider consultation? Could those with influence in this area perhaps listen to what so many priests and people are saying?”
Soline, now a decade later I don’t know whether the same limited ‘consultation’ process criticised by Paul Dempsey in the eventual appointment of Denis Nulty to K&L in 2013 applied to his own appointment to Achonry and his ordination yesterday. If it was the same old same old dipstick process among some Achonry priests and a few Western bishops, should Bishop Paul Dempsey not object strongly in his first ‘address from the chair’ to his Achonry priests, and even more strongly at October’s Conference of Bishops meeting in Maynooth or on ZOOM, quoting his ten-year old criticism from the Furrow? Or should he just conclude quietly, well it may not be perfect but it works OK, despite its faults and limitations?
Soline, maybe a brief email to Bishop Dempsey, asking: “Could those with influence in this area perhaps listen to what so many priests and people are saying?”
But Bishop Paul will be well aware just how far Bishop Emeritus Leo O’Reilly got with his brother bishops when he tried to table the results of Kilmore’s Listening Process at the Bishops’ Conference. +Leo O’Reilly had 20+ years of bishoping under his sash by then. Come October, +Paul Dempsey will have about 30 days or a couple of wet weekends in Achonry.