Inviting Debate on the Year of Vocations – The Editor, Letters, ACP

‘Take the Risk for Christ’ is the theme for Ireland’s Year for Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood 2023 – 2024

Bishop Cullinan celebrated the televised Mass on RTÉ One on Good Shepherd Sunday, 30 April last, during which he welcomed the Holy Father’s words of encouragement for vocations to the priesthood.

Welcoming Pope Francis’ 2023 annual message for vocations, on the theme ‘Vocation: Grace and Mission’

see full text here

Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, chair of the Bishops’ Council for Vocations said, “On Sunday, as we begin our ‘Year for Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood’ across Ireland, I am delighted to welcome the letter by Pope Francis specially for our Year for Vocation.  It is full of encouragement and confidence in the God who is always calling us into closer communion with Him and one another.  I feel that Pope Francis is urging us to keep proposing to young men the way of the priesthood, following Jesus Christ in this particular vocation and, every day, to Take the Risk for Christ!

“Today, answering God’s call to journey as a priest is a counter-cultural and courageous decision.  Future priests need support to discern their vocation.  I encourage any man who seeks to explore their calling to priestly ministry to make contact today with their local priest or diocesan vocations director,” Bishop Cullinan said.

Date: 06. 05 2023

Dear Rev. Editor,

As a retired cleric, and after much reflection, I wonder, as my church (Roman Catholic) launches another campaign, in the wake of the visit of US President Joe Biden, to recruit male celibate youth (or not so young nor celibate adults) what will they be expected to preach as gospel as Roman-Catholic trained priests in the Ireland of the future which belongs entirely to a multi-cultural youth?

I ask this with interest about how tomorrow, Roman-collared clerics will speak/preach about resurrection, redemption, reparation, confession of sin, death, sex and gender and the need for Jesus, who was homeless, exiled, hungry and crucified on a Friday called good in their Rome published liturgical books. Will it make any sense?

Maybe some Rome appointed scholar/ecclesiastic – medieval clad, celibate, white and male might give me a for-instance (notwithstanding Joe Biden’s recent warm welcome to west of Ireland’s Catholic shrine where he made homage to a group of first century Palestinian Jews – two celibates and one a Virgin – on an alleged previous visit on a rainy night in the month of Lughnasa 1879). 

Is it best, to avoid confusion and when ‘advertising’ that new recruits to the alone male-celibate priesthood of the Roman-centred Irish-Catholic church, that they learn to discard gospel parables, miracles and apparitions from the past and deal only with facts when preaching, praying and learning, after it all, to become, eventually, elderly pensioners, like my good self and many of its devotees?

As once a carpenter (ship’s) I just wonder what today is the ‘joy’ to attract youth to leave everything in search and sacrifice to preach an Irish-Roman Catholic gospel and its catechism of rules and prohibitions?


Very Rev. Peadar O’Callaghan, P.E.,

Teach an tSagairt


Co. Cork. T45 EK11

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  1. Sean O'Conaill says:

    In the continuing absence of an historical explanation for the uniform policy of secrecy followed by Catholic bishops in the handling of clerical sexual abuse of children – in flagrant disregard of Jesus’s emphatic condemnation of any such behaviour – it is impossible to believe that preservation of the celibate reputation of Catholic clergy – i.e. of the credibility of the rule of celibacy – was not a paramount factor.

    Nor has there yet been an explanation of the clerical church’s need to rely on secular lawyers, courts and media for the revealing of the global scale of this abuse of power to Catholic families – to oblige Catholic bishops then to concern themselves – far too late for many thousands of victims – with child safeguarding.

    And meanwhile the 1994 Catholic Catechism continues to argue that Jesus’s sole reference to celibacy was an argument for a celibate clergy when the scriptural context tells us that he was merely recommending it as an alternative to entering into marriage without a commitment to fidelity (Matt 19).

    That it was the difficulty of maintaining celibacy that led to the ‘fixation’ with sexuality that so unbalanced the clerical church’s moralising is now also increasingly likely – blinding far too many to the connection between biblical pride and modern egotism and to the true meaning of covetousness, a rampant cause of all that is wrong with the world.

    A church system that needed unremitting secular challenge to even begin to address its own internal dysfunctions now needs a thorough investigation of how those dysfunctions developed if it is ever again to be credible. The attempt instead to prop that system up by arguing that celibacy is indeed the counter-cultural challenge given us by Jesus – in the face of all that has happened in Ireland since 1992 – takes denial to new heights of self-delusion.

    In recommending celibacy St Paul was at the disadvantage of the mistaken belief that the second coming of Christ could happen at any moment. With the more than two millennia of evidence to the contrary, and with an ecclesiastical catastrophe still to explain to the rest of us, why are Catholic bishops in 2023 still making the same mistake?

    1. Michael Murphy says:

      It could be argued that celibacy is not counter cultural in some respects. Jesus spoke more about the poor than about celibacy. I don’t imagine that any active priest in Ireland will be living below the poverty line. I think most priests will be at least moderately comfortable, and thank God for that for they serve people well. By and large they will live in adequate or in some cases well above average presbyteries, rent free. This is a massive boon in ensuring a fairly middle class existence. The same can’t be said for a fair number of parishioners who may be technically living in poverty. Some pensioners and single parent households are more likely to experience poverty. Often they will live in substandard and cramped housing. Others may well be homeless. I do think that clerical celibacy, at least here in Ireland, is a buffer against poverty, especially without a family to maintain. So from an economic point of view, celibacy isn’t counter cultural. For instance, I haven’t read anywhere online where a cleric is challenging the present cost of living crisis which is especially crippling the poor but I may be wrong.

  2. Paddy Ferry says:

    Fr. Peadar, what an honest reflection!! Thank you.
    What a shame that some of your brother priests — are there still over 1000 fully paid up members of the ACP? — would not engage with in this discussion.
    And, as in other discussions on this site, it is left to Seán, once again, to give us a deeply thoughtful insight into our ongoing state of crisis. Thanks, Seán, once again.

  3. Fr Ned Quinn OMI Darndale says:

    Paddy Ferry laments that so few of the ACP members contribute to these ongoing discussions. As a one time, fairly regular, contributor I now find myself mostly on the sidelines! As to the “thousand +” members: I suspect that many of them, like myself, have grown old and weary and have left the battle to the more competent members. Sadly too, many of our old heroes have gone home and are at peace.

  4. Peadar O Callaghan says:

    12 May 2023.

    Dear Rev Editor,

    Paddy Ferry commended my “honesty” in my letter (6 May), and I thank him for this generous compliment.
    My first parents (and later Ananias and Sapphira) had great difficulties with honesty when questioned!
    Like the doctors of the law in the Temple, wouldn’t it be wonderful to seek to give honest answers if pestered with questions from a boy seeking his vocation this year – or when asked by a young man or woman to give an answer to the question first put to Jesus in Mark 10.17.
    As priests we all preserve memories of the honest answers we gave when questioned by our ordinaries on the days of ordination to diaconate and priesthood, which we renew with joy each year at the Chrism Mass.
    I hope many young people in this special year will too be “amazed” by the understanding and answers of Jesus to their questions (Lk.2.47).
    The call to follow ‘him’ is always a personal summons: to “those whom he wanted” and “to be with him” (Mk.3.13-14 NRSV).
    Right now (following Joe Biden’s home visit), I am slowly ploughing my way through Massimo Borghesi’s Catholic Discordance – Neoconservatism vs. the Field Hospital Church of Pope Francis (2021). After I get to the end, I should be well prepared to digest the Instrumentum laboris of the Synod on Synodality to be published in early June.
    But I’m finding it hard going – to be honest!
    I remain,
    Yours sincerely,
    Peadar O’Callaghan

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