Is the ACP in danger of adopting ‘Group Think’?

In his psoting ‘Who do the Irish bishops think they are?’, Ted Schmidt is rightly concerned about ‘System Think.’ I have used a similar term (borrowed from RTE Report on the Reynolds case), ‘Group Think.’ We are all caught within our own narrows & are confined by what we see to be the way and the only path. That could even be said of Peter McVerry on Friday night at the ACP AGM. His presentation was so true and very obvious. It was almost impossible to disagree. But it is not the only way! There are more ways to skin that famous cat.
‘Group Think’ happened with Newsnight (BBC); with RTE; with Savile; with Hillsborough; with the Church. It happens all of us. I am little hesitant lest we too in ACP become corralled into a single thought pattern. I don’t want us to be distracted by the Bishops or Rome. In the usual throwaway line: “I thought someone should do something but then I realised, I was someone.” We all wish things were different but we can’t just become whingers.
Rome is imprisoned in its own fears – pace the stupidity of the crude language of the Missal and the intrusive Latin. (However it is the atrocious theology behind the Missal which is more serious). Rome embarrasses us and even disheartens us. It is also seriously defective and far from the Gospel in regard to our priests who have been censored. There is the rust of fear in their behaviour.
Our Bishops too, clearly should be speaking with their priests.  ACP is an ally not an enemy.  But again our bishops are overwhelmed with the business of life and are incapable of reaching out and working together which is the essential language of Communion. We rightly ask if there is any understanding of what Eucharist is in the behaviour of Rome and the Bishops.
But I do think it is very wrong of us to start shouting at them and almost suggesting that they are useless puppets of a dead theology in Rome. Some of this is true but the bishops need help and understanding like elderly and concerned parents who are lost for words and are finding life too difficult at present. Retrenchment always happens when people are afraid. They rush into the arms of the familiar and away from any form of discussion. Much of what they see to be important has become dismissed in recent times. They need our sympathy and our shared reflection rather than any insults.
Rome is not the real problem. The bishops are not the real problem. The only Church that most people know is the local church. That is where everything happens or doesn’t happen. Out in our Parishes – the Bishop or the Pope is largely irrelevant! It is in the local church where Christ lives or is allowed to be or isn’t. The ‘Word’ is made flesh or isn’t. I believe that the driving force of the ACP has to focus on what we do (or aren’t doing) or are trying to do . We cannot pass on the blame.
There has often been too much adolescent behaviour among clergy. We are responsible for things. We are responsible for the Living Gospel. We can change things. We can stop everything changing. We are often the problem. How many of us would still be attending Church or involved in Church if we had to put up with what so many local communities have to experience? All that we accuse Rome and Bishops of doing and not doing is exemplified out in the Parishes. Liturgy? Team Work? Clusters? Lay involvement? Parish Pastoral Councils? I think we need to pay attention to the article written by Brendan Hoban after the May meeting. That states succinctly our plan of action. We are fighting together for the heart of the church and we must do what we can , politically (the art of the possible). We cannot set up battle lines.
Mary Oliver wrote in her book Thirst (after the death of her partner) in her poem Messenger:
‘Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
Keep my mind on what matters,
Which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.’
Yes, our boots are old; our coats are torn; we are no longer young and we aren’t even perfect……We can never lose that map for life. The ACP is a delightful community. We cannot allow it be damaged by rambling up too many boreens or getting reduced by System thoughts or Group think.
Seamus Ahearne osa (Finglas South, Dublin). 12th November 2012.

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  1. Lee Cahill says:

    This morning I wanted to pen a few thoughts. These have been arising out of
    i. the evolution of ACP over the past year or so;
    ii. the broad-minded editorial approach to submissions on this website.
    Many (over 1,000) of us priests were not only relieved to find a forum addressing so very crucial issues of of life and ministry in Christs’ Church: but also a forum in which each of us has the opportunity of dynamic participation.
    Thank you, Seamus, for expressing so brilliantly the thoughts I wanted to pen. Not just in relation to the “local” Church… which has always been an exciting reality in my (mainly African) pastoral experience. But, more especially in your crie de coeur for a “working communion”, where all are allies in the working out of the Kingdom. I, too, find our Body of Bishops in Ireland to be – at present – almost totally devoid of the kind of leadership our Church in Ireland cries out for: indeed, pastorally impotent..either as a body, or, in most instances, individually.
    But, as Seamus implies so simply, let us be allies, not enemies. To be pastorally effective in our “Today-Ireland” (be it Church or State), Bishops, priests, and all fellow-members with them in the Pobal De, need each other….desperately, but without fear; charitably, but without arrogance and impetuous denigration; hopefully, but without either an infantile cheeriness or bitchy begrudgery; urgently .. with an urgency freely aired and freely shared.
    And, obviously, I hope, without that awfully decimating shared closure of minds, now so infamously known as “Group Think”.

  2. Seamus, I disagree that we should be showing the Bishops the same understanding that we would show to our elderly parents. I fully accept that they are trapped in the institution but we must remember that each one of them can make his own personal choice–choose to speak out against the new missal or implement it, choose to say that the issue of women priests is an important one that needs discussion or agree with the Papal Nuncio. Our elderly parents do not have the power to control our lives but the Bishops have power.
    I agree that we must all do as much as possible within our local parishes.

  3. Con Carroll says:

    the ACP is certain no threat, to the establishment. its focus is on internal structure of the Church. which by most analysis people couldn’t be bothered with structures of elitism conservatism. its member stay clear of the reality of the political economoic situation. which is very frustrating

  4. As more of an outsider looking in – with the toe dipped in now and again. I do believe fear is a large part in all of this – lack of trust. Something that has to be overcome individually and as group. I listened to part of a letter from a cardinal to a priest lately, where the cardinal says, “That’s my tuppence worth.” He shared his thoughts, feelings on issues the priest raised and offered them as his ‘tuppence worth’. So very human. Very revealing.
    I do think people spend too much time looking to, at Rome. Render unto Caesar n’ all that. If you feel the need to give anything – make it a couple of hard boiled eggs to suck.
    That expression, ‘become the Church you wish to be/see’ – at the local level – the very heart of the Church. I agree with this.
    It’s very sad that bishops etc cannot sit around a table with whomever and give their ‘tuppence worth’. I do believe a lot of that is about immaturity on many levels. Fear. On all ‘sides’. How to overcome that I don’t know – but I do believe it’s worth trying. Certainly with each other as clerics too. Become the Church – clerically, you wish to see/be. Then maybe the people can trust to look for leadership and guidance.
    “working communion”, where all are allies in the working out of the Kingdom.” Allies indeed. Very right and true and good.
    A Kingdom divided cannot stand.
    Hearts, as well as, at times more than minds need to come together and share their ‘tuppence worth’. Starting with the parishes.
    And if any power tripping Hitler or Hitleress gets in the way – then I’ll get one of my ‘elderly parents’, ‘Mommie Dearest’, to slap his mouth and lock him away under the stairs. No gruel for a year. Don’t give anyone that much power over you.
    Love casts out fear.
    Gotta get past the fear – mis trust. Take leaps of faith.
    Whatever my thoughts about Benedict – I can’t not look at the man and not wonder what the hell that poor soul at 85 years of age has to go through on a daily basis. It’s abuse of the elderly. And I am not meaning in any way to be ageist. My father died at 85 and I could not imagine him having had to traipse around the world. Can only imagine the vultures in that place too.
    Anyway – some of my ‘tuppence worth’. Good thoughts shared here.

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