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ACP Leadership calls for transparency in the Irish Church

The Association of Catholic Priests regrets the Irish Bishops’ decision not to make public the results of the consultation they have conducted with the Irish people on the Vatican questionnaire (Irish Catholic, 13 February).

Their statement that the results of the survey are ‘a matter for the Synod of Bishops and not for the local Church’ is contrary to the openness that Pope Francis is encouraging at all levels in the Church.

We fear that, at a time when the Church in Ireland is regarded with suspicion, this decision of the bishops will only serve to make many people question if they have really reported the views of the people.

It will also create the suspicion that the results of the survey may be adapted to make them more palatable to traditional views in the Vatican. And it will arouse needless speculation about their content.

This secretive approach confirms once again the need for the Irish Catholic Church – at all levels – to learn the value of transparency.

We hope that this approach of the Irish bishops does not indicate a lack of enthusiasm for the message Pope Francis is offering our Church.

ACP Leadership (Contact details on our website)

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  1. Mary O Vallely says:

    I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised by this. It is entirely in keeping with the clericalist mindset but it is actually rather ridiculous that we should be asked for our views and then forbidden to see them. I suspect that they are embarrassed by the findings just as the bishops of England and Wales are as they aren’t publishing them either. It really is demeaning for adults to treat other adults as if they are infants. The Synod on the Family will be an ineffective exercise without the valuable input from parents, grandparents and married people. The last line of Pete Seeger’s “Where have all the flowers gone” comes to mind.
    “When will they ever learn?” (sigh)

  2. Mary Wood says:

    Since submitting my earlier comment I have found an article in the US Magazine AMERICA.
    The comment by Paul Ferris (#2 in te comment list) with his questionnaire for the Bishops is a very challenging response

  3. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    I agree that it would be better that the Conference of Bishops would make public in some form the results of the survey. Clearly it could not be a total report containing all comments, but some indication of the results would encourage participation in any further survey. Examples from other parts of the Church are enlightening. It would help people realise the complexity of the task facing the Synods this October and next.
    However, I would suggest that where possible statements from ACP would be phrased positively rather than in negative terms. Rather than the heading in the Irish Times (Saturday 15 Feb): “Priests critical of decision to hold back Vatican questionnaire results”, I would prefer to find a heading such as “Priests’ Association urges bishops to reconsider decision on questionnaire.”

  4. Eddie Finnegan says:

    It would not be my usual style at all to come racing to the defence of obscurantism among the merry band of bishops still led by my ‘home primate’ Cardinal Seán or among the barrel of laughs over here headed by my ‘away primate’ Cardinal-to-be Vincent.
    But by God on this one I think they’re right – at least for now.
    As indeed I’m sure Lorenzo also-to-be-cardinalled-this-day-week Baldisseri is right. Before we rush to substitute the “spirit of Pope Francis” for the oft touted but rarely pinned down “spirit of Vatican II”, perhaps we should respect the spirit of the motivation behind the summoning of Synod 2014 as the forerunner to Synod 2015, and also respect some of the synodal norms relating to ‘lineamenta’, instrumenta laboris’, ‘status quaestionis’ etc that have been around for the past forty years or more. No, they aren’t just clericalist red tape or curialist bureaucracy.
    That Pope Francis has decided to broaden those ‘lineamenta’ on the Family to those of us who (perhaps) have more hands-on experience of the homemaking, child-rearing, board and, yes, bedroom aspects of the Synod themes, hardly licenses us to kick out all the rules of consulting with the grassroots, collating and reporting back to the centre.
    Not everything that the Catholic Church Leadership in Germany, Austria, Switzerland or indeed in God’s Own Country of USA has ever done has been for the best. Not everything that is done in the supposed interests of instant transparency works towards reflective conclusions for the good of all. If we have learnt anything from the election of a pope from “the ends of the earth” it might be that while some of us in a few countries ‘up north’ may feel ever so effusively that “we are church”, what is more certain is that we are NOT THE CHURCH. Synods 2014 & 2015 are for the Universal Catholic Church. And yes, that will include bishops’ conferences we in our wisdom may see as benighted, discriminatory and inimical to all our own very recent ‘advances’ or pretentions to openness, transparency, egalitarianism and political correctness.
    So, I’d go along with Lorenzo Baldisseri when he says that Pope Francis wants the October 2014 Synod to be just the first step in evaluating the questions sketched out in the ‘lineamenta’, as in the Survey. This year’s synod is to define the ‘status quaestionis’ while the October 2015 follow-through will “seek working guidelines in the pastoral care of the person and the family.” We’ve had our say, some of us, even though they made it damed awkward for us. Maybe we should let them get on with it along this timeline, and allow them to make Synod 2014 that first step. It’s their survey after all. If the ACP want to carry out their ow…. sorry I forgot – they did!
    None of which, of course, is to deny that the bishops’ conferences of these islands have a not so latent talent for certain obscurantist tendencies. But, as Pádraig McCarthy suggests above, maybe ACP should use the feather-duster rather than the bludgeon on their reluctant interlocutors. Maybe after next October’s framing of that “status quaestionis”, when we can compare what is lined up for 2015 with what the Irish or English&Welsh or Scottish bishops’ reps actually contributed in their October interventions, is the time to reconsider the bludgeon. That, too, might be the apposite time for a readable summary of the Survey ‘Results’, accompanied by a thoughtful commentary from the bishops in the light of what they’ve learnt from Synod’14, what they’ve learnt about transparency from past and current bludgeonings, and a readable pastoral manifesto for Synod’15 along the lines of what they want Francis to write as a result of Synods’14&’15.
    Ach cogar a chairde, why do I just sometimes get the impression that the ACP Curia is being a little too right on and, perish the thought, politically correct, not for its own good but for that of its 1,000 silent pastors and those smelly mountainy sheep in the upland pastures? (OK, OK lads and lassies, don’t all rush at once! Bludgeons down – I was only asking . . .)

  5. Margaret Trench says:

    Well as a parishioner who spent some time filling this survey in with my parish council I fail to see why we can’t be given information on the findings now from our bishops.
    We had all agreed to chat it over with our own families before we came together to fill it in so that the answers would be considered and representative of as wide a group as possible.
    I feel it was all a waste of time now.
    Maybe it explains why so very few parish councils actually did it.
    We were only one of 3 in our diocese – according to our PP.
    It all seems a bit pointless now.

  6. Gene Carr says:

    it hardly seems to make any difference whether they are published or not; we can guess the results. In recent decades most Catholics have probably rarely heard any homilies on contraception, abortion or homosexuality. On the other hand, for decades, day in day out they have been bombarded by wall to wall propaganda opposed to the historic Judeo-Christian vision of love and marriage. It is really surprising that when surveyed they will merely repeat all this brainwashing almost verbatim. I am always amazed that there is still some 10-20% of Catholics who have the independence and strength of mind to agree with the Church on the evils of artificial contraception.

  7. Brendan Butler says:

    The Irish Bishops say it’s ‘ a matter for the Synod of Bishops not the local Church ‘ and so refuse to publish results of the Synod survey.
    The Bishops of Wales and England say ‘ that in accordance with the wishes of the Holy See the summary is confidential’ and so refuse to publish the results .
    The Bishops of Switzerland and Germany have no problem in publishing the Synod survey results .
    Are the Swiss and German Bishops breaking confidentiality or is it that the Irish , English and Welsh Bishops received orders from. Rome and the others didn’t .
    Wherein lies the truth of the matter.

  8. Mary Wood says:

    :Not everything that is done in the supposed interests of instant transparency works towards reflective conclusions for the good of all.” Fr Brendan – above
    It seems to me that Fr Brendan’s case for keeping secret the (broad) results of an open-to-all survey could be valid if the survey had been limited to the clergy. In fact it was open to all, even the no longer ‘practising’ among us. These secrets are OUR opinions. Surely we have a legitimate interest in discovering whether our own individual opinions have much or little in common with those of others in our country who cared enough to respond?
    Is there a whistle-blower in the Bishops’ Office? But of course, in a responsible organisation that shouldn’t be necessary. I repeat my concern that the numbers and even the tenor of the concluded survey might be “adjusted” before being forwarded to Rome

  9. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Mary Wood@9, thank you, thank you! You’ve made my day by identifying me and my opinions with Fr Brendan(‘s). As Brendan Hoban is a good five years my junior that’s really put a spring in my step. You know, I’m staying in to celebrate this cold February evening. Time to top my first double-yolked egg of the month. Like my curate’s, I hope it’ll be good at least in parts.
    Speaking for Eddie Finnegan, though: No, Mary, I’m not arguing for greater secrecy over our opinions on the part of bishops in Ireland, England&Wales or Scotland, or among the Vatican’s Secret Servants of the Servant of the Servants of God. What I’m saying is that we contributed to a Pope Francis-inspired more open approach to informing a Synod. Lorenzo Baldisseri’s department supplied the ‘lineamenta’, however gauchely expressed in the Survey’s questions; so let’s follow the process through. I suggested that the bishops of these islands may be right, but only ‘pro tem’ until, say, October-November 2014 – even if they may be right for the wrong reason or motivation.
    Mary, I hate to inflict my outpourings on you for a second time but, even if you think I’m a PP in Killala, I think you should read what I wrote.
    And to all from Vienna to Berlin to The Tablet to this Thread who want to bite off the Roman or Argentinean hand that feeds them, when Francis decides next year to give us all a vote on the terna for our new bishops or on whether the current incumbents should be recalled and replaced, will we after casting our vote start demanding the details of the secret ballot within a month even before they get to Rome? And, come to think of it, why should Francie the Bridgebuilder have a casting vote on who gets these sinecures anyway? We the People of God must have People’s Bishops.

  10. Perhaps the present bishops are soul brothers of the leadership of the Garda Siochána. One way of getting the results might be to arrange a leak. Maybe there’s a mole. Or a bug?

  11. Mary Wood says:

    To Eddie F #10
    My apologies for the confusion.
    But as for the summary of the results, it would be good to know, even though we think we know!

  12. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Mary @ #3, the only way to challenge is by evoking a response and the only way you can do that is by asking a question. This is an important point that many have tried to make to the ACP. How do start a dialogue with the Vatican? Ask questions; tough questions. I hate people slandering “the Natural Law” as the Vatican does. They use this piece of writing to enforce the laws of nature, or perhaps their abominations of nature which is really not what it is saying. It states that the primacy of the individual’s conscience is the most important part of a spiritual well-being. When in doubt, please refer to the ten commandments. They work very well together. In regards to the secrecy, I think the results will have to be given to a reputable firm to discern and possibly not the hands of the Holy See so that tampering is a non-issue. That would be the responsible thing to do.

  13. BuenCamino says:

    Does anyone think that they have actually collated the results?

  14. Robert Hughes says:

    This is just silly. Who do the bishops think they are keeping the results of the survey secret from? Certainly not the people who participated. I fear a lack of intellectual acuity here.

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