Report of Clogher ACP Meeting

A meeting of Clogher ACP took place in Clones on 26th October. Eight Priests attended, six sent their apologies.
After prayer and the reading of the last meetings minutes, we began a discussion on a previous proposal to set up a national fund to provide support for priest colleagues who are suspended and experiencing financial hardship, including those who do not have the means to mount a proper legal defence for themselves. The meeting acknowledged the fantastic help given from the leadership of the ACP to Fr. Reynolds in his recent action against RTE, their now established legal team will be of great support to those who are falsely accused in the future.
We recognised that across the country there is no uniformity as to how suspended Priests are treated, there doesn’t seem to be any best practice or good practice, and because of all the variations that exist from Diocese to Diocese our meeting recommended that minimum standards of care should be established from within the Bishops Conference.
The meeting acknowledged that it wasn’t just or Christian to leave a suspended Priest without a place to live, it wasn’t just or Christian to expect families to provide a home or indeed financial help for the Priest. There was also a grave concern expressed with regards the canonical process, after a civil case fails, was the Church now going to become more oppressive upon its own?
It was recognised by the meeting that the weaknesses of the Diocesan structure of care did not seem to apply where a Priest was a member of a Religious Order or Congregation. The Religious would seem to have in place a blueprint of best practice in caring for Priests who are out of ministry or who leave ministry for whatever reason.
While the meeting acknowledged that one’s own Diocese should have the primary care of its clergy, where this did not happen, perhaps the ACP should encourage voluntary contributions from its membership towards the setting up of a compassion/benevolent fund.
The ACP leadership were encouraged to seek information on what is presently the practice nationwide with regards suspended Priests, so that they are been adequately looked after.
Following on from Bishop Liam’s request that links be established between the Clogher ACP and the Council of Priests and Diocesan Chapter, three members were nominated and accepted the invitation.
The co-ordinating committee were mandated at the previous meeting to agree on a set time for future ACP meetings, the meeting accepted their decision to hold their gatherings on the last Wednesday of every second month, beginning in January 2012.
An e-mail survey was carried out after our last meeting of Clogher ACP to see how effective this means of communication was. Those 60+ recipients who receive regular contact were asked to respond if they had received that particular e-mail. 22 did so. This generated quite a discussion around our mandate, of who we really represent within the Diocese. While we acknowledged the great support and encouragement we have received from Bishop Liam, and indeed from comments left on the national website, it was perceived that the vast majority of Clogher Priests were not interested in our work, and in particular the young members of the presbyterate. We wondered how did others within our Diocese feel about the ACP. And while contact with the ACP maybe through media reporting, at Diocesan level our meetings, our discussion, our topics should engage a greater interest and attendance at our Diocesan gatherings.
The meeting acknowledged that the ACP wasn’t for everyone, not all clergy will share the values of the ACP, or indeed the need for the ACP, but all in attendance recognised their own need of this mutually caring body that had at its heart, the care of clergy and their needs. We all recognised that we are now a ‘tainted profession’ and so all the more reason for the ACP where we will receive support, where a structure of care is been established.
The proposal to formally establish a group to assist Bishop Liam in representing the needs of clergy ie Sick Priests, Retired Priests, Parish Priests and Curates, this group was accepted in principal, it should be there in principal so that responsibility of care is shared. The proposal was to be taken to Bishop Liam for further thought and discussion.
Nuala O’ Loan is to be invited to speak to our Diocesan gathering.
Further discussion and decisions were to be made on encouraging Pastoral Reflection Groups, the creation of Social opportunities and Days of Reflection.
The meeting concluded with personal reflection on the gathering, “helpful, enlightening, hopeful, supportive, real and reflective” were the shared words used.

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  1. ”all in attendance recognised their own need of this mutually caring body that had at its heart, the care of clergy and their needs. ”
    What I read on this post is laudable. There seems to be a disparity between, on the one hand, the desires of Clogher ACP, and the leadership agenda on the other, which would appear to be a dissenting agenda. An ACP which looks to care for the interests of priests is great; the other agenda is not.

  2. Martin
    would you please spell out in simple language what exactly you are saying.

  3. I’m saying this: the ACP need to decide WHAT they are: a society for the support of priests in the apostolate, or a lobby group for radical changes in the Catholic Church. I see a future and a use for the first; the second is a futile waste of precious time and souls.

  4. Why does it have to be either/or? One is dealing with the damage already inflicited by the system and the other is preventing future damage.

  5. Because one supports the mission of the Church, the other attacks it. One seeks to support the work of priests in saving souls, the other attacks the unity, the faith, and the morals of the Church.

  6. I agree that it does not have to be either one or the other. When the ACP was founded it set out its objectives very clearly. No one was forced to join. It has a right to try to achieve its objectives. I can’t see how it is a waste of souls. We are each the guardian of our own souls.

  7. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Like all of us, Martin, you’re an á la carte Catholic. You may protest and splutter that you’ve always been a table d’hote man but, like all Popes, you’re as picky as the rest of us. If some of the priests of Clogher find themselves at home in the ACP, in the company of their bishop, and if some of the ACP Leadership Team have repeatedly upheld Clogher priests as a model of membership and communication, who are you, Martin, to drive your little wedge between, or to define so definitively what is of value and what is not?

  8. Wendy Murphy says:

    Martin – as Mairead says, ACP’s objectives are clearly set out. If you genuinely think they’re futile I don’t quite understand why you visit this site at all. You’re clearly interested in what is said here, and I commend you for it. Those of us, including MM and many others, who do not think these objectives are in the least futile and dearly wish the topics posted here to be fully aired by anyone, including yourself, who is interested and concerned, will continue to exercise our God-given intellects to explore what it is to be church, catholic, human & etc.

  9. Sean (Derry) says:

    Absolutely correct Martin, an association of priests that provided valuable and much needed spiritual and practical support to priests, as they carry out their appointed mission of saving souls, through the administration of the sacraments, preaching Catholic values, morals and tradition, would be an admirable and truly Christian work of love and charity for the ACP.
    The majority of priests who initially joined the association did so in the belief that the ACP would be a supportive Catholic forum.
    However after formation the ACP quickly revealed its true colours and many priests felt thay had unwittingly joined an organisation that did not represent their values or morals. The actual reason for the very poor involvement and participation of priests since then (both in attendance at ACP meetings and posting on this site) is due to the radical nature adopted by the ACP leadership who seem more interested in pursuing a personal agenda of encouraging dissent within the church and toppling the church hierarchy.
    For the ACP to be of any benfit to priests it must actually change its radical agenda and must not try to pretend to be something that it is not, just to attract numbers. The suggestions of Joe McGuane (Cloyne), in his previous article on this site regarding strategies for increasing ACP membership demonstrates that hidden agenda, that the association knows what is best for its members.
    He states, “First get them in and then apply gentle persuasion.” and also, “Get them in and then try to influence them if we don’t like their colours.”
    The ACP would do best to follow Martin’s suggestion “to support the work of priests in saving souls” rather than viewing priests as some sort of holy social workers whose job is to keep everyone happy.

  10. Maggie Flaherty says:

    I have to agree with Martin. If the association concerned itself more with the rights of priests, and less – or preferably not at all – with dissenting from Church teaching, a greater number of priests would join it, and it would be more effective. I know a young priest who needs lots of support right now, because of a difficulty with his bishop, but he’s not interested at all in the dissent agenda. For him the ACPI is just aging liberals from another universe who have nothing to offer him.

  11. Martin, ecclesia semper reformanda, and in times of crisis that means lobbying for radical changes. You are writing off all the reformers and reforming synods of Christian history.

  12. We will continue to pray for all Priests especially those who are suffering and for renewal in the Church and in the Hierarchy, that our Church would be more faithful to Jesus and to the Magesterium and put Christ back in the centre of our Church in Ireland. World Youth Day showed that young people are not interested in a watered down Church because it is meaningless and leads nowhere. The only religious orders that are growing are those that live out their charism fully and who are faithful to the Church’s teaching. You seem to close your eyes and ears to what is happening. We need Jesus Christ and we need the Truth of the Gospel message to be lived out in our Church.

  13. Association of Catholic Priests says:

    Maybe it is unfair to confuse people’s personal theories by introducing some facts. But here are a few for Sean and Maggie.
    1. From the beginning of our association we made it perfectly clear that we are not attempting to represent all priests, but only those who wish to join because they share our aims and objectives. To suggest that some joined without knowing what we were about is unfair. The first thing we did was to set out our aims clearly.
    2. If those who joined early on are now disillusioned, they are showing no signs of it. Only one person has withdrawned his name from membership since we began.
    3. Fourteen months ago we started with about 200 members. Now we have 570. Nobody forced any of them to join. They mostly signed up through the website, and paid their 20 euro membership. An average of 2/3 join in this way every week.
    4. Our AGM was extremely well attended, and generally regarded to have been particularly successful. Many commented on how it gave them new hope and courage.
    5. And, Maggie, yes I am ageing (65 in January) and liberal. Since when did either of those become a crime. Sorry about the young priest you mentioned who is having trouble with his bishop, and who, you said, dismisses us as “ageing liberals from another universe”. He might look again at our aims, because one of the things we believe firmly is that the present system of governance in the Church is dysfunctional. His experience may well suggest that we are right in that one.
    And one of the meanings of being liberal for me is that I try to be open and tolerant towards the views of others.
    Or if you find our views so abhorrent, why is it that you spend so much time on our site?
    Tony Flannery

  14. All this discussion came about because of the Clogher meeting. Did they intend to set of such an exchange of views. Anne, could you spell out more clearly how you think that the ACP is watering down the teaching of Christ and what particular teachings of Christ are being watered down. Besides, water usually cleanses and purifies and it also revitalizes.

  15. Following the correspondence generated by the latest posting from ACP Clogher, I find myself marvelling at just how great a distance there can be between a conversation in the internet medium and what I usually experience as conversation. For myself, when I use email I am almost always communicating with friends or colleagues known to me personally. By contrast, I often sense a ‘megaphone’ quality as I follow conversations on the ACP website.
    I notice how the nuances and subtleties of language are not easily respected or responded to in this medium. For example, I do not speak or even think of my ministry as a priest in terms of ‘souls’. Yet I note how the choice of this terminology signals (unconsciously?) an implied anthropology and spirituality, and how that may condition my responses, consciously or unconsciously, and may even trigger judgements about the writer.
    I remember once coming across, in a book by Stephen Covey as far as I recall, a principle that has since served me well when I put it into practice: Seek first to understand, only then to be understood. Is it close enough to the way of Jesus to be recognisable as a gospel value? I am not sure. But it might even be useful in email communication.
    In ACP Clogher we try to do our business that way, rather than in an adversarial style. I accept that there are occasions for the adversarial approach. Even the most casual scan of almost any page of the gospel will illustrate that reality. Still, Francis de Sales had a good insight when he wrote: Nothing is as strong as gentleness; nothing is as gentle as real strength.
    Less heat – more light, please.

  16. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Anne, I sometimes wonder whether the Jesus Christ you speak of would readily recognise the Pio Nono Magisterium you raise as your shield or umbrella.
    The ACP have been clear in their objectives, which I’m sure we should accept as their charism. If, over time, they live out their charism fully, as you put it, I think you’ll find that they have been faithful to Christ’s teaching and that “a watered down Church” is no part of their agenda. At the outset they quoted the sound advice of Gamaliel (Acts 5:38ff). Now that you, Martin, Sean(Derry) and a few others have enjoyed scourging their leaders, why not let them go and see what comes of their movement? Surely you wouldn’t want to find yourselves fighting against . . . etc,etc.?

  17. Anne, I’m curious – how do the aims of the ACP ‘water down the Church’? And for reference, I fall in to the category of “young people”, being somewhere in my middle to late 20s.
    I completely agree that we need the Gospel message to be lived out in our Church. Jesus was a merciful, compassionate, loving, inclusive teacher whilst on earth – as documented in the Gospel – what better attributes can we, as believers, try assiduously to have? What better attributes can our Church, here in Ireland, try to have? The Church, and the world, could do with a little more mercy, a little more compassion, a little more inclusivity – and a whole lot more love.
    Also, just a small point, but in America, at any rate, I believe that yes, more traditional Orders are the ones growing faster in terms of numbers of novices – but the more liberal Orders are the ones sustaining their growth; that is to say, keeping a larger percentage of those professing temporary vows to the point of permanent profession.

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