Report of meeting of ACP in Cork and Ross

Meeting of A.C.P. – Cork and Ross. Tuesday 1st February 2011, Pastoral Centre, Ovens.
This 2nd inaugural meeting of the A.C.P. (weather now permitting) began with Bernard Cotter welcoming the 26 people present  (4 apologies also). After a quiet prayer he explained that this was an opportunity to hear about the A.C.P. and its progress. There would be an opportunity to register membership either online on the website or with him at the end of the meeting.
Eoin Whooley then gave a summary of progress to date, including the meetings at Portloaise, Charleville (regional meeting) and recently in Athlone where over 50 representatives from around the country met, to review and discuss the progress of the A.C.P.
Tim Hazelwood of Cloyne took over the role of facilitating the conversation from there and invited all to accept the principles that:

  1.  Each person could speak openly and be respectfully listened to.
  2. After the meeting the topics raised and discussed could be spoken of to others but that individual speakers would not be mentioned, so that all felt free to speak honestly and openly.

These principles being agreed to, Michael Kelleher was asked to record the minutes of the meeting.
Each person was invited to think about two issues that they would wish to bring up for discussion. Fourteen topics were raised:

  1. Evangelisation – Ireland now a mission land.
  2. The diminishing number of priests and the increasing age profile. The effect this is having on us.
  3. Clericalism and its effects.
  4. Liberation of the laity – the training and information they need to fully participate.
  5. Exploring styles of leadership.
  6. Employment of Pastoral Assistants.
  7. Priests’ basic human rights as citizens.
  8. Fear and vulnerability to accusations.
  9. “not innocent until proven guilty but can you prove your innocence”

10.  Need to give hope to the church, about its future.
11.  Ongoing formation for priests.
12.  Ecclesiastical titles and their use and value.
13.  The Apostolic Visitation.
14.  Reduced number of Sunday Masses and para-liturgies.
During a 45 minutes discussion all these topics were explored.
Issues around abuse allegations

  • At national level the A.C.P. is getting legal advice and hopes to prepare a discussion document of the issues. (A view was expressed that when the A.C.P. at national level produced a document that it is seen as, serving the purpose of, developing discussion and an exchange of views on that topic. It might not be the view of all the A.C.P. members.)
  • Irish case law means that the working relationship between bishop and priest may be different to other workplace situations.
  • The personal, financial and legal structures seem to vary significantly from diocese to diocese or congregation to congregation.
  • There is a need for access to good, independent legal advice. Those priests who have had to clear their name, are speaking out strongly about this. Would we be willing to contribute financially to a legal fund?
  • Ian Elliott is currently bringing out new guidelines.
  • The actions of some H.S.E. areas including H.S.E. South need to be challenged.
  • Are priests entitled to such rights “the right to their good name” and “the right to work” as would be pursued by a teachers union or other such body, on behalf of their members.
  • What is the role of the “Promoter of Justice” in each diocese?

There was a wish that we could make progress on these issues, so that other topics can get due attention however, it was accepted that the justice issues, involved, are complex. The effect on morale, of feeling vulnerable and being unclear about procedures, was mentioned a number of times.
Pastoral Planning.

  • How ready are parishes to cope with impending changes?
  • A framework document about a planned, diocesan wide, reduction of Masses is seen as a big step forward.
  • Pastoral assistants/agents are seen as the best way of planning for the future. There are many uncertainties about Diaconate and how it would be received by the people.
  • The way in which the New Missal is being introduced raised questions, as did the quality and language of the translation in it.
  • The many, very committed, lay people need the training and opportunities to participate at parish and diocesan level.
  • There is a real need for priests to be supportive of each other and to speak positively about each other.
  • We spend so much of our time maintaining outdated evangelisation practices, often with people who have little interest. Should we re-focus our efforts around “family evangelisation” with those who commit to it?
  • Our methods of planning and work practices have not developed. We have so much to learn from our parishioners and their input. Are we willing to include them in parish and financial planning.
  • Ecclesiastical titles can have a confusing and divisive effect.
  • The Apostolic Visitator, Archbishop Collins was written to, asking him to meet a group of A.C.P. members from the Munster dioceses. There is no reply to date. In preparation for this meeting, a survey of priests’ views is being done in Munster dioceses and registered members of the A.C.P. are being invited to participate.
  • Its 25 years since the document, “Partnership in Parish”, was launched by Bishop Murphy, How could this be marked?
  • It was proposed, at the recent meeting in Athlone, that we  have a €20 membership fee. This was accepted.

As at the previous meeting Tim Hazelwood now invited each person, if they wished, to say how they felt the meeting went. Comments were:
“a positive energy and exchange of views”
“there is hope in priesthood and we need more positivity”
“real issues were raised”
“a huge challenge for the A.C.P. to move issues forward”
“think seriously about the questions raised and how to move them forward”
“address the “fear issues” in priesthood”
“good to see the energy here and around the country”
“there is a need for a forum to speak openly and respectfully”
“address one issue at a time”
“positive and open exchange”
Bernard Cotter, in closing the meeting, thanked Liam Hickey for the use of the Meeting room.
After the meeting there was an opportunity for informal chat and the people of Ovens and Liam Hickey provided refreshments.

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