Report on ACP Meeting, 09 September 2015

On Wednesday, September 9th a meeting of the leadership team of the Association of Catholic Priests took place in the Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone. Present were: Sean McDonagh, Seamus Ahearne, Gerry Alwill and Brendan Hoban. (Gerry O’Connor was unavoidably absent).
A representative group of other members were also invited to the meeting, to assist the leadership in reflecting on a number of issues that they considered to be important at this stage in the life of the Association. Those present in this capacity were: Gerry O Hanlon, Pat Donnellan, Tim Hazelwood, John Hughes, Sean McNulty, Kevin Hegarty, Bobby Gilmore, Dermot Lane, Tony Flannery, Denis Crosby. (John Hassett was unavoidably absent).
The meeting was chaired by Martin Kennedy.
The following is the report of the meeting:
We explored three questions: Is there or not a compelling reason for the ACP to remain in existence? If yes, what structures would best enable the ACP function for that purpose? What should happen next?
Is there a compelling reason for the ACP to remain in existence?
The feedback on this was strongly positive. Appreciation was expressed for the quality and quantity of the work done by the founding leadership in two areas in particular. Firstly in positioning the ACP as a voice for church reform and development. The ACP has won recognition as an alternative voice to the official church leadership and it has created a platform for real debate on reform issues. Secondly in taking on the role as defender of priests being treated unjustly by the official church leadership or by others. In both these matters the ACP has provided a needed service very effectively, and the need is not going away. While the emergence of Pope Francis has created a positive and supportive context for the ACP in the wider church, the situation in Ireland is such that the ACP will not just need to continue with its work, but develop it further.
The meeting suggested that the ACP develop its work beyond being a voice of reform, to becoming an agent of reform and to modelling the kind of church it seeks to bring about, especially in its relationship and work with laity. A concern was expressed that in its current format the ACP is maintaining a clericalist mind set. It was also recognised that having a Pope who shares much of the vision of the ACP challenges the ACP to move beyond its ‘voice in the wilderness role’ to the more complex process work of bridge building across the church. The meeting also suggested that the ACP expand its role as advocate for priests beyond the minority who have been subjected to unjust procedures. There is also the question of the working and living conditions of the majority of priests who are ageing and becoming fragile and vulnerable, while being expected to carry increasing workloads.
What structures could enable the ACP to develop its role?
It was recognised that the proposal to expand the work of the ACP presents very practical problems given that there is a dearth of people coming forward to take on leadership and responsibility for the ACP agenda. A core recommendation here was that the ACP should seek to identify a paid staff person to carry the day-to- day work of the organisation, and to drive its agenda forward with accountability to a leadership team and a wider advisory group. While the ACP does not now have the financial resources to support such a role it should seek sponsorship. Having a lay person and perhaps a lay woman in that role would offer positive modelling.
It was felt that such a development would make the leadership role less demanding and intimidating. Here is was also recognised that the very success and commitment of the founding leadership may be a factor in impeding the emergence of a new leadership. Many would be intimidated at the prospect of walking in their shoes. It was recommended that a ‘job description’ be developed for potential leaders, clarifying expectations and level of commitment required for the role. It was also recommended that an advisory group be established as a further support to the leadership group.
Where next?
The basic recommendation was as follows. The leadership group should endeavour again to canvas for new leaders in advance of the next AGM. At the same time groundwork should be done on developing a paid staff position, and leadership job description. The group present expressed their willingness to function as an advisory support group to the incoming leadership.

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  1. Prodigal Son says:

    The most compelling reason for any association of priests to stay in existence is the same as that for any priest to exist. Benedictine spirituality is instructive. Monasticism’s role in shaping culture came not from intending to do so, but in seeking God before all else.
    I visit at least three French parishes every year. I observe some parishes dying, some holding on, some showing signs of renewal and some well into the task of renewal. The indication I use for the latter is the presence at Sunday Mass of increasing numbers of young families whose children seem well catechised.
    The masses in the latter case are characterised by reverence, devotion and form of ritual that focus the assembly on the essence of the different parts of the Mass. Masses take over an hour. Homilies are challenging and assume the faithful are capable of making an effort to take God and Church teaching on board.
    The proportion of Catholics attending Mass is lower than in Ireland. Priests do not seem to be as busy (saying masses)as those in Ireland. Some church’s do well to have Mass once per month. France is further along the line of secularism than is Ireland. The positive outcomes in the parishes I refer to seem to be on foot of the original Benedict option.

  2. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    I guess the most compelling reason for the ACP to stay in existence is because things haven’t changed enough yet. You jump into this battle for human rights to claim victory, not to turn around and say “we gave it a shot at least…”. You’ve got the right papal authority currently, and God bless Benedict, he wasn’t too hard on you all either. This is the right time but I have a feeling that the Irish are a little too neutral on things to give it a good go. Canadians might have the same tendencies. The U.S. never steps down from a fight so it might be high time that the international idea come back into the fold. What is Austria doing these days aside from assisting refugees? There have been a few ideas kicking around these years about gathering strength in numbers and different locations but I’m sure your interconnectivity is being put to the test. The AUSCP hired Deborah Rose-Milavec didn’t they? I wonder how that worked out for them. With your platform, it’s hard to multi-task and with your advancing age, it’s difficult to corner the market you are looking to capitalize on. Pope Francis is relying on the youth to get his message out there and it might be high time that you do the same thing. That is, if you are still trying to broadcast your message into the 4 corners of the world. Your next group of leadership, I’d warn against that change. This is the statement you’ll make to yourselves that you just don’t have enough energy left to carry the torch. You have to think that this ACP needs no leadership and this torch is not one that is carried, it is one that continuously lights a fire in others. One torch lit, a leader is born. That one person who is a member should be doing the exact same thing every other member is doing. Petitioning, polling, making parishioners aware through liturgies and inviting people to active recruitment. Once you become a bureaucracy, the game is over gentlemen. Do you think this business model is going to work? Think outside the pews. Does the LGBTQ community even know of your existence? Are you targeting those people who left the church based on your very platform?

  3. Brendan Cafferty says:

    I was a little taken aback when I saw the opening which asked if there was a compelling reason or not for ACP to continue, but very glad that it has decided to plough on. It may not be easy to sustain something like ACP, but from the outside at least it seems to be doing well.Ye havenot been treated well by Nuncio, Bishops and some colleagues. Question to be asked is ,what would happen if it went away- apart from pleasing certain people in authority. Even your detractors will admit you have a lot of basics right. This was best summed up for me by a priest I was talking to up the country last year. He would not be s supporter of ACP- too much negativity with them he said ( that all embracing put down). But then he added “of course they are right”. As stated in the thread perhaps more emphasis on the welfare of priests needs to be address. I am unfailing in my admiration of the so many good priests who are still coping, getting older and with more work to do, parish amalgamations, clusters etc. I do not know how they keep going-kicking the can down the road seems to come to mind, along with Yeats lines ” things fall apart,the centre cannot hold”- if that is not negative ! As I type this I am going off to the funeral of a friend who died tragically. No doubt the priest(s) will do a great consoling job for the bereaved,with rich liturgy and comfort.Long may it continue

  4. Well done ACP. Sound as a bell as usual. Every blessing on your continuing endeavors. We need you!

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