Clogher ACP meeting: Clones, 25 Jan 2012
A meeting of Clogher ACP took place in Clones Co. Monaghan on January 25th 2012. Twenty seven Priests attended, including Bishop Liam, two priests from Armagh Diocese and three priests from the Diocese of Meath. John Waters, well known journalist and writer addressed the meeting as did Fr. Brendan Hoban of the leadership team.
A few notes on John’s talk
From 7am in the morning we are constantly bombarded with radio, TV and internet news, and discussion programmes. Morning Ireland, Pat Kenny, Joe Duffy, Drive Time and then Vincent Brown until 12. During those hours we are being fed with a diet that is contradicting, and competing with our culture of faith. Only that which can be measured, only that which can be weighed, proven or disproven, only that which we can see, only this, can have worth in this counter culture, and each advance in knowledge is now celebrated as the final nail in the coffin of Christianity. In the midst of this culture, believers are constantly challenged as to what they believe anymore. But even, when man first walked on the moon, the greatest achievement of all times, faced with this awe filled experience, what did the astronauts first do but celebrate communion before they walked, so science, knowledge is all important but there is a bigger picture to it all.
The media in Ireland now informs us of what the Church is all about, and it is, in general, hostile towards us, and so called progress has rendered a faith life irrelevant and obsolete, and many are now told that we don’t need that stuff anymore and many are been forced into saying, ‘they say, there is nothing’ ,for faith is now viewed as an illusion, it’s all false, and only exists as a comfort blanket, even believers are now admitting to being terrified that there is nothing. Pope Benedict speaks about this culture and uses the image of the ‘bunker’ to describe it, that place where man’s understanding is limited to himself all of the time, that life of nothingness, an abyss.
Poet Seamus Heaney reflected this cultural attitude when he said that death simply means, ‘extinction’.
But this culture, these attitudes are stealing our hope, these voices and opinions are excluding ‘me’, they are excluding the wonder of the human being, me as the one created by God, they exclude that sense of wonder at my own very existence, they exclude God, that infinite being who affirms us, on whom we are dependent, in whom we hope, who gives meaning to my life. And so believers now need the tools to deconstruct what the radio is saying, the TV, the newspapers, with all their hidden agendas.
Sadly this affects us all by osmosis, and any of us can lose their sense of God, of God’s world, and religion is the understanding of all this. We need therefore to believe again and understand our own very existence and pass that on to our children, and the Church has a vital role in giving hope to society, the Church is not just a moral programme, but it does need to return to its roots and offer believers Jesus Christ, our hope, our Easter hope, for Easter tells us that life has a purpose, a meaning, and so the Church does give us a legacy of hope.
John’s talk was deeply grounded in his life’s experience, and informed by his own journey from child to adult to parent. He acknowledged the part that the Italian ‘Communion and Liberation’ movement played in that journey.
John also expressed a question mark over religious education in Ireland at the present time, both within and outside our Catholic schools.
Fr. Brendan Hoban then addressed the gathering after driving a three and a half hour journey from Mayo. He outlined the history of our beginnings as an association, how we desired a more Vatican 11 Church, and yet how priests now in trouble had begun to dominate much of the Association’s work. There was now a grave concern around the protocol for standing down clergy, and there was a great need for uniformity because of the huge variations that presently exist. He spoke with grave concern about the number of Priests found not guilty, who are still not reinstated into ministry, and the huge injustice that exists here. The leadership team are planning to meet with Ian Elliot of the national board on safeguarding children and the Bishops Conference, to discuss this most important issue.
With regard to those priests who have been stood down, those who have been falsely accused, the association have now 3 Senior Council, 2 Barristers and a number of solicitors who are willing ‘pro bono’ to assist those who are in trouble.
Fr. Brendan also informed the gathering of the forthcoming assembly. He said the last such gathering was at Vatican 11, so much music, so much talk has now been spoken of, and now the dancers must be put on the floor. This is being looked upon as the first step towards calling together a full assembly of the Irish Church.
The association also hopes to carry out a comprehensive survey on the attitudes towards religion in Ireland today.
With regards the new missal, many reservations still exit and a huge variation in practice is in existence throughout the country at this time, a grave concern therefore.
Fr. Brendan also reminded the gathering that membership fees are now due.
With regards membership fees for the year ahead, it is €20. You can either use the Paypal account on the website at www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie or contact Fr. Tony Flannery directly on 087 6814699.
The next gathering of Clogher ACP will be on Wednesday March 28th in Clones, usual arrangements. Nuala O’ Loan will be the guest speaker on the day, former Police Ombudsman in the North and member of the House of Lords and commentator on the Catholic Church.
Once more in the New Year, it’s priests of Clogher’s ACP who are giving the lead and it’s a delight and blessing to see Bishop Liam McDaid athuair ina measc.
Some may view the Clogher group’s approach as somehow ACP-lite, or ACP with a twist of lemon or spoonful of honey. It seems to me that, now that the Association has asserted itself on a number of fronts, what it needs is a sprinkling of ‘Cloghers’ around the country, partly as leaven, partly as all-spice to help the cake rise evenly but with an occasionally unpredictable piquancy. The participation of both John Waters and Brendan Hoban in this meeting only enhances that variety.
And the presence of five priests from Armagh and Meath may say something more about Clogher’s perceived leavening inspiration. So far, to my mind, the dogs that didn’t bark in the night since the launch of the ACP are to be found from Down & Connor and Derry to Ardagh & Clonmacnois, north of Dublin and west of the Shannon. Some Meath priests have been attending Dublin’s Marianella, of course, but where are the meetings of the Primatial See, Dromore, Kilmore or Raphoe – and what happened the Regional Meetings for Armagh Province?
As Brendan wrote back in 2009: “My fear (too) is that as priests we are too old, too tired, too disaffected, too content to free-wheel towards retirement, too ready to say it will do ‘in my time’.” Maybe when they reduce the 26 dioceses to 4 after the next Synod of Rath Breasail (2020), the Northern See should move from Armagh to Clones or Killany or Monaghan. Come in, a Phádraig, your time’s up: Tíghearnach, Eanna, Macartáin are waiting on the bank.
I disagree with the analysis of John Waters as reported from your Clones meeting. I think it is unduly paranoid and pessimistic. It is true that there are “wars and rumours of wars” out there but it is not a bad evil world. God is at the heart of this marvellous universe and SHE/HE invites us all to play our part in the work of creation and salvation. The mafia may regard all media as hostile and inimical to its omerta code. However, we Irish Catholics, are comfortable with an open, democratic Republic and are happy to speak/listen/dialogue in a robust fashion on our way to freedom in the Truth. If it were not for the media and persons such as Mary Raftery-R.I.P., Marie Collins would not be addressing that hopeful conference in Rome today.
John Waters appears to be echoing the official line of the Roman Control Group for the past 30 years – scolding/scalding about an evil, secular, modern world. I think they are excessively pessimistic and are setting up false boogeymen to knock down. It all seems so different from the era of Blessed John23rd and Vatican 2. He encouraged us to be incarnate in the real world. He encouraged us to open the windows, breathe bracing fresh air and proceed to update or to put in modern language/concepts/systems/structures the basic Good News of the Risen Christ which we all cherish. Vatican 2 was a great project – one hundred years late !!. It needed to be promulgated, absorbed and developed. That might have made the Good News accessible and understandable and available to our fellow adult Catholics (most of whom have walked away) and to our children over the past 50 years. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Vatican2 was almost strangled at birth and hidden in the vaults by the Control Group who were part of the minority vote on all the documents. It needs to be rescued as a matter of urgency and this Word of the Church shared with all God’s People as we prepare in open parish assemblies and national assemblies for Vatican3 or Dublin1 in 2020 !!!.
I am deeply grateful to The Association of Catholic Priests for starting the music on this wonderful project and for lighting a candle in the darkness. An intelligent Catholic and an articulate media person such as John Waters will have much to contribute to the Vatican 3 project.
Peace be with you—and also with YOU. !!!
As a Catholic, I subscribe to the Catholic faith that God has revealed Himself as a Trinity of Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Joseph, you say Mr Waters is paranoid yet it is you who refers to the Church authorities in Rome as a control group. To me, that is an Orwellian and paranoid mindset. It is also deeply pessimistic to presume that Vatican II has been sunk irretrievably when it is clear that the Church is struggling to implement the Council in an authentic way, rather than in a revolutionary way which would be sort-of stuck some time around 1965 free love and cheap pot era. I once sat in a room with some potheads and I felt ever so giddy.
I am with Joseph on this.
When John Waters reports that, “Pope Benedict speaks about this culture and uses the image of the ‘bunker’ to describe it, that place where man’s understanding is limited to himself”, it feels like his Holiness is talking about himself and the current Vatican Curia.
The emerging conflict for our church is that it feels like you can either be Christian, or a Roman Catholic, but the two conflict under the current papacy where there is a preference to control and deny the validity of any slight criticism, rather than having Jesus centred faith.