Report on latest meeting of Clogher ACP

The 4th gathering of Clogher ACP took place on Wednesday 20th July. Nine priests attended. Eight priests sent their apologies, including Bishop Liam.
Continuing to reflect upon Fr. Mike Drennan’s presentation back in May, there was a recognition that for change to happen, the mindset of priests had to change first, and in particular towards the greater involvement of full time lay workers.
With regards to the personal care of clergy, this issue is recognised as so essential to the overall welfare of clergy. It is also a problematic area in that as priests we live very autonomous lives and we enjoy the benefits which accrue from our autonomy. We live alone for the most part, we are very independent and self sufficient by nature, and many find it difficult to ask for help and support and care when needed, and many find it difficult to be offered it.
We recognise the need for a structure/system whereby genuine listening will enable clergy to off load for example after a traumatic experience, of whereby one becomes ill, or retired, or is no longer in active ministry. There was a recognition that many vulnerable colleagues exist out there. Can an individual priest, or a group of priests be nominated by the Bishop to take responsibility for this? Can a system be set up whereby skilled professionals are made available for those who need them? The great challenge which all of this places before us as clergy has to do with our individual levels of generosity towards our fellow priests. We have the means and the capacity individually and collectively to care for one another.
Many attempts have been made in the past within our Diocese to respond to these issues, a lot of these initiatives had short term or no success, and the follow through simply did not happen. The key to any success seems to be based upon genuine listening, and we need to foster within ourselves, that culture of listening towards each other.
The Pastoral Reflection Groups were mentioned as one successful model of care, only one of these groups now exists within our Diocese, but those who are members of this group experience it as very supportive, a group where they feel listened to, a group where good pastoral practice within their work can be reflected upon. It is also experienced as an educative group where new ideas for ministry are available. Overall, it enhances one’s ministry.
Social outings as a form of fraternal support were also encouraged, days of reflection also, whatever might enhance our self worth in life and in ministry.
Our next discussion centred on the recently published ‘Cloyne Report’. The discussion revolved around two questions.
1. What would I like to share about my response to the publication of the Cloyne Report, and to the discussion that has followed in the public forum and in conversations that I have been part of?
2. Are there any reflections that I now have as a priest of Clogher Diocese, and that I want to offer in this meeting?”
As with all of the reports to date, there was great revulsion felt for all the victims/survivors involved. There was shock expressed at the failure of not following the accepted guidelines and procedures as set down by the National Board. There was great praise for Ian Elliot and the National Board for Safeguarding Children. It was they who raised questions about Cloyne, proof that the policy is working, when implemented.
Many expressed their understandable embarrassment once again, many spoke about the issue at the weekend Masses but not to the same degree as before, there was a sense that there will be more to come, and even though this time around, the sense of reaction may not have been as severe, there was an acknowledgment that we cannot become complacent.
Individuals also expressed their feeling of vulnerability, they had become more cautious of people arriving at their doors, and some were now even recording who visited their homes, being over protective was now accepted as being sensible and acceptable.
There was a very strong feeling expressed about the attack upon the Seal of Confession by a number of Government Ministers. The foundation to this ‘Seal’ was to be found not only in Church Law but also in the Natural Law and is the accepted norm of relationship found between solicitor and client, doctor and patient, psychiatrist and client, all bound by the Hippocratic oath. With regards the Sacrament it was a most sacred seal that remained sacred to our people and the leadership team of the ACP were asked to defend this absolute duty of Priests.
Although there was much disquiet surround the raising of this in the public domain it was also looked upon as an opportunity to offer information on what the seal meant to the Catholic community.
With regards question 2.
2. Are there any reflections that I now have as a priest of Clogher Diocese, and that I want to offer in this meeting?”
There was a great awareness that like all other Dioceses we too have our own story to tell, a story that wasn’t totally in the public domain as yet. With regards this, we asked if there was another way of dealing with it, another way of addressing this in a more pro-active way, rather than reacting to any public revelations. There was also a great awareness of the number of parishioners who maybe victims, and as yet these individuals have not been given a forum or have not been offered an opportunity to tell their story.
A co-ordinating group of 4 and facilitator was set up to continue the work of Clogher ACP.
Information on a Health Check Screening Service from the Mater Private Hospital was circulated, as was information on sabbatical opportunities in The Institute of St. Anselm, Kent.
A collection towards expenses was taken up.
The next meeting has been pencilled in for Wednesday 31st August in Clones, details to follow.

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One Comment

  1. “Individuals also expressed their feeling of vulnerability, they had become more cautious of people arriving at their doors, and some were now even recording who visited their homes, being over protective was now accepted as being sensible and acceptable.”
    Does anyone else sense an aura of 1870s Prussia/1930s Spain about Ireland today?

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