ACP Papal Visit Survey 2018
15 August 2018
An ‘on the spot’ survey conducted by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), in the run-up to the visit of Pope Francis, has revealed huge support for a radical reform of the Irish Catholic Church.
The survey was conducted at four regional meetings held in July, on the ACP website in early August, in parishes and with a number of groups from different parts of Ireland representing priests and people with age-levels from teenagers to elderly.
Participants were asked an open-ended question – What do you want to say to Pope Francis about the Irish Church? –and could give single or multiple responses.
In all 1,396 participants contributed 2,288 submissions.
2088 submissions (or 78% of the respondents) proposed a series of reforms under a number of headings, listed in order of priority.
In first place was an equal role for women in the Church;
second, priesthood and vocations;
third, reforms in Church governance and worship;
fourth, dealing with abuse and its fall-out;
fifth, LGBT issues;
sixth, young people;
and, seventh, bishops and leadership.
(See Supplementary Notes, below, for more detail.)
200 submissions (or 22%of the respondents) proposed a number of other issues that needed to be dealt withincluding Laudate Si’, ‘silenced’ priests, family life, and the need to return to traditional devotions.
Brendan Hoban 086-6065055; Tim Hazelwood 087-1337164
Roy Donovan 087-2225150; Gerry O’Connor 087-2320295.
For verification: Liamy Mac Nally 087-2233220, ACP Admin Secretary
The respondents viewed this issue as the first and most important issue to be dealt with.
“The ordination of women priests must be addressed. Church doesn’t revolve around men. Women are very much capable of carrying out the same jobs. Give them the chance to prove this. The current culture of misogyny needs to be recognised and erased. Most of the women on our Parish Councils are not raging feminists but are looking on at us priests getting older and fewer and feel powerless to change the situation.
Women are still second-class citizens in the Church. Give women proper leadership roles in the Church – not just representative roles. The patriarchal system is overtly at odds with issues such as gender equality at a time in history when women’s rights and leadership are being recognised as central to progress on the global development agenda. The structure of the Church needs to reflect modern society and the female role therein. The inclusion of women in the Catholic Church is the only way in the future to strengthen the church in Ireland.”
2. Priesthood and Vocations
The respondents viewed this issue as central for the survival, including short-term survival, of the Church.
“The Catholic Church in Ireland is going to disappear unless Rome allows priests to marry and lifts the mandatory ban on the ordination of women to priesthood and diaconate. Firstly, married priests and, secondly, women priests. Allow married lay people become priests and allow priests to marry. I don’t know one young person who is showing interest in the priesthood. In my grandchildren’s lives there will be no priests if rules are not changed.
Is compulsory celibacy adding anything to priesthood? Re-admit resigned married priests who would be willing to return to ministry.”
3. Reforms in Church governance and worship
This generated much comment and frustration at Church structures perceived to be out of tune with the lives and concerns of people today.
“There is an urgent need for change to occur very quickly in order to have any sense of hope, moving forward. What Pope Francis is saying about synodality is the only way forward. Leadership will have to come from Catholics in the pews for the Church to be able to speak with authority to the lives people lead today. The Church’s teaching on artificial contraception is ignored by the vast majority of Catholics. Humanae Vitae is an unhelpful and unwanted intrusion into the personal lives of Catholics. The Church needs to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as revealed in the wisdom of the people. Structural change is needed in the governance of the Church to make it more in tune with the way people function in the modern world. There is a rapidly growing gap between Church leaders and the faithful.”
Generally the main comment was that it would be negligent and unacceptable for Pope Francis not to respond to this issue by acknowledging the hurt, pain and damage caused, by apologising on behalf of the Church both for the abuse and the way it was handled.
“The wrongs of the past should never be forgotten. Full disclosures should be made and apologies given. The Mother and Baby homes and adoption in this country should be disclosed fully in a truthful and fully open manner by the Church. Acknowledge the failings of the Catholic Church at all levels, most especially with regard to sexual and physical abuse. Address all people impacted. Make a public statement of acknowledgment and apology. There is a desperate need for Rome to genuinely face up to and acknowledge the horror of the Catholic Church’s blindness to and mismanagement of the perpetrators of sexual abuse.”
There was huge support for this issue to be respectfully addressed, particularly but not exclusively among younger respondents. The Church’s traditional belief that LGBT people were flawed was regarded by respondents as disrespectful and unacceptable.
“Those who are LGBT feel incredibly unwelcome by the Church. They view it as an institution that does not try to connect with them. How does one explain to a young person that the most important commandments are ‘love God and love your neighbour as yourself’ but peoplewho are homosexual, transgender, etc., are judged and are not embraced by its Church community? When will we learn that people who are not heterosexual have done nothing wrong, are not intrinsically disordered and are cherished children of God? I asked a young Catholic gaywoman about her experience of Church. She replied, ‘If the Church is family, why am I less special?”
6. Young people
In general the feeling was that unless this issue is confronted the very future of the Church in Ireland is at risk.
“My children attended Mass regularly until recently when they saw the Boston Globe film on abuse and its management. Young people will not take anything on trust anymore. The language and rituals of worship seem out of date now. Most young people are indifferent to the Pope’s visit as they are indifferent to the Church’s teaching on sexual matters which they feel is unconvincing. What are we doing to provide a form of worship that appeals to the young?”
7. Bishops and leadership
Leadership and vision are lacking at a time when both are badly needed
“We need leaders. Hankering after an outdated model which is neither useful nor relevant is a waste of time. Leaders need to listen to the voices of discord not just to the ‘yes people’. The leadership is playing catch-up. We need leaders who are chosen not because of their perceived orthodoxy but rather because of their leadership qualities. We need leaders of vision and courage and the Church to be a place of love, openness and trust. We need leaders who will look to the gospel rather than to Rome. The huge gap between Church management and the people makes the Church appear lacking in credibility and relevance. The selection process for the appointment of bishops needs to be reviewed.”