Some points of Clarification regarding the ACP

One of the disadvantages of media coverage of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) is that it is inevitable – and this is not a knee-jerk criticism of the media – that the message we seek to communicate is pushed through the sieve of personal predilection and commercial need. Sometimes unintentionally our position can be compromised when what is peripheral is presented centre stage with a spotlight placed upon it. It is clear too, of course, that those who oppose us can use the ensuing confusion to sow seeds of doubt about our platform and our intentions. One of the advantages of a web-site like ours is that it is possible to communicate ideas clearly.
So allow me to clarify a few points.
(i) Church teaching
The ACP does not seek to overturn the defined teaching of the Catholic Church. Confusion between what the teaching of the Church is and what some present as the teaching of the Church has led to unwarranted assumptions. Confusion between the teaching of the Church and Church governance has resulted in some people suggesting that we do not accept fundamental Church teaching. Like all true Catholics, we know and fully accept the Creed.
(ii) Debate
The ACP wants to have a conversation about the realities of Irish Church life today and about issues we believe the Irish Church urgently needs to discuss. We believe closing down debate and dialogue is a recipe for disaster at both public and pastoral levels. Opening up a conversation not only makes great sense but has a theological basis in the rights and obligations of the baptised and an equally strong basis in church law and, we believe, will produce a pastoral dividend. For example,  Canon 212, §3.” According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they (the Christian faithful) have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.” We believe that this desire for a conversation about the future of our Church and the issues we need to face should be welcomed as an indication of our concern, our commitment and especially our faith. At a time when our Church has lost so much credibility in so many areas, we need the pastoral and intellectual credibility of a robust debate in the Irish Church and the much-needed confidence that will bring. The members of the ACP, and indeed those who gathered at the Regency Hotel on May 7th, lay, religious and clergy, have given great service to the Church for many years.  And living the Christian life has taught us a great deal. Surely it is important that we be allowed to share what wisdom we have gained.  That is a threat to no one. Indeed the recent 1000-plus assembly of Catholic people, Religious and priests in the Regency Hotel in Dublin on May 7 presents an opportunity our Church must not miss.
(iii) Communion
The Apostolic Visitors expressed some concerns about what they call the ‘communio’ of the Church;  and some senior people in the Irish Church have also expressed the same concern to us.  (By ‘communio’ they mean communion or unity.) The ACP is no threat to the unity of the Church. Let me make it absolutely clear what the position of the ACP is in this regard. We cherish and we value and we wish to further the unity of all our people, with our fellow clergy, with Religious, with our bishops and with the Successor of Peter. It has to be said that there are different views about how Communion can be achieved and the kind of attitudes that confirm it or that damage it, but the ACP is not trying to start a movement away from the definitive Communion that is at the heart of our Church. To do so would contradict our theology of the Church, the law of the Church and common-sense. Our platform is firmly rooted in the Gospel, respectful of all God’s faithful and grounded in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, teachings that were promulgated by the pope and the bishops of the world nearly fifty years ago.
(iv) Conclusion
So, in conclusion, let me state a few things very clearly:
We in the ACP are not against Church teaching; we cherish and value it.
We are not damaging unity; we are working for it.
We believe that our experience is valuable, and should be listened to. We have a right and a duty to discuss the problems facing the Church.
Silencing us will not make the issues go away; it will only create more unhappiness, and damage the unity of the Church.
Please don’t threaten us that if we do not keep silent we will lose our jobs, or home and our priesthood.  After all our years of service we deserve better than that.
Freedom of conscience is a fundamental Christian teaching; it is not a strange or frightening concept.
The word ‘dissident’ does not describe us. We are at the heart of our Church, and that is where we wish to stay.
We know that our Church is in deep crisis.
We all need to talk to each other. We all need to listen to each other. That’s not just our right as baptised Catholics. It is of crucial importance for the future of the Church.
So, please, work with us; talk with us;  pray with us. All of us together make up the Church of Christ.

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  1. Kevin Walters says:

    With reference to my post number 20 the emphasis (Your spirit) had gone this week at Sunday mass to a gentler (your spirit) but the implication remains.
    In Christ

  2. Thank you for clarifying your position, clearly your position on contraception and the like has been misrepresented. As since you have no wish to overturn the defined teaching of the Church it stands to reason that you accept both Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae and in a slightly different vein Ordinatio Sacerdotalis as expounding the ordinary and infallible magisterium of the Church. It does the Heart of this young Irish Catholic good to hear that it was simply confusion in the media and the like which made me think otherwise.

  3. Adam Peter Conroy says:

    As a young Catholic, I believe the ACP is doing more harm than good to the Irish Church. I also believe it is not actually representative of the new generation of Catholics who are passionate about the true teaching of the Church and understand the significance of documents such as Humanae Vitae and Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. These teachings have, at their essence, a call to totally respect the sexuality of the human person. Ultimately it can be dumbed down as – “love your neighbour as yourself.”
    There is a real need for the preaching of these teachings in modern society – any Catholic who believes otherwise is living in a dream world.

  4. Gene Carr says:

    Margaret Lee
    I did not want to reference the source of my quotation as I am adverse to singling out people by name, as I am to the practice of anonymous ‘delation’. I used it to make the general point that rejection of Church teaching is often obscured in clever word play and what the French philopher Maritain called “incurable ambivalence”. In this respect the Creed itself is spelt out in unambiguous terms and the Fathers of Nicea were determined that the Arians could not escape the chizzled and unambiguous language used. On Humanae Vitae, I was not making any point in favour or against it, but asking whether Fr Hoban and the ACP accepted it as ‘definite’ Church teaching, or not , as compared with historic Papal definitions like the Assumption (Pius XII 1950) or the Immaculate Conception (Pius IX).
    Like most Catholics my attitude to Humanae Vitae is a conflicted one and the case for it and agianst it are another day’s discussion.

  5. Bad leadership can undermine faith and confidence in an institution in the religious as in the political sphere.
    Humanae Vitae did it for me, lock, stock and barrel.

  6. Joe O'Leary says:

    “if faith was had, it was lost when people decided to contracept. In rejecting part of the faith and morals, one has lost the faith”
    “many people opted to make their own decision but, (and this is my personal belief) they had a nagging doubt that they were not quite “good enough” Catholics and thus lost the full confidence to pass on the faith to their children”
    It could be that Humanae Vitae was the axe laid at the root of Irish faith. Since that faith was so bound to formulas and blind acceptance, it did not survive the axe blow. (Paul VI already gave good pastoral advice on how to prevent his encyclical being a faith-undermining matter.)
    But I think a more important source of lack of faith is unprepared sermons, lack of biblical study by priests, and shoddy routinized liturgies.

  7. Annette Murphy says:

    The NFP can be used to space births if there is good reason to do so, and one should consult one’s confessor before embarking on such a course of action so that the true motives can be discovered.
    It seems to me that if faith was had, it was lost when people decided to contracept. In rejecting part of the faith and morals, one has lost the faith. It really is impossible to teach purity to the children if the person is not chaste in their own life. That would mean following the teachings of Jesus as espoused by the Catholic Church. I think in deciding to contracept, couples also stopped going to confession but continued to receive Holy Communion. Thus the sense of sin has been lost and now almost everybody goes to HC while hardly anyone bothers with confession, although to be fair, a substantial number of people do still go – if one visits Knock or other places, once can see many people availing of the sacrament.

  8. Joseph Ryan says:

    This piece clarifies so much in such a concise way and is both inspired and inspiring by the Holy Spirit…well done Brendan

  9. Gene,
    Can you please enlighten me. Who exactly said that the “apostles had a faith experience that Jesus rose from the dead”. I believe that ambivalence is part of our flawed human condition, I am never too sure about absolutes. As regards Humanae vitae, I believe that it has done untold damage to our church. When I look back at 1968 I think that people (especially women) wanted to have fewer children and yet wanted to have a loving sexual relationship with their spouses. At that time, many people opted to make their own decision but, (and this is my personal belief) they had a nagging doubt that they were not quite “good enough” Catholics and thus lost the full confidence to pass on the faith to their children and, so, a generation has been lost to the riches of the Catholic faith.

  10. Kevin Walters says:

    Your quote:
    “I can believe the expression ‘on the third day He rose from the dead’, but what am I to make of words such as ‘on the third day the disciples had a “faith experience” that Jesus rose from the dead’. On cannot actually put a finger on any actual denial but instead there is a kind of incorrigable ambivalence around some basics of the Faith.”
    For myself it is similar to Peace/God be with you. “And with your spirit” just does not seem right. The emphasis on (YOUR spirit) seems to denote possession of God. God’s Spirit cannot be possessed (His Spirit can possess us and his Will revealed through us) only worshipped in spirit and truth. The spirit of man responds to God. God cannot worship himself.
    “Thou shall worship the lord thy God and no other shall thou serve “
    Man was made for God not God for man.
    Whereas “with you” (the whole person) denotes closeness with God.
    Perhaps someone could enlighten me on this.
    In Christ

  11. Dear Fr. Brendan,
    Your statement is clear, concise, sincere, and invitational rather than confrontational. Thank you for the clarification. This is a great service to the enterprise of dialogue so dear to the Fathers of Vatican Council II fifty years ago. It is more about opening pathways of communication than about nailing down every issue with absolute pronouncements. It is more about embracing the world in which we live than shutting it out. It is more about raising the proper questions than about exacting answers that admit of no discussion.
    The gospel says that we are not to be afraid to speak. Speaking up should not immediately be interpreted as dissent and disloyalty. One can speak up out of love and concern for the unity and good of the entire Catholic Community as well. Both your concern and love are evident in your very eloquent statement.
    As the chair of the Association of United States Catholic Priests, I and all our members can benefit and learn from your leadership.
    Fr. David Cooper AUSCP

  12. Sean O'Driscoll says:

    Excellent clarity Brendan, showing true leadership, well done. Who could possibly have any quibble with that? The people of God as a whole prompted by the Spirit to dialogue – that is the church alive. I only wish the bishops/Vatican and others in leadership in the church would come to realise that the ACP and the lay supporters seen at the Regency meeting are no threat, but the best hope we have for reviving a dying church. We either work together or just let it die.

  13. Gene Carr says:

    As a more ‘conservative’ (alas for the label) member of the faithful may I express the reasons for my scepticism. Take Church teaching and ‘acceptance of the creed’. I can believe the expression ‘on the third day He rose from the dead’, but what am I to make of words such as ‘on the third day the deciples had a “faith experience” that Jesus rose from the dead’. On cannot actually put a finger on any actual denial but instead there is a kind of incorrigable ambivalence around some basics of the Faith. As regards ‘defined teachings’ does that expression only include definite Councilor or Papal definitions, but exclude such teaching a Humanae Vitae or teaching on the nature of the sacramental priesthood? Is there a valid difference between ‘freedom of conscience’ and ‘primacy of conscience’.
    As regards open and free debate, while one regrets the actions of ecclesiastical authority in ‘silencing’ individuals, we need to be aware also that there are other more subtle forms of suppressing debate. What, after all was the entire New Left phenonomen of Political Correctness, but another brutal way of silencing opponents. Is the “Unholy Liberal Inquisition” any less brutal than the original institution?

  14. Thank you Fr Brendan. Our Church is in serious trouble. If our Hireachy have the same interest as the members of the ACP, then they should immediatly commence dialogue. After all, we all have a duty to spread God’s work on earth. Dialogue, dialogue, dialoge, is the only way forward.

  15. John Collins says:

    Thank You Brendan for your clear direction. May the Spirit of Unity Tolerance and Understanding continue to be evident in the springtime of John xxiii

  16. Noel McCann says:

    Brendan, thank you for raising “the rights and obligations of the baptised” and for highlighting Canon 212 and the “right” and the “duty” of the Christian Faithful to manifest “their opinions” and “to make their opinions known to the rest of the Christian Faithful”. If ever there was a time for the lay faithful to take these responsibilities seriously surely this is the moment. There are so many committed women and men who, while faithful to our Church, are only just ‘hanging in by their finger nails’. These are people who have so much more to offer but they are not being afforded the opportunity to put their talents and commitment at the service of our Church. As announced at the ‘Assembly’ on the 7th May a number of ‘lay faithful’ have decided that we must now take on the “duty” and exercise the “right” expressed in Canon 212. We are, therefore, offering an opportunity to all to support the formation of an ‘umbrella organisation’ for lay women and men interested in reform and renewal in our Church. A meeting to discuss this proposal will be held on Wednesday 30th May at 8.00 pm in All Hallows College. All are welcome – whether you are already a member of a group or organisation (lay or religious) or a ‘non alligned’ individual member of our Church searching for a way forward with ‘like minded’ people.

  17. Jerry Slevin says:

    Thank you, Brendan. Irish eyes may yet be smiling again if you and your colleagues work closely together, looking forward not back. Please include the many eager and talented Irish lay and religious persons who will once again make Ireland the shining light that saves the Church from its current Dark Ages.
    We Yanks are watching closely and are with you in heart and soul. Thanks to all at the ACP for their fortitude in perservering so well.

  18. mike o sullivan says:

    An excellent piece: reasoned and full of genuine passion, obviously inspired by The Spirit.

  19. Josephine Fullerton says:

    I was really encouraged when I read this article.I am encouraged that the setting up of the ACP is a positive step forward by the ‘good priests and faithful’ within my church to rescue it from the dictator style management which pervades the upper levels of leadership(maybe all levels of leadership)within the church.
    The church must not remain frozen in time but rather it must listen and engage with its members and be open to exploring life experiences as they unfold and adapt with the passage of time.
    I watched with interest the segment on last night’s Midweek programme on TV3 and was filled with hope as I listened to the three participants encourage debate and discussion and consultation on the issues facing the church.

  20. Adrian Egan, C.Ss.R. says:

    Excellent Brendan. Very clear and helpful. Thank you.

  21. Therese Tynan says:

    Thank you for your clear, explicit and reasoned explanation for the existence of the Assembly Brendan. It does indeed feel guided by the Holy Spirit and timely. May it promote dialogue and reasoned argument.

  22. L David Taylor says:

    Your clarification of your group has made me even more interested in your thoughts both as a group as well as individuals.
    Open communication can only be helpful and heaven knows we need help.
    Dr. McHugh’s comments about Bishops being talked to rather than listened to stuck another cord in my thoughts that I agree with. Had Rome listened years ago we would not have had such horrendous abuse of our future–our children.
    Thank you

  23. Philip McGovern says:

    Amen to that! What a thoughtful respectful expose! I know this was written as a point of clarity, but it could be used as a manifesto of sorts for the association. Thank you for enlightening me too. It is now time for bishops in Ireland to become part of the conversation.

  24. Well done Brendan
    This is an excellent piece and shows the reality of the situation. We live in a wonderful Catholic Church that needs to encourage thought and debate.We cannot live in this climate of fear. It is a pity that you do not represent the SSPX-you defiance of Church teaching would be rewarded by an invitation to tea at the Vatican. Keep up your excellent work: you give us, fellow pilgrims a sense of real hope. Thank you.

  25. Thank you, Brendan, for such an articulate, and graciously eirenic, statement of the purpose and hope of ACP.
    Wilfrid Harrington, O.P.

  26. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh says:

    “We all need to talk to each other. We all need to listen to each other. That’s not just our right as baptised Catholics. It is of crucial importance for the future of the Church.”
    The above points of clarification, of the Association of Catholic Priests, encourage me. I believe the ACP is being guided by the Holy Spirit, for the good of our church, and for the greater glory of God.
    When did dialogue get replaced by dictates and mandates from Rome?
    As the years have gone by, as an American Catholic physician and daughter of deeply religious immigrant parents from County Mayo, Ireland, I have wondered to myself “Where is the lived experience of Jesus in the Roman Catholic Church?” I do not see it in the pomp of the Vatican.
    From my observation, even the bishops seem to be TALKED TO, rather than LISTENED TO, when they go to Rome on their scheduled visits. The Pope and Curia have their life experience, and each of us have our life experience. The church will be stronger, if there is dialogue among all of the faithful.
    I am so grateful to the priests of the ACP, for having the courage and perseverance to create a climate of dialogue, where lay and ordained(including the hierarchy), women and men, married and single, are welcomed to share their voices and life experiences for the healthy growth of the kingdom of God, as we strive to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Thankyou to the ACP!
    Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois, USA

  27. Joe O'Leary says:

    Yes, it’s time for “all hands on deck”. The 25 percent of Irish Priests and the 1000 plus of laity who have shown interest in dealing responsibly with the crisis should be cherished not sneered at. The bishops and the Vatican should be delighted to see such constructive action, since the alternative is a void of indifference and drift toward extinction.

  28. Cyril North says:

    Very well said. No reasonable person can disagree with this. Keep up the good work.

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