Statement issued at end of May gathering

This statement was issued by the ACP at the end of the gathering in the Regency Hotel, Dublin on 7 May, ‘Towards an Assembly of the Irish Catholic Church’
“Over 1000 people, representative of a broad range of opinions in the Catholic Church, gathered today at a meeting called by the Association of Catholic Priests.   The meeting agreed on the need to recapture as a matter of urgency the reforming vision of the Second Vatican Council.
The meeting called for a organised dialogue in the Irish Church, a dialogue that would work towards establishing appropriate structures that would reflect the participation of all the baptised.  This dialogue should take place at parish, diocesan and national levels, and should address all issues facing our people at this time of crisis. We call on all who are concerned with the future of our Church, including our Church leaders, to participate in this dialogue.
Despite all the difficulties, despite the fear, today was a real experience of hope and of the presence of the Spirit among us all.”

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  1. Thank you
    Your voice gives me hope here in England
    To hear you speak out encourages me. I pray for you. Be bold in the Spirit and rid hypocracy and collusion from God’s church.
    Cardinals and bishops and others who have covered up heinous crimes against children must step down.
    As for married priests..We have married priests here – lots of them… all ex-Anglican. They are wonderful ministers and serve their communities humbly and lead them in the ways of the Gospel.
    I have worked with women vicars too… their ministry is completing and equal and welcomed by all who seek Christ
    may you all be blessed and strong.

  2. Christine Lynch says:

    Is your organisation looking to reform the whole Catholic Church or just the Church in Ireland? If relating solely to Ireland, then we will end up with a kind of Anglican Communion, with separation from Rome in which case it may be more expedient for members of the Association of Catholic priests to join the Church of Ireland. Women can then become priests and in time bishops; and priests who wish to marry can do so. This would seem to solve many problems. For those who believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation, an opening could be found among our Orthodox brethren, who permit married priests. Our Lord Jesus Christ said that the “gates of hell will not prevail” against His church, so in time we will trust that God will provide replacement priests – perhaps from the third world? in order the serve the needs of Irish catholics.

  3. Agree with CL, however, I can’t see an opening being made for married priests in the Church unless it’s for similar circumstances to ex-anglican priests who were already married. What I can’t understand is why are you staying in the RC Church? You clearly have deep seated beliefs regarding Christian ministry, beliefs that can only be accommodated in CoI or other non-RC Christian denominations.

  4. Tread very carefully.
    All of your aims are agreed by all reasonable modern people not just Catholics.
    However, if you provoke a dispute with the Vatican two results will ensue. Firstly you will be severely criticised by the nore conservative traditionalists around the World. Secondly by forcing it to justify its position you will further degrade the standing of the Church which has lost much of its support following the paedophile crisis etc.
    I fear you have timed your run too late, many especially younger people can now see no relevance in the Church’s teachings and will be attracted back.
    However should you succeed you may just tempt back cradle Catholics such as me.

  5. John Healy says:

    Point of info regarding the Orthodox @ Christine: The Orthodox permit secular or parish clergy to be married, provided they marry before and not after they are ordained. They may not remarry if widowed. Some of the Eastern Rites of the (Roman) Catholic Church operate a similar approach, but, in common with the Orthodox, do not permit bishops to be married. Bishops are invariably celibate monks.

  6. I believe that you are on the wrong his track with women priests, however, this being said, I do believe that there should be as much room in the Church for women as there is for men. I think that we need a new ministerial position created just for women – “ministers of The Word” in ref. to Mary Magdalene being “Apostle to the Apostles”. So just as the men are ministers of the Eucharist, women would be ministers of the word. I think that this would honor women in a way that would be pleasing to both God and man. Equally, the curia should be composed of both men and women – just the same as Mary was with the Apostles and prayed together waiting for the first Pentecost.

  7. Con Carroll says:

    there is a great prayer, for those of us who think we have all the answers Lord help me to keep my big mouth shut, until I know what I am talking about. another friendly advice for a friend of mine who was following the 12 step programme of AA. Colm who has since died would often say. spirituality for him, was been at AA meeting with people, whom he found difficult to be patience and tollerant with. the aspects of Monday Mornings, session. I got alot from was the person speaking about youth experience the person from we are Churc who is married. the afternoon session was much better.

  8. Christine Casey says:

    I think you have been very brave and have no doubt you are risking the wrath of Rome. The thing is, you are speaking from your hearts as good people and I believe you are right. Indeed the changes discussed will only leave the church healthier. The cover ups have done so much harm and there is certainly a perception that since Cardinal Brady still leads us, the cover ups continue. His apology of yesterday seems opportune and too little too late. He has also yet to apologise to the various other children who were abused directly as a result of his inaction and silencing of the child who was prepared most bravely to speak out. I simply cannot understand how he knowingly turned a blind eye for at least a decade later, knowing the culprit was free to continue. Surely, he must have known it was plain wrong regardless of canon law.Canon law is after all, man made and in this instance effectively used to aid and abet a pedophille. Maybe Saint Patrick should be re-visited.Take care and be strong.

  9. Betty Twomey Groven says:

    You have no idea how grateful I am for your organization!! I am a cradle Catholic, living in Archdiocese of Washington, DC, daughter of two Irish immigrants. I no longer go to Mass, which happened long before I learned of and believe the evil that has been wrought on children and vulnerable people by catholic priests. I am broken hearted to know that all the vicious, evil things that many non- catholics said about priests and Rome is probably all
    true. I am so ashamed of the RCC, and ashamed at how the hierarchy have continued–and still continue–their disrespect of the people of the church.
    I am ashamed at the legions of high priced lawyers the RCC employs to defend itself against the claims of those abused by the members of the clergy. That none of the hierarchy are in jail for their actions and/or inactions, is totally amazing to me. More importantly, very few in the RCC have had the courage to stand up to Rome.
    By the grace of God, the Association of Catholic Priests is an organization that will demand real change. I am so proud of my Irish heritage…Please keep your activities in the public eye; we need the people in the pews–in the USA especially–to know that all priests are not evil, all priests are not remaining silent in face of the need for change in the RCC…
    Thank you and God bless you all…

  10. Thank you. Stand up for what you believe in. From the USA.

  11. Jerry Slevin says:

    BRAVO, my Irish cousins. The Spirit brought all together today, laity, nuns and clerics, the Irish People of God.
    Take it a step at a time. Form an interim committee with the laity and nuns as equals and schedule topical metings just to talk and listen. Let the Spirit blow where She will. Trust God, and all Irish people and just get used to talking aand listening to each other.
    Remember Ottaviani thought Vatican II would be over in weeks. In three years, the reforms were barely begun only to be stymied by Ottaviani and his curial successors, including the present and immediately preceding popes.
    Make the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II a three year celebration of the Irish People of God.
    You saved the Church in the Early Dark Ages; you can do it again in these Late Dark Ages. The Irish people, over 1,000 strong, showed they are with you. What are you waiting for?

  12. Thank you for speaking God’s presence. Here in the UK, we have no such initiative. Please stand up, shout aloud against injustices and stupidities. Be prophets for the God for the people of God.

  13. John M. Glynn says:

    The big question is WHO RUNS THE CHURCH? As we all know the seedling Christian community was started by Jesus of Nazareth when he began collecting together his first small group of disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee – good Jews all! And we can read in the Acts of the Apostles of the seeds for the institutional Church taking root amongst the expanding community of believers.
    There has always been tension between these two dimensions of Church – Community and Institution – neither of which can exist without the other. There needs to be balance between them. The very existence of the Church is threatened when one attempts to completely dominate the other. Over recent decades the pendulum has swung too far to the side of the institution, and is stimulating rebellion on the part of the Worshipping Community. The Community is in danger of fragmenting into many parts, as happened after the Reformation, and the Institution seems threatened with degeneration into some sort of introverted cult.
    Humility is called for on both sides, as well as the acknowledgement that one cannot continue without the other. The Community needs the Institution to keep us all one in faith and in practice, and the Institution needs the Community because it is through the Community that the Institution encounters the evolving world of human society. The Institution justifies its existence by serving the Community of believers, which is the Body of Christ on earth. The governance and management structure of the Institution developed in the times when the norm was rule by kings and emperors. Such forms of government are abhorrent to people in today’s world. Why cannot the Institutional Church adopt a form of governance that is more in tune with what human society has developed over the centuries to bring freedom, growth and prosperity to all of us – in other words democracy?
    I am a priest who has suffered gross injustice at the hands of Church authority. Yet even though I have suffered rejection I will not leave the Church. It is my Church and I will not have it taken from me.

  14. P.J. Flannery in San Francisco says:

    I totally disagree with what you are doing. Where is your willingness to follow the directions of authority now or in the future?
    Roman Catholicism is not Islam where there is no authority figure as such.
    I ask you where is my right to attend a Latin Mass on a weekly basis?
    Why the need for female priests? What ever happened to the disciplined nuns of 40-years ago? Female priests are going to really help me with the absence of traditionally identifiable nuns? — What utter madness does this notion ever amount to?
    Ok, I am a traditionalist, I am not going to apologize for demanding my traditional right to attend a Latin Mass each and every Sunday. You are not representing me in your deliberate avoidance of what I desire from the Catholic Church on the issue of the Latin Mass. — I do not and I will not ever attend Mass in the vernacular.

  15. i, too, say thankyou. i have spent many months feeling a stranger in the church i was brought up in. i devoted my career to bringing young people to experience god’s presence in their lives teaching r e in catholic schools sharing the faith that i love but that i now fear is disappearing as the institutional church under the leadership of pope benedict takes an increasingly backwards direction. it appears that vatican 2 was an embarrassing mistake and not the work of the holy spirit at all, best forget about it and move back to the church that existed before, the secretive, authoritarian one that keeps the laity in their place; on their knees and silent, good enough for cleaning the church not participate in any dialogue. there are many who are struggling with the situation, priests and laity perhaps you could extend the membership beyond ireland to include laity?

  16. Mike Collins says:

    Pride, superbia, is the first and greatest evil and it invariably presents itself in the perverted view of one’s self importance and in the irrational exclusion of others.
    How then did the inclusivity of Christ’s message become lost in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church?
    For me the vanity of the church has caused it to lose direction and the trust and confidence of the general population. Who is the true arbitrator of the administration of the sacrements instituted by Christ for the benefit of all – the self appointed select few?
    To regain that trust the Church needs to immediately address the child abuse scandal and adopt a universal, inclusive attitude to the benefits of church membership and the sacred sacrements. Wherever, exclusion exists within the Church it needs to be challenged. Personally I find it impossible to justify the denial of baptism to anyone seeking it; totally immoral to prevent fellow Christians benefiting from or even participating in the eucharist; and severely short-sighted to exclude experienced, spiritual teachers with a vocation, from Holy Orders, on the grounds of gender or marital status. Where is the Holy Spirit when you need him to accelerate change?

  17. Joe O'Leary says:

    If it is true, as many here seem to be saying, that the (Anglican) Church of Ireland is in better shape than the Irish Roman Catholic Church, perhaps it would be a good idea to join forces with them in a fuller ecumenical fraternity, inviting them to join the debate.

  18. John Healy says:

    How does the meeting’s view of the spirit of Vatican 2 square with this statement from Vatican 2?:
    “The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff. For our Lord placed Simon alone as the rock and the bearer of the keys of the Church, and made him shepherd of the whole flock….(Lumen Gentium § 22)”

  19. valerie warren says:

    The pleasure of participating in the conference yesterday was fourfold. First, there was the sense of belonging, of feeling included in the dialogue – as opposed to being left waiting outside for decisions to be announced after the important people had spoken to each other. Second, for hearing my own experience of struggle to stay connected communicated so passionately through some of the speakers. Third, to witness the faithfulness of so many catholics who care enough about our church to come and listen and to share their own journey and fourth to find so many friends and colleagues among the attendees.
    Surely the Spirit of God will continue to sustain and encourage all whose faith is in the love of God demonstrated in the life of Jesus. That same Spirit will help us to listen with love, not only to those who hold views similar to our own, but perhaps more importantly, to those whose experience of God’s love leads them in another direction. The children’s hymn reminds us that ‘there is room for all in my father’s house’. Thanks so much for giving us this opportunity.

  20. Gene Carr says:

    I note from the reports that a majority of those in attendence were in an older age group–as I am myself. If the Association is serious about inclusivity, then let me add my critical and ‘dissenting’ voice. I grew up in the Pre-Vatican II era, which, as I later was told, was a ‘dark age’ an age in which, apparently, I was ‘repressed’.
    In the 1950s when I set out to explore the Faith I was brought up in, I had occasion to read widely. When I reflect back on that experience I am struck by one very salient fact. The writers and thinkers that I devoured–Catholic thinkers and writers who published their work in the early and mid-20th Century were predominantly laymen and women. It has struck me that the intellectual life of the Catholic world in that time was in fact overwhelmimgly driven by laymen and women. And they were highly orthodox and wrote about the faith in the world. There were historians like Dawson, philosophers like Maritain and Watkins, Thibon, Wust, Guerian, Voegelin, Kuehnelt Leddhin–there is very long list.
    What struck me about the so-called ‘spirit of Vatican II’, (not necessarily the same as the real meaning) is that it was an enthusism dominated by clerics for clerics. The names that ring out, like those of Kung, Boff and Chardin (there is a long list) were all, or mostly clerics. I has always seemed to me that the period of Catholic history from the late 19th century up to 1960 was a Golden Age of the Laity–the era of Catholic Action, the lay apostolate, and even in politics the immense energy of the Chrisian Democratic movement, which did so much to ressurect Europe from the ashes of destructive securalist ideologies. Even in the arts, there was that unique product of that time, the Catholic novel, written by brilliant novelists. Now? Need I ask?
    For all these reasons I see the spirit represented at this meeting (I do not doubt the sincerity) as a part of the problem not the solution. It is precisely that ‘spirit’ that deflected the work of reform and renewal and turned Vatcan II into a catastrophe, from which John Paul II and Benedict XVI has striven to rescue the whole Universal Church. No one with eyes to see and ears to hear can view the actual results of Vatican II as other than a failure, and that failure is not due to Rome.
    For these reasons I cannot lend support for these movements like ACP, Voice of the Faihful and We are Church.
    Nor do I believe the myth of the ‘powerful’ Catholic Church. That is a myth entertained only by Greek intellectuals, fifth rate British lecturers, Spanish students and silly Irish novelists, who wish to pose before the world as brave ‘rebels’ and ‘diisidents’. I hold with St Augustine to the hisorical reality that the Papacy has always been poor and helpless and the history of the Church is, with few breaks, a history of setbacks and bitter humiliations. This is not a time to be a deserter posing as a refugee.

  21. Congratulations on your meeting and I hope to see many more. You are putting out a positive message of the spirit of the Church. Long may it continue. The Church (clergy and laity) are coming through a dark night or dark nights of problems. Silencing theologians, priests or laity is surely in this day and age not the way to proceed. Too many of us remember the ridiculous situation that the politicians and some clergy (including laity) put us all in as regards censorship of literature, plays and films. One would think that such censorship would have rung alarm bells in the Vatican as not the appropriate way to move forward in this day and age. The difficulty of being a Catholic in modern Ireland is real. Even attending Mass or paying a 5 minute visit to a church is a challenge. That difficulty is not helped by the management of the Church by Vatican and senior clergy in Ireland. Leadership is so lacking and all too often does not generate a message pertinent to every day living in these economic times. If the laity are challenged within themselves – many of us must surely be aware of the challenges that are presented to the priests of Ireland, within themselves and from external sources. One can only wish them well, pray for them and express in charitable terms one’s views to them.

  22. This is so sad. The Irish Catholic Church was at one time the strongest of the European churches. If you pursue this and do not yieled, you will have to leave the Catholic Church. Do you not realize the Catholic Church cannot change the Magisterium? I urge you to soften your hearts, realize there is a greater authority (the greatest being the Magisterium) than yourselves, and obey the heiarchy. Please pray. I shall pray for you.

  23. I fully support what is being done here.
    As a woman interested in the sciences and maths, I attend a prestigious engineering school because of my gift. However, I have had many negative experiences because of a mental discrepancy with gender. The same issue is happening within the RCC, and to me, it seems to be stemming from a discomfort with the gender similarities, as well as the differences, both sexually and mentally.
    It’s like we are taught that we need to focus on the differences and absorb ourselves in the negativity of the other, instead of appreciating the person for the gifts they were given regardless of their sexual organs. This is apparent from the roles we are taught to perform in the RCC. There is a huge disequilibrium in the structure of the church, but we need all sorts of people to make the world (and the church) go round.
    Please extend what you are doing to the world. As a young, fallen away Catholic, I would 100% come back if I knew that the church was open to creating a healthy balance of life within itself.

  24. John Healy says:

    Not since 1857, when the “Skibbereen Eagle”, became famous for declaring that it was “keeping an eye on the Czar of Russia” over his expansionist designs on China, has an Irish group of such small size believed that it could change an institution of vast size, and in this case one of far greater antiquity and resilience. Unlike the Czars of Russia, Popes are fundamentally constrained by Tradition, expressed through the constant teaching of the Church on fundamental matters – the creeds, the sacraments, the nature of priesthood and of marriage. This Pope has pointed out that he is not an absolute monarch who can create doctrines on a whim. No Pope can act outside of Tradition and change these, even in the unlikely event that one wanted to, for he would be acting Ultra Vires. These are defined teachings and Rome has spoken. When the media hype has been exhausted, the impact of the current campaign – including the one in Austria – to subvert these teachings will have been no more significant than the keen-eyed observation of the “Skibbereen Eagle”.

  25. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Manny, did you actually write: “Realize there is a greater authority (the greatest being the Magisterium) than yourselves . . .”? Holy God Almighty !!! Come to think of it, that’s who I had in mind. All things considered, I think S/he may have a slight edge over the magisterium and our hierarchy.

  26. Clare McGoldrick says:

    @John M.Glynn. You write ‘I am a priest… It is my Church and I will not have it taken from me.’
    Please can you not see this is utter clericalism and very destructive of the unity of the Church. Just because you are a priest, the Church does not belong to you.
    THe Church belongs to Christ. As an ordained minister you are called to serve the people, not to establish your own version of the Catholic Church, which presumably those you would lead in your priestly ministry have to accept, whether they like it or not. Or do we all get to have our own church? THat sounds very lonely to me.

  27. It’s interesting how people who would never subject themselves to the whims of a political leader by living under a dictatorship or monarchy, are perfectly willing to let themselves be subject to the whims of a spiritual leader who does not answer or listen to them.
    The Pope is only answerable to God? The same claim was made about the British monarch.
    When God appears in front of me and says “Do whatever the Pope says to do.”, then I”ll start doing just that. But, until then, the claim that the Pope is the ultimate authority is something that was made up, centuries ago, by a group of men who wanted to be able to control others.
    In going down this road, Benedict and his helpers are only hastening the church’s disintegration. He may get his purer church, but it will definitely be a lot smaller and less influential than before.

  28. Congratulations on such a successful conference and for the courage in the face of such adversity. I am a priest in the UK working within a large organisation the Catholic and other-Christian membership of which lives and operates on the periphery of institutional Church. And yet, they are so receptive to the Gospel message and eager to find appropriate ways to explore their faith. They ask me often if I will be returning to Ireland to resume parish ministry; I am afraid to say that at this moment in time I have become so dissillusioned with my Church, both in its local leadership and its Roman leadership, that in conscience I will more than likely retire from active ministry. I never ever envisaged that I would say that as a priest. You however are giving me a renewed sense of hope and it is my prayer that the work you have begun will indeed be brought to a fulfillment for the greater glory of God and for the benefit of the People of God.

  29. It’s interesting to see people express views much different from my own, often describing how the weight of history is with the institution. But I believe John XXIII opened up the way to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for renewal – which did not mean creating something untoward, but doing things in the way believers did them in New Testament times. Take heart from the growth of the American Catholic Council, which held its first conference in June last year.The local archbishop forbad clerics and seminarians from attending, but 100 of them did so. The Detroit conference came about after years of prayers and planning by small groups who gave consideration to what kind of church governance would be suitable in these days – one, they concluded, that responded to the vision of Vatican II.

  30. I am in the UK, and we have set up a Facebook page to support the Association of Catholic Priests, Ireland. Numbers of people joining is rapidly rising.

  31. Peter Wilton says:

    Popes may say they are constrained by Tradition, but what is now regarded as as Tradition may arise from half a sentence in a single page of an ancient document, whereas an ancient and widespread practice no longer convenient to the modern curial mind may be dismissed as a mere aberration. Rites of union for two people of the same sex may be a case in point.

  32. Anne McElheron says:

    So glad to hear a positive and hopeful statement from the conference. Please continue to give leadership to those of us Catholics who want renewal in the spirit of Vatican II. Conratulations on your courage – I know the Holy Spirit is with you.

  33. Thanks, John Healy for quoting the actual, true spirit of Vatican II, which has been so much ignored. I often hear speculation that having a married priesthood would eliminate clerical paedophilia. Well, not so, because the majority of this abuse is committed by married people, including married clergy. Abuse by clergy is a tiny proportion of a larger and growing problem in the whole world today. Jesus promised His Church the guidance of the Holy Spirit always, always under the Pope’s authority, as in Lumen Gentium document of Vatican II.

  34. Mary, I like your idea of setting up a Facebook page to support the ACP. How might I find your Facebook page? Anna

  35. Joe O'Leary says:

    Child abuse remains a matter that involves very few priests, and is far from being a major argument against mandatory clerical celibacy. There are better arguments.

  36. I was raised in Ireland as a Catholic. I emigrated to the U.S. nearly 30 years ago and practiced my faith in this country. However, after all these years, I’ve come to the end of my patience with the Catholic Church. The paedophile scandal, the increasingly right-wing tone of the Church, and the abandonment of Vatican II all have brought me to conclude that it’s not for me any more. The Church has moved very far from what I used to know. Doctrine and dogma have replaced the hope of a better future. I’m looking into joining the Episcopal Church in the U.S. (which is the Anglican community here).

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