New Catholic lay group sets out 'reform agenda'


A new Catholic lay organisation agreed a “statement of objectives” at its first general meeting at the weekend, committing it “to the pursuit of a reform and renewal agenda in the Irish Catholic Church based on the letter and the spirit of Vatican II”.

About 350 people attended the meeting of the Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI), which also agreed to set up a website and governance structures, with elections to be held at an agm next year, when there will be a formal launch and a recruitment campaign.

In the interim a steering committee set up in Dublin last May will prepare the organisation’s next steps. It was agreed the ACI would maintain its close relationship with the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).

Its statement of objectives also said the ACI believed “the spirit is present in the voices of all the baptised” and in “the consequent right of all the baptised to have their voices heard in the formation of church teaching and to participate fully in the life of the church, including decision-making” at all levels.

It is committed to working with those who share “a renewed understanding of the primacy of the individual conscience, the full participation of women in every aspect of the church” and who recognise “the wisdom of God’s people in the shaping of Catholic teaching, especially in the areas of sexuality, ecumenism and ecology, and to justice, in accordance with gospel values”.

Reform and renewal

Steering committee member Tom Curran said “while separate, the ACI will be working very closely” with the priests’ association “to try to bring about reform and renewal in the church in Ireland”.

Committee member Noel McCann said their intention was to build a coalition of interested parties across the island. “We are a main stream organisation and won’t allow ourselves be marginalised.”

Patricia Higgins, also on the committee, believed “the church is essential for full life and in the fight for justice” and described the statement of objectives as “a rallying call for change”.

In open discussion, Des Gilroy said he felt such an association was “needed more than ever before” as “the ship is sinking, sinking fast”.

Mary Munnelly said she loved the church and wanted “to make known the God of compassion”.

Rosemary Hogan was “glad to see the word ‘ecology’ among the objectives”, while Gerry O’Hanlon felt the association was “a terrific sign of hope for our church”.

There were calls for an adult development programme in church teaching, and a suggestion for the use of parish newsletters to promote the ACI.

Patrick Boyle from Carrickmacross sprinkled holy water on the attendance and described the ACI as “an abomination” that was spreading “falsehoods and confusion”. He told the steering committee: “You’re outside the church.”

Many interruptions later he was escorted out by hotel staff.

Vox pop: thoughts of attendees

Fr Iggy O’Donovan

“I’m delighted with the setting up of the Association of Catholics in Ireland but I’m not very optimistic as to its future. The Roman Catholic Church at the moment is not fertile territory for new movements or ideas . . .

“If Pope John threw open the windows, his successors would appear to have called in the triple glazers . . . We seem to be living in an era of ecclesiastical McCarthyism . . . In this atmosphere of fear and suspicion, the new lay organisation . . . face an uphill battle.”

Soline Humbert

“Yes it’s a good idea. The church is at a critical moment . There’s a window of opportunity and we have a responsibility to express what the Spirit is saying in our lives as lay people. It is about trying to get a synergy going.”

John Delap

“I’m here because I believe Jesus Christ is a great role model . . . I think in Ireland it’s become obscured what Jesus actually did and how he lived his life . . .

“I think it very important to show that there is a body of people who are Catholic today.”

Margaret Lee

“There really ought to be a discussion about Confirmation as it is now administered. It should be for adults only.”

Dr Paddy Ferry

“I’m really uplifted by last night and today, by the Association of Catholic Priests agm. I am an active lay person in the church and I really feel at home here this weekend.

“I’m really uplifted by all I’ve heard and it has given me hope out of a sense of despair a few years ago. I now have hope for the future of our church."