Meeting hears calls for dialogue at all levels in Irish church


MORE THAN 1,000 Catholic laity, priests and nuns called for dialogue in the Irish church at a day-long conference in Dublin yesterday.

Titled “Toward an Assembly of the Catholic Church”, the conference agreed such dialogue should “work towards establishing appropriate structures that would reflect the participation of all the baptised”.

It “should take place at parish, diocesan and national levels” and “address all issues facing our people at this time of crisis”.

The conference agreed on the need to recapture “as a matter of urgency” the reforming vision of the Second Vatican Council and called on all who were “concerned with the future of our church, including our church leaders, to participate in this dialogue.”

The event was organised by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in Ireland. All Ireland’s Catholic bishops were invited but none attended. Fr Brendan Hoban, of the association’s leadership team, said he received messages from a few bishops and Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown wishing them well.

He spoke of the need to provide structures for a national assembly of the church in Ireland and hoped yesterday’s meeting would be the starting point for such an event.

Brendan Butler of the We Are Church group called “for a new form of church with inclusiveness as its hallmark”. It would be one where there was “no room for silencing each other”.

Joe Mulvanney said that in his own parish of Dundrum in Dublin which has 4,000 people “on the rolls” just 800 attend Mass every Sunday.

“The biggest number we have has walked away,” he said. As soon as the “wonderful” Vatican II was over “and all its 16 documents . . . ” it was “taken back from us”, he said.

Emer Dolphin, a part-time secretary in her local church, said neither her husband nor three sons attend Mass anymore. Her husband stopped going because it took the Vatican six months to respond to the first abuse report. One of her sons did not go to Mass because of the abuse issue also, while another no longer believed in God and the third found Mass “too boring”.

Self-described “Celtic Tiger cub” Gary Keogh felt it was “difficult to envisage how the church could reconcile itself with the Irish people on issues such as celibacy and the role of women without major reform”.

Phil Dunne stopped attending Mass the first Sunday after she received a diagnosis that she had cancer 10 years ago.

“I could no longer bear the ever-present question, ‘am I colluding in my own oppression’?” She had moved away from an institution “which paid lip service to women while many of its provisions are contrary to human rights”.

Pádraig Ó Céidigh, who chaired the afternoon session, said he was “absolutely shocked and surprised to see over 1,000 people here today”. It showed “a real passion for change”.

Fr Adrian Egan, rector of the Redemptorist community in Limerick, was greeted with prolonged applause when he spoke of his sense of privilege in having colleagues such as Fr Tony Flannery and Fr Gerard Moloney, recently censured by Rome. He said they also censured Fr Seán Fagan, who taught him, had “inspired us and made moral theology come alive”, while the censured Fr Owen O’Sullivan had written “beautifully and compassionately and spoke in truth ” about homosexuality in the Furrow magazine.