New lay association set up to give voice to frustrated Catholics
The issue of women priests and an overbearing hierachy raised at meeting
Association of Catholics in Ireland steering group member Jacqueline Nelson (right) and Soline Humbert light candles at the association’s launch in a Dublin hotel on Saturday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
A lay Catholic organisation that wants ordinary parishioners to have a greater role in the church was launched at the weekend.
About 150 people attended the launch of the Association of Catholics in Ireland at the Clarion Hotel in Lucan on Saturday. The group has been a year in gestation and arose out of a belief by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) there should be a similar lay organisation.
Founder member Noel McCann said the association was sending out a message that the “laity are not there just to do the collections on Sundays”.
He acknowledged that the presence of a small number of young people at the meeting mirrored the crisis in the church in Ireland.
“If the laity don’t step up and be counted, you’d have to fear for the future,” he said.
“We’ve lost one generation and we may be about to lose another. A lot of the young people attending the Church at the moment are very right wing and conservative. They wouldn’t be attracted by what we are doing.”
Mr McCann said they also wanted to provide an alternative to Catholic Comment, a separate lay group set up to speak for the Catholic faith in the media.
“Very often you hear one version and it is very much accepted as the voice of the people, but there is another voice. They would have a very orthodox and traditional viewpoint by comparison with what we are proposing.”
Those present were asked to submit items for discussion, prompting a wide-ranging debate. One woman invoked the model of the early Church where there was no hierarchy and all were equal in seeking God.
The issue of how the church can speak out on social justice at a time of high emigration and despair was also raised.
Redemptorist priest Fr Stan Mellett was applauded when he said: “Is Jesus about justice or about worship?”
The role of women in the church was also raised by several speakers as were ideas on how to stop young people drifting away from the sacraments.
The issue of abortion was not raised as a subject for discussion, and Mr McCann said he was glad this was the case as it would “divert us from the main business of the day”, which was the role of the laity in the church.