New lay Catholic association set up to stem “crisis” within the Church

Grievances including the absence of women priests and censorship raised at meeting

Some 150 people turned up this morning to the launch of a new lay organisation for Irish Catholics.

The Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI), a new group for Irish Catholics committed to reform and renewal in the Church, was formally launched today having been in the offing for a year.

The organisation aims to provide a voice for lay Catholics in the same way that the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) does for the clergy.

The idea of it for came from the ACP and from organiser Noel McCann who has spent the last year setting up a steering committee and website.


Mr McCann said there was a realisation among many Catholics that the Church was in crisis and that the pews on Sundays were emptying of young people.

He said lay people had "very good reasons not to be happy" but he was hopeful that Pope Francis could signal a different approach which would involve the laity in the way envisaged by Vatican II.

“We have lost one generation and we will probably lose the next generation if we don’t do something about it,” he said. “What will the Church be like in 20 to 30 years time? If the laity doesn’t stand up and be counted, you’d fear for the future.”

The meeting took place at the Clarion Hotel in Lucan. Submissions were asked for from the floor to be discussed and to be included as priority items for the laity.

Among the issues agreed for discussion was the lack of a voice among the laity within the Church, how the Church could provide a voice for young people being forced to emigrate and the sanctions imposed on clergy who speak out against the Church on certain issues.

Sr Cora Richardson, a former missionary nun who is in favour of women priests, was applauded when she asked the question: “Are women Catholics or not? Are they part of the Church or not?”

Soline Humbert said there was gender apartheid with the Church and that she had a personal sense of vocation towards the priesthood which was not recognised because the Catholic Church does not recognise women priests.

Redemptorist priest Fr Stan Mellett was applauded when he asked the question: "Is Jesus about justice or about worship?"

The issue of abortion was not raised as a subject for discussion. Mr McCann said he was glad the subject was not raised as it would “divert us from the main business of the day” which was the relationship between the Catholic hierarchy and the laity.

Mr McCann said their aim for the future is to establish and organise ACI groups in local parishes and regions to promote its objectives.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times