Catholic priests complain of ill treatment by some bishops, archbishops in Ireland

Some bishops force priests out of work, are critical of their appearance, group says

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has thrown down the gauntlet to some Irish bishops and archbishops “who fail to live up to their responsibility as bishops which is to be shepherds to their priests as well as to their people.”

A small number of bishops and archbishops in Ireland needed to be held to account for the way they treat their priests, it said.

In an unprecedented statement on Monday, it said it had been in receipt of “an increase in the number of complaints about the way some bishops are treating some priests.” A small number of bishops and archbishops consistently represented the vast majority of complaints it had received from priests and these bishops and archbishops needed “to be held to account,” it said.

The ACP, it pointed out, was “founded to represent, and if needs be to defend, our fellow priests.”


It emphasised however that “with most bishops there is a respectful engagement with their priests with whatever concerns they have and whatever difficulties they encounter. That we note and accept.”

But some bishops “if they ‘lose a battle’ with a priest, will later vindictively ensure that they will ‘win the war’,” while some men were “being forced out of priesthood, on the basis of a bishop’s decision that it is ‘the ‘best thing’ for them.”

There were priests “whose bishops comment disparagingly on their personal appearance and active ministry and who, as a result, have their confidence undermined and their pastoral effectiveness diminished” and others who felt “unable to stand up for themselves and find themselves in inadequate accommodation and lacking a level of support that other priests in the diocese enjoy.”

Gay priests were "being refused permission to work in parishes while in other dioceses they are treated as equal and valued members of the priesthood." Some priests had "concerns about the demands on their mental or physical health of remaining in full-time priestly work not being allowed to retire until they reach 75."

There were also “priests whose bishops insist on appointing them against their will to parishes, for which, by common consent, they are completely unsuited.”

Some priests who had taken some time out were “then not allowed to resume active ministry. Some have been coerced and bullied into leaving the priesthood against their wishes while others have been forced to make an inappropriate public confession contingent on a continuation in ministry.”

The ACP noted that Pope Francis had said that "human dignity is the same for all human beings: when I trample on the dignity of another, I am trampling on my own."

This abuse of priests by bishops and archbishops is to be discussed at the ACP annual general meeting in Athlone's Radison Blu Hotel on Wednesday, November 10th.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times