A new organisation for priests is to hold its first meeting in Knock, Co Mayo next month. The Irish Confraternity of Catholic Clergy said speakers would include the Bishop of Raphoe, Philip Boyce and Fr Jerome Bertram of the Oxford Oratory. The meeting takes place on March 12th and 13th at the Knock House Hotel.
The confraternity was established at Knock shrine on October 17th last and adopted Our Lady of Knock, St Patrick, St Oliver Plunkett and St John Vianney as its patrons.
As with other such confraternities abroad, members commit themselves “to be completely faithful to the Magisterium of the church, authoritatively set forth by the Holy Father and the Bishops in communion with him”.
They “seek to support one another as brothers in the living out of their vocation within the church” and organise regular meetings and conferences to assist members “in their ongoing formation in a variety of areas, doctrinal, spiritual, pastoral and human”.
According to its website (confraternity.ie) it is “a private, voluntary, and fraternal association of Catholic clerics of the dioceses of Ireland” characterised by “fidelity, fraternity and formation”.
Members aim "to give glory and honour to the Most Blessed Trinity . . ." to "further the holiness of its members, in particular by assisting them to be faithful to the clerical life and ministry . . .", to "foster unity among the clergy and with the Bishops, in loyalty to the pope and his Supreme Magisterium" and "to assist in the ongoing formation of its members, in particular by organising an annual convention, plus other lectures and conferences".
Members must be diocesan priests and deacons, including permanent deacons, while priests in religious congregations, institutes and/or personal prelatures may become associate members.
The confraternity chairman is Fr Gerard Deighan, administrator at Harrington Street parish in Dublin.
He told The Irish Times there were already such confraternities in the US, Australia and England, which acted as "a support group" for priests. They "get together once, twice a year for a meal and to hear an invited speaker".
He did not see the confraternity as an alternative to the Association of Catholic Priests and, though not aware of an overlap in membership between the two, it was “not impossible”, he said.
He was not sure to what extent confraternity members could sign up to statutes/ membership criteria of the Association of Catholic Priests, which “seem very general” on things which were very specific to the the confraternity, he said. He instanced “fidelity to church teaching. There is a perception that some ACP views may not be completely in line with the Magisterium (teaching authority of the church)”.
There was also “an impression that the ACP is a representative organisation, which the confraternity is not,” he said. “We are there to support one another, in a more spiritual way.” Membership had started “at about 25” and was now “probably double that,” made up of “predominantly younger clergy”.