A group representing Irish priests has called for radical measures to be taken by the Catholic bishops to address the current vocations crisis in the Church.
At a meeting in Maynooth with three bishops, representing the Irish Episcopal Conference, the priests called for the ordination of “suitable married men (viri probati)”, for men who left the priesthood to marry, to be invited back and for the ordination of women to the permanent diaconate.
The bishops were asked and agreed to bring the proposals to the Irish Bishops’ Conference with a view to forwarding them to Rome.
The meeting at Maynooth yesterday was attended by Bishop of Raphoe Philip Boyce, Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan and Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown.
Representing the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) at the meeting were Fr Brendan Hoban of Killala diocese, Msgr Dermot Lane of the Dublin archdiocese, Fr Gerry Alwill of Kilmore diocese and Fr Seán McDonagh of the Columban Fathers.
The priests also presented the bishops with the results of a survey of colleagues, conducted between March 31st and April 11th this year, which showed that “64per cent were dissatisfied and 52 per cent were very dissatisfied” with the new missal. They expressed deep unhappiness with the way some Irish priests had been censured by Rome’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was “unjust, offensive and lacking in Gospel values” as well as “a cause of scandal to ordinary people”, they said.
The priests criticised “the current preference for appointing bishops from outside a particular diocese, sometimes from the far end of the country”. It made “a mockery of the process of consultation and flies in the face of doctrine of collegiality as articulated at the Second Vatican Council”, they said.
They also raised with the bishops problems which arose from clustering parishes, which many priests see “as an attempt to load more work on their shoulders at a time when they are getting older and are less able to cope with an extra load”, they said.
Fr Hoban pointed out that there has been a priest in his Killala parish since the 8th century, but that he was likely to be the last. Within 20 years there will be seven priests serving 22 parishes in that diocese, he said.
The Irish Church had at most a decade or two to come to terms with the vocations crisis, the priests said.