Statement outlines aim of priests' association


SOME OF Ireland’s best-known priests have put their names to a “first statement” paving the way for a proposed new Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).

It outlines the association’s aims and will be discussed at a meeting in Portlaoise on September 15th next to which all Irish priests are invited.

Among the 72 diocesan and religious congregation priest-signatories to the statement are: Harry Bohan; Brian Darcy; Donal Dorr; John Feighery; Tony Flannery; Bobby Gilmore; James Good; Seán Healy; Kevin Hegarty; Alan Hilliard; Brendan Hoban; Colm Kilcoyne; Dermot Lane; Liam Lawton; Brian Lennon; Enda McDonagh; Seán McDonagh, Peter McVerry; Pat O’Brien; Gerry O’Hanlon; Des O’Donnell; Iggy O’Donovan; Gerry Moloney; and Des Wilson.

Of the total number, 42 are diocesan priests with 21 of the 26 Catholic dioceses in Ireland represented. Missing are priests from Derry, Dromore, Limerick, Meath, and Ossory dioceses. A further 30 signatories are members of religious congregations.

The statement, published in the current edition of the Furrow magazine, states that the ACP will work towards “providing a voice for Irish Catholic priests at a time when that voice is largely silent and needs to be expressed”. It would allow an opportunity for priests “to engage proactively with the crucial debates” in Irish society and seek “full implementation of the vision and teaching of the Second Vatican Council”.

The latter it would do “with special emphasis on the primacy of the individual conscience, the status and active participation of all the baptised [and] the task of establishing a church where all believers will be treated as equal”.

It would seek “a redesigning of ministry in the church” so as to involve “the entire faith community”, and a restructuring of governance in the church, encouraging service rather than power and a culture of transparency “particularly in the appointment of church leaders”.

It would also encourage a culture in which priests and bishops “relate to each other in a spirit of trust, support and generosity”.

It would work towards “a re-evaluation of Catholic sexual teaching and practice that recognises the profound mystery of human sexuality and the experience and wisdom of God’s people”. It would also promote peace, justice, protection of the environment and a recognition that “the State has the task of enacting laws for all its citizens”. It would promote liturgies that are open and accessible to all, and strengthen relations with fellow Christians and people of other faiths.

At the meeting in Portlaoise’s parish centre the keynote speaker will be former Northern Ireland police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan. It is intended to formally establish the ACP there and reach agreement on its structure and aims. The proposal to set up the ACP followed an informal gathering in Athlone last July. Three priests in attendance, Fr Brendan Hoban parish priest in Ballina, Co Mayo, the Redemptorist Fr Tony Flannery and the Columban Fr Seán McDonagh, were asked to draft a set of aims or guidelines for a proposed ACP to be discussed in Portlaoise.