Carlow Meeting; Thursday, November 25th
Report on Association of Catholic Priests meeting in Carlow; Nov. 25th
Twenty seven priests attended this meeting. They came from Ferns and Kildare and Leighlin dioceses, with one member from Ossory. It was addressed by Brendan Hoban, and the meeting was chaired by Tony Flannery.
As with the other meetings there was a wide ranging and good discussion.
As regards the Association itself a number of issues were raised.
- In some dioceses, and among some priests, there is still a credibility issue around the association. Some regard it as an “anti” group – maybe something to do with the profile of some of the original founders!
Of the three dioceses invited to this meeting, Ossory in particular seems to display this attitude.
- As in the other meeting, it was noted that young priests are not too willing to get involved; though there were some very notable exception here. A number of the priests who attended from Kildare and Leighlin were young, and very supportive.
- Openness to lay people: Very important that we do not become a clerical club, but to take time to establish ourselves before we begin to move out and liaise with others.
- The bishops: Again it was felt that we should take time, to be more sure of ourselves and where we stand, before we attempt to enter into dialogue with them.
- The Association should undoubtedly speak and work for the rights of priests, and that we should not forget even those who have been convicted of serious crimes. They are still our brothers.
Many of the issues that had come up at other meetings were also raised here;
- The system of appointment of bishops. (It was felt that we would be wasting our time devoting energy to this, because, while people were very frustrated with the system, nothing would change.)
- Women in the church. Clearly the members favoured a greater involvement of women in our Church.
To me, listening, one of the strongest things that came out of this meeting was the concern expressed about priests generally.
One man felt that a great number of priests are suffering severe stress, and that it is showing itself in various forms of illness, physical, mental and emotional, and even in some cases, addiction.
Some clearly felt that many priests are in trouble in their personal lives.
In this context one man outlined three areas of proposed action for the association:
1. The rights of priests. Especially to take care of themselves.
So, priests should always take a good holiday each year, and a day off each week, no matter what happens – even funerals, etc.
2. Much greater use of an educated laity at parish level. Lay people should be trained to do much of the work that priests are now under pressure to perform, for instance, going to funeral parlours, receiving bodies in the church, bringing communion to the sick. All of this would free the priest up to better take care of himself.
3. Promote renewal of the Church in every way we can, as was outlined in Vatican 11.
As in the Marianella meeting, it was stressed that much good is happening on the ground, at parish level, and that priests are still highly regarded and greatly appreciated by their people. This is all positive, and should be highlighted.
Finally, it was agreed that the initiative of Cork and Ross to have a meeting of the members at diocesan level was an excellent development. Because if our association is to thrive it will need to be strong at the local level. So both Ferns and Kildare and Leighlin will look into the possibility of having their own meeting in the near future.