Report from Cork and Ross meeting of APC
Cork and Ross Diocese
Meeting of A.C.P. held on Tuesday, November 30th 2010.
2.30pm – 4.00pm
Ovens Parish Centre.
Difficulties with travel because of snow and ice on roads meant that serious consideration was given to deferring the meeting. Despite the difficulties and some telephoned apologies the meeting went ahead with 17 people present. Tim Hazelwood was invited to facilitate the meeting after Bernard Cotter had welcomed people and outlined the purpose of the meeting which was to:
- Launch the A.C.P. in the diocese.
- Give an open forum to listen to the concerns and questions of those present.
- Give people the opportunity to become members of the A.C.P.
The meeting began with a prayer.
Each person was then invited to take a moment to write down two areas of interest for them. There followed a wide-ranging discussion, which centered on the following topics.
- The need for priests to meet and support each other re.
- Sharing of ideas.
- Sharing of information eg. good resources that are available.
- Praying together.
- To encourage each other in challenging times.
- Pastoral care.
- To build fraternity.
- The value of social gatherings.
- Professional development eg. Pastoral Supervision.
- Reflect on pastoral activities that have worked well.
- Experience of spiritual direction.
- The need for priests to have an independent voice.
The need to train some priests in media skills.
- Better communication between Priest, Bishop and People.
It was suggested that the Bishop meet with the priests and people in the weeks before the National Bishops’ Meeting so that current concerns and interests can be discussed.
- A substantial part of the meeting was about the way that allegations of abuse against a priest are dealt with.
- It was acknowledged by all that the extent of abuse by our colleagues had shocked everyone and was difficult to come to terms with.
- The way in which the abuses were dealt with has left people feeling distrust of the church.
- However the recent complaints appear to be of a different type.
- This type of allegation referring to events of 30 to 40 years ago leave priests feeling very vulnerable.
- The way in which different dioceses respond to an allegation seems to vary a lot.
Recommendations in this area included:
- That the A.C.P. try to establish the number and type of allegations currently being investigated.
- That the question of best practice in dealing with allegations be pursued.
- The current practice with the H.S.E., which demands an assessment which at best, will leave only a statement of “low risk” of re-offending must be challenged.
- Ian Elliott and Garda sources were reported as saying that it appears a priest does not have the same presumption of innocence as other citizens.
- What is the relationship in Civil Law of a Diocesan Office and a priest? Diocesan priests are treated as self-employed for tax purposes.
- One person spoke of ‘feeling on your own’ and ‘finding your way in the dark’ following an allegation.
- What is the status of an anonymous allegation?
- Other questions and comments included:
- That Bishops be welcome to be members of the association if they so wish.
- That the Association try to put out a positive message eg. a positive statement about good ethical practise and an open, accountable statement about the ethical use of Church finances.
- Knowing when not to react or overreact to media commentary eg. the recent call to boycott Sunday Masses.
- Lack of understanding of the purpose or methods of upcoming visitation and investigation of the Irish Church by the 4 Cardinals.
At the end of the meeting Tim Hazelwood invited each person to offer a comment on how they felt.
- The conversation on allegations against priests had left some feeling very vulnerable and that they had less civil rights than other citizens.
- Feelings of uncertainty about the future of the A.C.P. as we “are not good at following through’.
- Also the need for more information about how the A.C.P. will be structured.
- Overall there were many positive comments that;
*‘it was a good meeting’
*‘great passion – it won’t stop’
* ‘great hope that it will take off and that it deserves support’
*‘a lot of realism at the meeting’
Those who wished to become members either give their names to Bernard Cotter or said that they would consider doing so online.
A date in late February is proposed for the next meeting.
Our hosts in Ovens Parish then provided teas/coffees and scones.