Report on Meeting of Clogher ACP
Twelve priests, including Bishop Liam, attended our 5th gathering of Clogher ACP on Wednesday 31st August in Clones. There were three apologies.
We began our meeting with a very beautiful, spiritual reflection and a report of our last meeting was read.
With regards Clogher’s story on child sexual abuse, it became evident that the Diocese has not been in denial of this issue; a lot of help has been given in the past, and continues to be given to a range of people who have been affected by the issue, not headline stuff but part of the untold story to date, much of what is not always possible to speak about publicly.
But it was felt that a discreet briefing should be offered to priests at the appropriate time, so that they would be equipped to offer a response whenever or if ever civil proceedings take place or when any report of the diocese’s handling of this area might be made public. It was agreed that what is most important is that support and information continue to be made available for all victims/survivors and avenues left open for survivors/victims to disclose and tell their story/stories. The question was posed, ‘Can we as a Diocese learn anything from the Cloyne/Dublin experiences?’.
Much time was given in reflection on the new pastoral year ahead. There was a sense of ‘heavy heartedness’ as we set sail into another new year in parish life and ministry. Our priestly identity has taken a terrible shaking, and while we could never compare our struggles with the victims of child abuse, nevertheless we recognise that the wind is no longer on our backs, and this is all the more reason to have the ACP there to support us so that we will not feel alone in our difficulties.
There was wide recognition that there is also a faith crisis in our country, and even if the issue of child sexual abuse was not there, there is an increased sense of negativity around. There appears to be little hunger for faith, much of this may be because our Church has been found wanting. Morale among clergy and the new translation of the Missal does little to lift us up. One’s own personal faith is more essential than ever to survive these difficult times, and the support of each other as priests is important.
As we prepare for the AGM of ACP at national level we reviewed our own progress to date and also commented on national level.
Less than one third of our priests have attended any of the meetings of Clogher ACP. It was noted that when we had a visiting guest speaker, greater numbers attended.
Our means of communication by e-mail was considered, is this an effective means of communication for clergy, is it adequate?
ACP Clogher was acknowledged as a great help to date for those who attended, it provides that ‘listening ear’.
Bishop Liam encouraged the need to develop links with the Council of Priests, the diocesan chapter and with himself.
It was also acknowledged that there is a need to connect with national level of the ACP, perhaps some of the leadership team could visit?
Further discussion needs to take place on issues from previous meetings, the need for professional help for clergy, developing pastoral reflection groups, social outings and days of reflection, and further discussion will be given to a proposal to set up a national fund to provide support for priest colleagues who are suspended and experiencing financial hardship including those who do not have the means to mount a proper legal defence for themselves.
The final part of the meeting was spent on reflecting upon the ACP after one year in existence. Much of that discussion centred on what the ACP is about and what it should stand for. There was much disappointment to date at what has been experienced at national level. A copy of the founding aims of ACP Ireland from the website was circulated, questions were raised about whether the energy of the ACP at national level was wisely used to further these aims, much energy to date may have been wasted in non-productive wrangling in relation to the New Missal for example.
Many of us gave the nod to some if not all of those aims twelve months ago, we were attracted by them, and signed up to them at the time. Unfortunately the experience to date has been one of confrontation, and not very Gospel like. More attention needs to be given in the year ahead to implementing the original aims of the ACP.
The members of the co-ordinating group were mandated to decide on a regular date and time for future Clogher ACP meetings.