Minutes of the Business Meeting at the AGM
Business Meeting of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) at the Green Isle Hotel on Wednesday, October 5th 2011.
More than 100 members of the ACP attended the business meeting which began at 9 am in the Green Isle Hotel. It was chaired by P.J. Madden. The first item on the agenda was the election of the leadership team. A proposal that the existing team be elected for a term of 3 years was proposed by Brian Darcy and seconded by Dominic Gilhooly. This proposal was passed unanimously. The present leadership has already been in place for one year. This means that they remain in leadership role for 2 more years. P.J. Madden mentioned that the leadership team was still looking for a candidate to fill the fifth slot and that our preference is for a diocesan priest. There were no minutes of the previous meeting in Portlaoise in September 2010. P.J Madden suggested that we take Brendan Hoban’s reflections on the significant events of the first year of the ACP as the minutes. A motion to accept Brendan’s paper as the minutes was proposed by Des Quinn and seconded by Kevin Hegarty.
P.J. Madden told the assembly that the membership of the ACP now stood at 535. 350 members had paid the subscription. It was proposed that the membership fee was €20 per annum and that, for book keeping purposes, the ACP would follow the calendar year. In other words, subscriptions need to be renewed in January. A proposal to accept this was introduced by Michael O’Hora and seconded by Tommy Byrne.
In regard to finances P.J. Madden said that there were no audited accounts for the first year. In ball-park figures, the ACP had collected about €7,000 in membership fees. In addition, €2,000 was donated at the initial meeting in Portlaoise in September 2010. The cost of running the AGM is estimated to be in the region of €2,800 which leaves roughly €5,000 in the kitty. At this point a discussion took place around whether the ACP would get some of the resources of the defunct National Council of Priest in Ireland. Brendan Hoban stated that the ACP might get €10,000 from that fund.
At this stage two documents were circulated among the members. The first contained the Objectives of the ACP and the second the List of Priorities which the leadership was placing before the members at the AGM in order to get clarity for the future directions of the ACP. There was a lively discussion around these two documents. Paddy O Kane (Derry) said that some of his fellow priests wondered why he was coming to the AGM of the ACP who in their view were a “bunch of sore-heads.” One or two others said that we need better communications with the bishops. But there were also strong voices saying that we need to stay with our vision as outlined in the objectives which the membership had endorsed. Denis Crosby (Galway) spoke passionately about communities which are being deprived of the Eucharist. Given the age profile of priests and the scarcity of vocations this situation can only get worse. He said that an appropriate gesture to mark the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 2012 would be the ordination of 400 married men to provide the Eucharist to their local communities. There was general agreement that the idea of clustering parishes was not suitable for a Church which ought to be grounded in an experience of the community gathered for Eucharist. Clustering is akin to West-Doc or South-Doc in the medical world. One person said that by clustering parishes priests are in danger of becoming Mass-machines! The bottom-line is that people have a right to the Eucharist and one of the challenges for leadership in the Church is provide ministers who will celebrate the Eucharist with their people.
Dermot Lane (Dublin) spoke about the divorce between the priesthood of the laity and the ministerial priesthood. He called for a spirit of collaboration, with mutual support for each others gifts and warned about initiatives which might clericalize lay people. To avoid this we need a new understanding of ministry. Gerry O’Hanlon (Jesuit) agreed with Dermot Lane about cooperating with laity, but also said that we need to develop ways of talking honestly to the bishops. This is not easy because there is such a culture of deference in the hierarchical structure of the Church. Lar O’Connor (Ferns) felt that our concerns should be brought to the Bishops Conference. He thought that there was a need for a Vatican III, to truly implement the vision of Vatican II. Dermot McCarthy argued that the ACP could tap into the energy which was palpable in the gathering on the previous night.
Brian Darcy asked whether we are heading down the same road as the Austrian of Priests Initiative. Some expressed the opinion that we should follow the Austrian model and be prophetic. Gerry O’Connor (CSsR), spoke of the two Circles. In the Circle of Concern people criticised ways of thinking and behaving, where as in the Circle of Influence they set about changing things by attempting to model the future.
Seán McDonagh called attention to the Objective which calls the ACP to “promote peace, justice and the God’s creation.” We are living at a time when enormous economic burdens are being laid on the shoulders of ordinary people, he said. There is rising unemployment, increased taxes and mortgages on houses which are now worth less then half of what they were worth in 2007. In Britain parishes and diocese have Justice, Peace and Ecology groups. Each summer there is a Conference on Peace and Justice which can be attended by 400 people. We could do something similar in Ireland.
In a few weeks time COP 17 – the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Conference on Climate Change and the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol will meet in Durban, South Africa. Climate Change due to global warming is probably the most important issue facing the human and all creation. If there is no agreement at Durban the situation in terms of Greenhouse gas emission can only get worse. We ought to be able to share these concerns with our parishioners, especially young people and organise prayer vigils to help the participants reach a fair, ambitious and binding agreement.
At the end of this session, Brendan Hoban returned to a point he had emphasised on the previous night. The ACP does not intend to water down its objectives in order to attract a larger membership. We have taken a particular course of action and need to continue down that path. Finally, there was a general sense of satisfaction that the business of the ACP had been attended to in an open and competent way.