Report of Clogher ACP Meeting
A meeting of Clogher ACP took place in Clones on 26th October. Eight Priests attended, six sent their apologies.
After prayer and the reading of the last meetings minutes, we began a discussion on a previous 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 meeting acknowledged the fantastic help given from the leadership of the ACP to Fr. Reynolds in his recent action against RTE, their now established legal team will be of great support to those who are falsely accused in the future.
We recognised that across the country there is no uniformity as to how suspended Priests are treated, there doesn’t seem to be any best practice or good practice, and because of all the variations that exist from Diocese to Diocese our meeting recommended that minimum standards of care should be established from within the Bishops Conference.
The meeting acknowledged that it wasn’t just or Christian to leave a suspended Priest without a place to live, it wasn’t just or Christian to expect families to provide a home or indeed financial help for the Priest. There was also a grave concern expressed with regards the canonical process, after a civil case fails, was the Church now going to become more oppressive upon its own?
It was recognised by the meeting that the weaknesses of the Diocesan structure of care did not seem to apply where a Priest was a member of a Religious Order or Congregation. The Religious would seem to have in place a blueprint of best practice in caring for Priests who are out of ministry or who leave ministry for whatever reason.
While the meeting acknowledged that one’s own Diocese should have the primary care of its clergy, where this did not happen, perhaps the ACP should encourage voluntary contributions from its membership towards the setting up of a compassion/benevolent fund.
The ACP leadership were encouraged to seek information on what is presently the practice nationwide with regards suspended Priests, so that they are been adequately looked after.
Following on from Bishop Liam’s request that links be established between the Clogher ACP and the Council of Priests and Diocesan Chapter, three members were nominated and accepted the invitation.
The co-ordinating committee were mandated at the previous meeting to agree on a set time for future ACP meetings, the meeting accepted their decision to hold their gatherings on the last Wednesday of every second month, beginning in January 2012.
An e-mail survey was carried out after our last meeting of Clogher ACP to see how effective this means of communication was. Those 60+ recipients who receive regular contact were asked to respond if they had received that particular e-mail. 22 did so. This generated quite a discussion around our mandate, of who we really represent within the Diocese. While we acknowledged the great support and encouragement we have received from Bishop Liam, and indeed from comments left on the national website, it was perceived that the vast majority of Clogher Priests were not interested in our work, and in particular the young members of the presbyterate. We wondered how did others within our Diocese feel about the ACP. And while contact with the ACP maybe through media reporting, at Diocesan level our meetings, our discussion, our topics should engage a greater interest and attendance at our Diocesan gatherings.
The meeting acknowledged that the ACP wasn’t for everyone, not all clergy will share the values of the ACP, or indeed the need for the ACP, but all in attendance recognised their own need of this mutually caring body that had at its heart, the care of clergy and their needs. We all recognised that we are now a ‘tainted profession’ and so all the more reason for the ACP where we will receive support, where a structure of care is been established.
The proposal to formally establish a group to assist Bishop Liam in representing the needs of clergy ie Sick Priests, Retired Priests, Parish Priests and Curates, this group was accepted in principal, it should be there in principal so that responsibility of care is shared. The proposal was to be taken to Bishop Liam for further thought and discussion.
Nuala O’ Loan is to be invited to speak to our Diocesan gathering.
Further discussion and decisions were to be made on encouraging Pastoral Reflection Groups, the creation of Social opportunities and Days of Reflection.
The meeting concluded with personal reflection on the gathering, “helpful, enlightening, hopeful, supportive, real and reflective” were the shared words used.