28Feb Trust between priest and bishop has been replaced by suspicion

Sir, – Breda O’Brien (Opinion, February 11th), in writing about the possibility of complacency regarding child abuse, says: “There is also the very real fear among priests that things have moved so far in the opposite direction that any priest is presumed ‘guilty as charged’. There are some bishops . . . who believe it is impossible for a priest to return to ministry even when it is clear that a priest was falsely accused.”

The implications of these attitudes for the working relationship between bishop and priest are far-reaching. The promise of respect on behalf of the priest was to be honoured by the bishop with a duty of care. In the past the exaggeration of respect and honour led to a culture of clericalism but their absence now as a result of the abuse crisis has created a vacuum in which trust has been replaced by suspicion on both sides.

Gathering around the bishop as a sign of unity has lost its meaning since I, and many priests like me, on being summoned to Archbishop’s House on any issue would not attend unless accompanied by a witness, if not a solicitor. – Yours, etc,

Fr GREGORY O’BRIEN PP,
St Jude the Apostle,
Willington,
Templeogue,
Dublin 6W.

5 Responses

  1. Eddie Finnegan

    Fr Gregory O’Brien’s openness on this whole question of suspicion in place of trust is surely the best approach to forcing the issue of rebuilding the sort of trust that the image of priests and laity “gathering around the bishop as a sign of unity” should have. He is not the only Dublin priest who has opted for the biblical motto of “Courage, Joshua. Play the man!” – which presumably doesn’t mean you don’t continue to play ball. Fr Michael Collins of Haddington Road is another man who didn’t pull punches just before Christmas, nor did he feel the need for a nom de plume.

    In Mick Peelo’s two-part ‘Would You Believe?’ (RTÉ, Dec 4th & 11th) Fr Seamus Ahearne of Finglas and Fr John Hassett of Lucan, as well as the inspiring women of Porterstown, were very clear in their different ways about the realities of Church in Dublin. As was Fr Gerry O’Hanlon. (So too, of course, Frs Brendan and Tony in the clips from the ACP AGM – but maybe Dublin is the main focal point here.)

    To re-resurrect a Diarmuid Martin quote I’ve used before:
    “We need a new model of Bishop, who does not appear as simply the CEO of the diocese, but who day-in and day-out preaches the Gospel and works shoulder to shoulder with the priests and others in the front line of evangelization. A friend of mine says that the basic requirement for any relationship between a Bishop and his priests is that the Bishop should like priests!” [Diarmuid Martin speaking to priests of ACP’s predecessor, NCPI, 28 September 2004 – in his early months, but safely distant from Dublin at Dromantine, Newry.]

    What Diarmuid needs is a lot more outspoken critical friends like Gregory O’Brien, just to remind their bishop of his earlier wisdom. And if that needs to be in the Dublin public prints, all the better.

  2. Peadar

    Eddie: St Thomas Aquinas advises us not to mind who said what, but rather to focus on the truth or otherwise of what is said.

    When Kruschev gave a speech criticising the previous regime, and someone shouted up, “Why didn’t you speak out back then?”, Kruschev looked down and asked, “Who said that?” A long, tense silence ensued. Finally Kruschev said: “That’s why.”

  3. Eddie Finnegan

    Nice one, Peadar, de Veritate. But Aquinas also agrees with Ambrose on the high value to be placed on Fortitudo cum Justitia. And, if he’d been still around at the time, he’d probably have agreed with Wojtyla de virtute Solidaritatis (at least in Poland if not in Nicaragua).

    So which of Dublin’s sixteen deaneries is Siberia?

  4. Kevin Walters

    Are the Bishops to blame or is it that we are all riddled with human frailty and sinfulness. Should we the Laity expect a holy Priesthood? The answer to this has to be yes we should. We expect them to practice what they have taught us
    But what do we mean by holiness?
    The antidote to human frailty and sinfulness is honesty (Truth) we bow down before the light. Honesty leads to humility (Holiness). In humility we see ourselves as we are before our Father in heaven as in a badly cracked mirror broken distorted and riddled with imperfections and sinfulness. When we carry this image (picture) of ourselves within our heart we truly begin the journey home to our Father’s house in heaven. We look within and acknowledge our own sin. We start to walk in Meekness, Humility and TRUST in the Holy Spirit.
    “Lean on me for I am meek and humble of heart and you shall find rest for your souls”
    We need a Priesthood to walk in simplicity of thought (heart) as Jesus taught.
    Kevin
    In Christ

  5. Rory Connor

    The above responses to Fr Gregory O’Brien’s letter are a little bit obscure. Would anyone care to explain exactly why a priest would need a witness – or even a solicitor – if summoned to a meeting with the Archbishop??


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