Clogher Diocesan ACP Meeting
A meeting of Clogher ACP took place in Clones on Wednesday 2nd May. Nine Priests attended, six sent apologies.
>We gave most of our meeting to reflect on how we as members of ACP in Clogher find ourselves in relation to ACP Ireland at the present time. We have mixed feelings about the kind of publicity that ACP has occasioned recently. We are not convinced that the issues of mandatory celibacy for priests and the ordination of women, which have been a focus for much of the recent debate, are the key issues for our life and ministry at the present time.
We were agreed that obedience to the central teaching office of the Church in essential matters is an important value. At the same time, we believe that respectful disagreement and considered debate is part of the way that the Church clarifies what is truly essential in a changing cultural context. In this regard, we support Fr Brian D’Arcy CP who is based within our diocese, and who has continued his significant ministry in journalism, subject to certain oversight provisions. We regret that some voices from within the ACP have not been moderate and temperate in putting forward views which are sincerely and passionately held. In the exchange of views and letters to the papers, opposing views have sometimes been dismissed as representing a minority position which is characterised as reactionary. It is our view that minority positions from whatever stance also deserve a respectful hearing.
We accept that the mass media responds most readily to what is controversial. Especially in a context where Church morale is low, and where for many, their default mode is to be on the defensive, it is not easy to maintain a thoughtful stance and to avoid the temptation towards point-scoring. Trumping one’s opponents in an argument may win cheers from the supporting side, but it seldom wins over the hearts of those who view things differently.
We believe that priests in Ireland at the present time can best be served by an ACP that is prepared to engage as respectfully as possible with the wide range of opinion that exists among priests and people.
We are deeply grateful for the role that ACP played in supporting Fr Kevin Reynolds, and we are encouraged by their on-going engagement with the bishops in relation to protocols to ensure natural justice for priests who have been the subject of unsubstantiated accusations.
None of our members present at the meeting was persuaded that the recent survey commissioned by ACP served a useful purpose in furthering the mission of the Gospel. One of the aims of the ACP outlined at its inaugural meeting was to foster the development of well-prepared spokespersons who would be available to engage with the media on the range of issues that repeatedly arise. We would like to see this proposal taken further.
In our view it is less than honest to cite membership figures for the ACP in support of initiatives and public statements that may not have wide backing across the membership. In this regard we reflected at some length on the consultation deficit that appears to be emerging in ACP, in relation to some of the more strident positions that have been espoused by some of those who have spoken for ACP. We accept that this may be conditioned by the web-based communication that is a feature of the organisation, when many of our priest colleagues who are ACP members are not web-savvy.
Our conversation returned more than once to the issue of where the Church stands at present in relation to the legacy of Vatican II. For all of the members present, this remains a central concern. It was this overarching aspect of the platform originally set out by the ACP founding members that particularly drew us towards the Association. Only in robust communion can that legacy be more deeply owned and more widely shared.
A final reflection: One piece that is sadly wanting in the Irish Catholic Church to date is an active and effective Council for Clergy. This part of the administrative structure set up by the Irish Episcopal Conference is a missing link, and not only viv-à-vis real dialogue with the ACP. If the Irish bishops truly value their priests activating the Council for Clergy is a matter of real urgency. Our next gathering is on Wednesday 27th June in Clones.