Some points of Clarification regarding the ACP
One of the disadvantages of media coverage of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) is that it is inevitable – and this is not a knee-jerk criticism of the media – that the message we seek to communicate is pushed through the sieve of personal predilection and commercial need. Sometimes unintentionally our position can be compromised when what is peripheral is presented centre stage with a spotlight placed upon it. It is clear too, of course, that those who oppose us can use the ensuing confusion to sow seeds of doubt about our platform and our intentions. One of the advantages of a web-site like ours is that it is possible to communicate ideas clearly.
So allow me to clarify a few points.
(i) Church teaching
The ACP does not seek to overturn the defined teaching of the Catholic Church. Confusion between what the teaching of the Church is and what some present as the teaching of the Church has led to unwarranted assumptions. Confusion between the teaching of the Church and Church governance has resulted in some people suggesting that we do not accept fundamental Church teaching. Like all true Catholics, we know and fully accept the Creed.
The ACP wants to have a conversation about the realities of Irish Church life today and about issues we believe the Irish Church urgently needs to discuss. We believe closing down debate and dialogue is a recipe for disaster at both public and pastoral levels. Opening up a conversation not only makes great sense but has a theological basis in the rights and obligations of the baptised and an equally strong basis in church law and, we believe, will produce a pastoral dividend. For example, Canon 212, §3.” According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they (the Christian faithful) have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.” We believe that this desire for a conversation about the future of our Church and the issues we need to face should be welcomed as an indication of our concern, our commitment and especially our faith. At a time when our Church has lost so much credibility in so many areas, we need the pastoral and intellectual credibility of a robust debate in the Irish Church and the much-needed confidence that will bring. The members of the ACP, and indeed those who gathered at the Regency Hotel on May 7th, lay, religious and clergy, have given great service to the Church for many years. And living the Christian life has taught us a great deal. Surely it is important that we be allowed to share what wisdom we have gained. That is a threat to no one. Indeed the recent 1000-plus assembly of Catholic people, Religious and priests in the Regency Hotel in Dublin on May 7 presents an opportunity our Church must not miss.
The Apostolic Visitors expressed some concerns about what they call the ‘communio’ of the Church; and some senior people in the Irish Church have also expressed the same concern to us. (By ‘communio’ they mean communion or unity.) The ACP is no threat to the unity of the Church. Let me make it absolutely clear what the position of the ACP is in this regard. We cherish and we value and we wish to further the unity of all our people, with our fellow clergy, with Religious, with our bishops and with the Successor of Peter. It has to be said that there are different views about how Communion can be achieved and the kind of attitudes that confirm it or that damage it, but the ACP is not trying to start a movement away from the definitive Communion that is at the heart of our Church. To do so would contradict our theology of the Church, the law of the Church and common-sense. Our platform is firmly rooted in the Gospel, respectful of all God’s faithful and grounded in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, teachings that were promulgated by the pope and the bishops of the world nearly fifty years ago.
So, in conclusion, let me state a few things very clearly:
We in the ACP are not against Church teaching; we cherish and value it.
We are not damaging unity; we are working for it.
We believe that our experience is valuable, and should be listened to. We have a right and a duty to discuss the problems facing the Church.
Silencing us will not make the issues go away; it will only create more unhappiness, and damage the unity of the Church.
Please don’t threaten us that if we do not keep silent we will lose our jobs, or home and our priesthood. After all our years of service we deserve better than that.
Freedom of conscience is a fundamental Christian teaching; it is not a strange or frightening concept.
The word ‘dissident’ does not describe us. We are at the heart of our Church, and that is where we wish to stay.
We know that our Church is in deep crisis.
We all need to talk to each other. We all need to listen to each other. That’s not just our right as baptised Catholics. It is of crucial importance for the future of the Church.
So, please, work with us; talk with us; pray with us. All of us together make up the Church of Christ.