01May “The Young Priest and the Old Man” – a sad story

Pope Francis came out recently and called for greater care and respect for the elderly as well as for the young. I welcomed this as I’ve felt our society has a huge focus on the youth, and rightly so, but sometimes to the neglect of the elderly. Attitudes towards the elderly can also be very negative.

This struck me recently when I was at mass. The celebrant was a fairly young priest who appeared very devout. An elderly man, probably late 70’s or early 80’s was serving the mass.
This particular day when the priest started the offertory, he offered the bread, then he lifted the cloth to get the water and wine to discover there was none in the jars. He said something to the elderly server who went into the sacristy to get the water and wine. Instead of waiting patiently for the man to return, the young priest stood there, made frustrated faces down at us, the congregation, muttered to himself, twisted his mouth several times in desperation, threw his eyes up to heaven with exasperation and made deep sighs to show that he was very annoyed. He was unable to stand there patiently and wait. Eventually the elderly man came out with the water and wine, very red in the face and clearly embarrassed, and the offertory and Mass proceeded.

Then, to cap it all, at the final blessing the priest, with the elderly man standing beside him at the altar, apologized to us for this incident and put his finger up to his head and twisted it, implying that the elderly man was gaga. The elderly man stood there and watched, red in the face and neck and looked very embarrassed. I felt disgusted with the priest. There was no compassion for the poor man who was doing his best. Instead the priest chose, probably unconsciously, to humiliate him in front of the congregation who did not appear to have any problem with the short delay. I just thought, Young priest, Jesus was standing beside you on that altar – old, forgetful, vulnerable and you didn’t recognize him. You couldn’t treat him with some dignity because you were so caught up with ritual and self.

I would have liked to go up to this priest and tell him what I thought of his attitude but I was too angry. It was mostly elderly people who were at this mass, as it is the elderly who attend church today: the elderly who have remained loyal to the church throughout all its failures. As a not so old person myself, I’m aware that a lot of priests today are old and doddery themselves and we in the pews patiently participate with them, only too appreciative that we have them to say mass for us. As members of the congregation we don’t make faces up at them or imply by other gestures that they should be off the radar. If there were no elderly people in the church for this particular Mass, this young priest would have been left talking to himself.

As I came out of the Church I wondered how representative is this young priest’s attitude towards the elderly. There is evidence in many areas of society today of an absence of tolerance, empathy, compassion, understanding and respect towards our elderly. There also seems to be a lack of awareness among the not so old that they too will be old some day and may also become forgetful. One would have hoped that true agape instead of prejudice would be shown at Mass.

33 Responses

  1. Eddie Finnegan

    “I would have liked to go up to this priest and tell him what I thought of his attitude but I was too angry.”
    Righteous anger is precisely what was called for. Better still, someone to get on their hind legs and yell in UNrighteous anger, “Look here you young get, don’t they teach yez any manners in Maynooth these days?” There surely is a ripe case for psychiatric assessment and immediate stepping down. But when is this fellow going to learn his lesson? We can be fairly sure that he isn’t a devout browser of the ACP website. And one little corner of my mind is hoping that, maybe, he isn’t a Maynooth product after all.

  2. Mary O Vallely

    This is a shocking incident and I honestly cannot imagine any of our young priests here behaving in such a manner. It is unlikely that this young priest reads the ACP posts so I would suggest that the woman who witnessed this either speaks to or writes to this young man to let him know how his behaviour comes across. If he is not taught a lesson now early on in his priesthood he will continue to abuse because this is indeed abuse of the elderly. Perhaps the priest has already repented but we do not know that. I would be extremely irate if I had witnessed this incident. It may be better though if a group of parishoners who were also witnesses approached the priest to explain calmly that he needs to apologise publicly and privately to this poor man.
    This is just a first step. I have other suggestions which would be much more radical. This behaviour MUST be challenged.
    However I honestly do not feel that it is typical of most young priests but there is a lesson there for all of us in how we treat any vulnerable person.
    A beautifully expressed letter from this witness and I thank her for drawing it to our attention.

  3. Paddy Ferry

    Eddie, this could be Seminarian 1,2 or 3 now ordained.
    Thanks to the woman who shared this sad, sad story with us. I can understand her being too angry to approach the culprit as I, too, would have been too angry, in those circumstances, to be effective in my reaction.

  4. Marian

    Another example of someone clearly and wholly alien to the concept of ‘elder’ spoken about in the Scriptures.

    I have never understood why we are not spiritually guided, led and fed, by true ‘elders’. People, men and women, who have lived life enough to begin to try to know what it’s about and who would know that treating another human being like this, in this context is never, ever acceptable.

    He should have been taken down and flogged. The ‘young priest’ I mean. A truly religious and/or deeply spiritual person would not imagine to treat another that way, especially an ‘elder’.

    Shameful. Diabolical.

    I’d have had to be tied down.

  5. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    What do we tolerate today? Is there anything that we forgive? How many of the parishioners in attendance may have had the same reaction to a colleague/a child/a student at some point in their life? This is normal bad behaviour; not exceptional behaviour by any stretch. Unfortunately, when you say “young priest” what immediately comes to mind is that he will be overcompensating for a time. When we are new to a position, we have a tendency to draw attention to the faults of others to create a inner sense of accomplishment, as scary as it sounds. Experience teaches us that this type of behaviour is not necessary and counter-productive. I don’t think the man’s age really had anything to do with this; young or old, this lack of tenure will draw out negative behaviour in the priest. A one-on-one meeting with the priest would suffice. Highlighting the reality that the feedback could be delivered one-on-one or in the middle of a mass would definitely drive home the point about discretion. I agree Mary but would give him the option of apologizing to the man in private or in front of his congregation. This would give him the opportunity to build character, at least.

  6. Nuala O'Driscoll

    This is a pertinent and poignant story. Pertinent because its true and poignant because of the vulnerability of the old man and the ‘out-of-touchness’ of the young priest. It should be printed in all the parish newsletters. Thank you to the author and the ACP for printing it.

  7. Maire

    Just wondering if this young priest could be the same one who, some months ago , told a mother who arrived late for Mass with her three young that she should not have received Holy Communion. Compassion ,understanding and empathy were clearly not in evidence on that Sunday either.

  8. John

    What strikes me is the self-importance of the priest and the idea of the primacy of the ritual he had in his head and that the ritual he was performing must be perfect, like a work of art. The attitude of the priest did not come from nowhere. There is still the idea of the priest as being an exhalted person, way above the common lay people, absolutely indespensable, and of the primacy of ritual. So you can get a newly ordained priest, with minimal knowledge, preaching vacuous nothings while committed members of the church with far greater knowledge and insight are banned from preaching by canon law. It is a known statistic that there are in the Catholic Church far more lay people qualified in theology that ordained priests. And of course there are all the priests who left the ministry to get married whose talents are similarly unused. It is not difficult also to see priests who come out on the altar to say Mass and afterwards to slip back into the door they had come out of without any contact with the congregation. When I see this I am reminded of rock stars who have to slip away behind the stage set after the concert and who live in a separate world from their fans.

  9. Paddy Ferry

    I agree completely with everything posted above and especially with John @8. However, what really baffles me if how these unsuitable guys, like the culprit in the main story and the disgraceful individual that Maire refers to, can get through — is it 6 years of seminary training — without their unsuitability being detected. Or, perhaps it is their seminary experience that plants this self-importance nonsense in their crania in the first place. Surely not !!

  10. Raymond Hickey

    Also on this page is an article titled “Does the Parish Have a Future?” After reading the article above and the statement “It was mostly elderly people who were at this mass, as it is the elderly who attend church today……….”, I think a good followup article might be “Does the RCC Have a Future?”

    This priest is an insult to everything that is Jesus. I believe that is why the young people are no longer there, they do not tolerate that sort of abuse. The elderly still put up with it because of their training to keep attending church no matter the degradations and indecencies contained therein. The young people are too cognizant of their human rights to put up with that. The young know in their hearts, that such behavior demonstrated by this priest is not of Christ. Make no mistake, this action by this priest is symbolic of the RCC in their intolerance of women, married priests, members who are gay, and anyone else they deem unworthy. The young will not be fooled, they know hypocrisy and phoniness when they see or hear it. This old man and the treatment he received is not an isolated event at one church and one priest. It is symptomatic of the structure of elitism and clericalism that has infected this church. This priest’s obsession with the ritual of the Mass overpowered his Christian love of others, just as the church’s concern about its reputation overshadowed its responsibility to protect the ‘little ones’ in the ongoing sexual abuse scandal. I seriously doubt that Jesus would be a member of such a church.

  11. mjt

    A far greater cause for concern about young priests is not this kind of crassness and bad manners, but of their being backward-looking in their theology and in liturgy, in hankering for pre-Vatican II in a thorough-going rejection of the gains made at the Council, while, of course, paying lip service to it. And for this it`s harder to fault them than those who have been in charge of their formation as priests. If the young priest has the excuse of inexperience, what excuse do they have?

  12. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    I can’t really get over the reaction this is stirring. I would have loved to have seen an elderly priest have the same reaction (albeit tongue-in-cheek) with a very young attendant at his service. This would possibly get a few chuckles from the crowd, if they felt that the elder was doing it in jest and not out of complete disdain. One of the many problems that the youth face in today’s society is that there is certainly an intolerance to young people and the challenges they face from a group of people who apparently are “holier than thou”. Like I mentioned, let’s have the person who hasn’t been caught in this scenario (no matter what the persons age) come forward. (@10) “…the priest is an insult to everything that is Jesus”. To err is human. The insult to Jesus would be that this man is not forgiven.
    If you wanted a good reason as to why priests don’t frequent this site – these posts would be at least one reason fulfilled.

  13. Paddy Ferry

    Lloyd, there is really no mystery at all why this account of “The Young Priest and the Old Man” has stirred us. So many of the young men being ordained to-day seem to be in the mould of right-wing zealots, full of arrogant self-righteousness. And, I can assure their presence is not confined to Ireland.

  14. Mary O Vallely

    Lloyd, I do admire your defence of the young. You obviously have a deep love of young people. I think though that what the story does highlight is that old fear of challenging the ordained, to be honest. We have had generations of lay people being firmly put in their place by priests, young and old (never mind the “higher” echelons) and who have never had the confidence to speak out. There have been consequences, as we all know, of those who dared to voice their honest feelings. I think that this is changing. ALL crassness- mjt is correct in describing it thus -needs to be challenged. If we were to be a true community of believers i.e. believing, like Christ, that we are all equal in the sight of God, we would be open to challenge and criticism.

  15. Bob Hayes

    ‘So many of the young men being ordained to-day seem to be in the mould of right-wing zealots, full of arrogant self-righteousness. And, I can assure their presence is not confined to Ireland.’

    Paddy (no. 13), that is a sweeping statement and terrible denunciation of young priests. As for Raymond’s (no. 10) rant, the least said the better. I concur with Lloyd (no. 12) that it is no wonder so few priests participate in discussions on this site.

  16. Fr. Peter M. Banda

    It is pathetic that the so-called young priest behaved in the manner described herein. The best thing ought to have been to talk to him in person after the Eucharistic Celebration and to inform him how embarassing his action was to the congregation. That is one way of helping your priests! Talk to them sincerely and openly! Make them know and understand things by approaching them for without that they may never change.

  17. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    I’ve spent a great deal of my life mentoring youth and can imagine how overwhelmed a new/young priest must feel trying to connect to a community. My emotional side calls for a healthy dose of payback to someone who would do such a thing; my rational side understands that most, if not all those who question this priest’s integrity have at some stage been guilty of such behaviour. In between these two, the common ground is forgiveness.
    Mary (@14), I’m not defending his behaviour, I’m trying to convince you to hate the occurence of this behaviour but to continue to love and support this priest. Meet the priest, one-on-one, explain the importance of discretion and hope that three or four people do the same…where there is three or four, there is no denying what was perceived.
    Thank you for Fr. Banda’s wise words (@16), albeit all the way from Zambia; we are truly blessed to have your input especially as you describe only his behaviour and actions and not to confuse this with his character which will ultimately be shaped with the ongoing assistance of his congregation, as you mention.

  18. Joe O'Leary

    I don’t see the point of posting this uncheckable anecdote. Is the ACP turning into a club for masochistic flagellants? Writing up this incident about one priest who had a bad day or was perceived to be discourteous sends the message that all priests need to be careful to avoid such behaviour. But in reality priests are kind and courteous people, and the days of privilege are long gone. Or is the point to take a potshot at allegedly arrogant young priests? Is there now supposed to be an epidemic of young priests humiliating old parishioners? I would say that this is a very damaging perception to propagate and that it should make us doubly cautious about giving publicity to such anecdotes.

  19. Kevin Conroy

    This story saddens me greatly and I concur with some of the comments that many of the young priests today are somewhat zealous and arrogant. But I am reminded that this is how I too could have been described in my younger years, in work, as a married man, as a father, as a son. It takes time and the love of partners and parents, the care and wit of work colleagues, to develop a sense of humility and proportion. Perhaps the greater sin is that human organisations encourage a level of deference to those with authority, that they are protected from the wisdom of those whom they are called to serve.

  20. Catherine

    Let’s say a wee prayer for that priest. He will be old himself some day.

  21. markdask

    Sir – or forgive me you might be Madam – I see no author to this article – before I comment I should tell you I am a 55 year old man who ran like a bullet from Ireland at age 16, in 1975, – into a dangerous path – though happily beneficial, because the Christian Brothers, the Catholic church, violently abused my mind. I come to your article therefore with a simmering anger, a demon I have spent my adult life caging. As a father I have forever suppressed the stark ugliness of my bitterness toward mother Ireland lest my children ever witness it.

    Today I am a proud father and atheist – as are all my children – and all fine upstanding members of the community who would break their backs to promote the well-being of their communities – because I as a Dad, and their mother, believe in decency.

    Now I have described myself, I will address your concern that this young priest is being seemingly disrespectful to an elder. If the elder is being dotty in the service then the fact must be addressed by the community – do you agree? Perhaps in your experience dotty old priests went on until they dropped, or perhaps mother church had a special way of identifying senility in the priesthood.

    Growing up in Ireland, my experience was that there were no laws in respect of the authority of priests – that even the welfare of children was secondary to how dingbat a priest could become before he was surreptitiously absorbed by history.

    Today common law defines the worth of a priest, and thereafter his congregation. It’s as the majority of my generation would wish it. And now you say this young priest is being disrespectful to this elderly priest – do you know a more honest association between priest and congregation than for him to communicate that the elderly priest has lost it? What better way among priest and congregation than for the priest to invite the congregation to affirm – not in a disrespectful way, as you perceive it. Perhaps – and I dislike resorting to sarcasm here – both the young priest and the congregation should do nothing to preserve this elderly man’s dignity!!!

    There is no disrespect where adults look upon a child, and with boundless affection, unless the observer presupposes. You Sir/Madam, presuppose upon my good will, and the good nature of the priest you condemn.

    This young priest offers no offense; he is simply conversing with his congregation in respect of the welfare of an elderly priest. Whereas many bishops would have jawed in the matter in the past – actually there is no need for bishops here – the young priest speaks true of his mentor, as any son would. I hope, when I lose it, my son will express like affection.

    In the time I have known the ACP I have felt a sense of church that could never have been beaten into me – and now I hear you’ sir/madam’ – demand of a young priest that he perform an utterly dishonest sense of deference to serve your very backward appreciation of the church. For shame you ghost – is he your priest or that of his congregation?

    He can be my priest. He can be the young man who reflects the best aspects of the teaching of great people such as Jesus. And if something terrible were ever to befall someone close to me, I would reach for such a young man, for his sincerity.

    The young priest was nervous. He was embarrassed that his mentor left his brain at home, and when the sacrament was kinda falling apart the young priest appealed to the congregation’s sense of humour. Now do you, clearly as mindless as a two thousand year old shoe – want to drive a sensitive young man from your church?

    Sir, I am the devil incarnate. If you cannot value the sincerity of so obviously well intended a young priest as you describe – nor the congregation who need and appreciate this nervous young man, then perhaps you should join the dotty old man and retire.

    I want to return some day to Ireland – but I will only do so when the church is in the hands of sincere young men as you seek to condemn.

    My most sincere regards to that young priest’s parish. As a devil I envy you :)

  22. Eddie Finnegan

    Markdask,
    Were you so intent on dragging all your own baggage, real or imagined, into your long comment that you didn’t actually read the original post? The 20 commenters who preceded you may have brought our own baggage to bear on our responses, but I think we all understood that the old Mass server was a layman, a member of the not-so-young yet not-so-elderly congregation. An old member of the congregation, Mark, no doubt accustomed to serving weekday morning Mass from time to time over many a year. So, not this young priest’s aged mentor. Not ‘senile’, Mark (55). Not ‘dotty’. Not a ‘dingbat’. Just an embarrassed old man, Markdask, happy to be of service when no younger server is available or ready to come forward. We’re talking here, Mark, about a type of service you’ve clearly lost touch with forty years ago. The old man was embarrassed because of the young priest’s ill-mannered behaviour, not once in momentary irritation, but deliberately compounded perhaps 20 minutes later when he chose to put the boot in just as he was about to give the final blessing and dismissal.
    No, the writer does not say the priest was a nervous youngster in his first week in the parish. She says he was an apparently very devout man and ‘fairly young’ – which in today’s priesthood could be anything between, say, 40 and 60! But Markdask, ‘demon’ or ‘devil incarnate’ you may well be (we couldn’t possibly comment) but I commend the anonymous writer’s final paragraph to your earnest perusal.

  23. Paddy Ferry

    Mark, unless I got this all wrong, the elderly man serving was not a priest. What stirred many of us was the lack of respect the young priest had for the old man. The haughty, exalted sense of self-importance that is part and parcel of the superior mentality of many young priests — in my opinion — is one of the issues well demonstrated in this horrible episode

  24. Rory Connor

    @Fr Joe O’Leary
    I don’t see the point of posting this uncheckable anecdote. Is the ACP turning into a club for masochistic flagellants? ..
    <>
    As I am opposed to a lot of what Fr Joe writes, I’m pleased to see that we agree on this one. WHY are there 20+ comments on what he rightly describes as an uncheckable anecdote? Are we really supposed to believe that this is representative of the behaviour of any group of priests today – old or young?
    <>
    I offer the following anecdote of my own. Some years ago I read an interview that the Northside People conducted with Fr Peter McVerry – about his work with deprived young people in Ballymun and elsewhere. Fr McVerry stated that the problems faced by these youths were much WORSE than when he began his work decades before. He also said it would be extremely difficult for any priest to begin a similar youth project nowadays – and he mentioned people shouting “paedophile” at him in the streets.
    <>
    Can I suggest that this type of anecdote is much more relevant to the experience of young priests today? That – not supposed “clerical arrogance” – is the sort of problem their parishioners should be helping them to deal with.

  25. wiliam o'b

    It seems we have created a whole generation of clergy who are focused on the externals and a love of rituals that are truly foreign to them and their experience. A quick look at the vestments that are being displayed in the shops in Rome and elsewhere indicate a return to the fiddle-backs of old with the maniple included. I have witnessed a sign posted by a young priest that no one is to wash his cruets because they might leave a drop of water in the wine cruet and make “his” mass invalid. This same priest will not wear shoes in the sanctuary.
    There is a great focus on the external to the exclusion of the purpose of priesthood as a member of the congregation.

    Yes it makes one angry to see this, however, a gentle chiding and challenge from the members of he congregation will do more that raging at him. “Relax Father, everything will work out, and we are not really in a rush.” is far better than “Just who do you think you are?”

    Has Father ever overslept and been the target of anger protests because Mass began a few minutes late?
    This situation can be a cause for all of us looking at our behaviors and sorting out what is truly important and what is truly Christian.

  26. mjt

    I agree with Rory Connor about the difficulties young priests face. Any young priests I have met have been very conscientious and reverent, very sincere and obviously devoted to the service of God and His people. However, I also found them to be rather aloof and reserved, not given to coming forward to engage with or meet people, as if they for some reason they were afraid of them. Either that or as if perhaps, Heaven forbid, they weren`t good enough to associate with. And,it seemed to me, they all already had an old vision of Church, as they seemed comfortable only with a passive, inactive laity, and did not want to ask much of them either, as if deep down they already had a poor opinion of them, or again perhaps because they feared stirring them lest they waken up.
    But maybe I have not seen enough yet to judge.

  27. Rory Connor

    @mjt
    That’s a remarkable way for you to express your agreement with me. So you find that young priests may be “not coming forward to engage with or meet people, as if for some reason they were afraid of them.” [my emphasis]
    <>
    The main reason why priests might be afraid of engaging with YOUNG people is fear of a bogus allegation of sexual abuse. That is the clear implication of what I wrote in my previous post. I find your alternative explanation “either that or Heaven forbid, they weren’t good eneough to associate with” to be highly offensive to priests and quite extraordinary in present day circumstances.
    <>
    As to your final sentence, is there really ANY evidence that would cause you to revise your opinion?

  28. mjt

    Rory Connor, I had not intended to imply that priests shy away particularly from young people, but people in general. If I had intended to say “young people” I would have said it. And as regards allegations that are bogus, you will concede, I hope, that a lot of allegations against priests have not been bogus. If you would like parishioners to help young priests against the vicious catch-cries against them in the street, one place to start might be in acknowledgement that such abuse happened, and that in the aftermath the whole system of church governance has to be re-examined.
    I do not understand what you are accusing me of in your last question, so if you would like to, please clarify and I`ll try to answer you. I thought I had been complimentary to priests in my last post, not “highly offensive”, and I certainly did not intend to be highly offensive, but it was in the context of trying to describe and understand the finding of comfort in remoteness I`ve noticed in some, especially young priests, in their desire to, for example, bring-back-the-altar-rails and close-the-gates-syndrome, and adopt rather more ornate vestments at Mass than had previously been the norm. These things suggested to me a return to older, more conservative policies, and this is what I find alarming, at a time when the church is crying out for courage and imagination.

  29. Rory Connor

    mjt
    I responded to your initial post because you said you agreed with me whereas we are clearly not in agreement at all. I find your assertion that young priests are not coming forward to meet people “as if they were afraid of them” or “Heaven forbid, they weren’t good enough to associate with” to be incredible. The only sense I could make of PART of it was that you were referring to the fear that priests have in associating with YOUNG people i.e. that they will be falsely accused of child abuse. You have now made it clear that you don’t mean that. Apparently you believe that young priests are deliberately disassociating themselves from the laity as part of “a return to older more conservative policies”. I suppose this should have been clear to me in that you refer in your first post to priests who “seem comfortable only with a passive, inactive laity …as if deep down they already had a poor opinion of them”.
    <>
    I don’t understand why you ever said that you agreed with me. Can my initial post really be interpreted in that way? Now you say that you thought you had been “complimentary” to priests in your first post. It seems to me that words are being used in a way that was never intended by the authors of the Oxford English Dictionary.
    <>
    Regarding your other question; you wrote in your first post that “maybe I have not seen enough yet to judge”. Are you REALLY prepared to consider evidence that contradicts your point of view? My impression is that you are not.

  30. mjt

    Rory, One of the least helpful/engaging/enlightening /entertaining/features of such sites as this is a spat, where two or more contributors go on and on, pecking at the flesh and bones of some poor quarrel until even the editor has had enough. The only justification for continuing this discussion is the importance of the topic.
    I wrote, “Any young priests I have met have been very conscientious and reverent, very sincere and obviously devoted to the service of God and His people.” To me, that sounds complimentary, even according to the definitions of the word in any edition I`ve ever come across of The Oxford English Dictionary.

    I had said I agree with you about the difficulties young priests face, in the aftermath of sexual abuse scandals. If you object to my saying I am in agreement with you about that, I have to accept you must be right. So in an effort at impeccable truthfulness, and at the risk of vitiating its impact, I`ll insert a qualifying “some” in restatement of my point:
    I have been surprised to find that some young priests are more conservative in their attitudes to church and liturgy than some older ones.
    This should be a matter for surprise, in that courage, idealism and fervour are often associated with the young, while older people can become weary, more fearful and resistant to change. It is certainly a matter to regret, as in the Church the experience of Christ will be at the hands of these priests for many decades to come.

    Where I had speculated about possible causes, is another thing it appears we disagree about. I hope it doesn’t just illustrate the general futility of discussion when I say I`ll stick to my guns about it.

  31. Rory Connor

    mjt
    Yes this conversation could go on forever. Of course I am not a priest; however if someone was to describe me as a conscientious, reverent, sincere etc type who looks down on other people and does not wish to associate with them because I have a poor opinion of them, then I would NOT consider that as a compliment!
    <>
    I would say that the chief problems facing priests today are
    (1)The hysteria about child abuse that poisons all relationships between adults and young people and not just priests. (Every teacher, doctor, nurse, social worker etc must take special precautions to avoid being the target of a false allegation – including never being alone with a child.)
    <>
    (2) The fact that the media focuses almost exclusively on priests and religious. Thus people like Fr McVerry are the object of vicious comments in the street but not the local doctor, teacher etc
    <>
    (3) The fact that priests cannot trust their Bishop to observe even the most basic principles of natural justice i.e. innocent until proven guilty. Only priests are asked to move out of their homes if they are accused – but not the local teacher for example, who may live next door to a school and who has far more contact with children.
    <>
    The fact that many priests are too demoralised to even remind their parishioners of some basic facts about alleged scandals. For example, how many parishioners in the Cloyne Diocese are aware that the sole result of several years of Garda enquiries was ONE priest convicted of the mutual masturbation of a 16 year old youth decades before? I made a point of speaking to people from the Cork and Cloyne dioceses during the Eucharistic Congress and the level of ignorance was astounding. Nearly all had also forgotten that the Director of Public Prosecutions had to make a statement that it was a criminal offence for members of the public to put pressure on him to authorise a prosecution. (The issue of this statement may have been a unique event in Irish legal history).The local priests appear to be so afraid of causing controversy, that they will not even remind their people of basic facts that have been (briefly) published in the media. This is rather different from the “fear” that mjt refers to.

  32. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    MJT, I completely disagree. A “spat” of this type is what this website is all about as long as people are communicating their opinions with certain decorum. Silence is our foe. I believe both of you were in the same Church on this issue but not exactly in the same pew with Rory commenting rather on the hesitance any priest could have starting a youth project versus MJT stating he noticed some young priests to be somewhat disconnected altogether. The current climate is not appropriate and can lead to less “outgoing” priests at any age. Again, all really uncheckable anecdotes as Rory would have but certainly, insecurities we all could imagine ourselves facing if we, in fact, were to enter this realm. Whatever the case, a committed laity should definitely assist a priest in any situation if they care for him as they would wish to be cared for.

  33. mjt

    It might require a certain degree of temerity any longer to agree with you, Rory, but I have no hesitation in agreeing with you at your points 1, 2 and 3. My observations, which you think uncomplimentary, have nothing to do with social encounters between priests and laity, but have principally to do with priests who still wish to retain all control in the working of their parishes, who still seem to fear their parishioners in that way, who resist even bringing parishioners into advisory never mind into decision-making roles so as to have a proper measure of involvement in the life of their own churches and parishes. The tardiness of the Irish Church in general in setting up finance and pastoral councils in parishes, is an example. Similarly, huge disparities in standards in the practice of the liturgy testify to uneven acceptance of the norms set out even by as cautious a body as the Irish bishops.
    Speculating about underlying reasons for the discomfort some priests display when confronted by a laity which wishes greater involvement in the running of their church, I had used the words “not good enough” intending them to mean just that, not as a judgement in terms of social class, but, as lacking the supreme advantage of ordination to the priesthood, as lesser. I still would like to see a proper esteem evolving for the dignity of Baptism, and as I said a long time ago in another thread, the Royal Priesthood of the People of God.
    Lloyd, I`m afraid I`ve been less than successful in explaining myself about this, so that even you seem to have misinterpreted what I had meant, but I`m glad of your encouraging words about the inevitability of difficulty when we enter into any kind of discourse about such complex questions.


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