Is there room for two clergy organisations in Ireland?
“The Confraternity Chairman, Fr Gerard Deighan, did not see (the Irish Confraternity of Catholic Clergy) as an alternative to the Association of Catholic Priests and, though not aware of an overlap in membership between the two, it was ‘not impossible’, he said.”
‘Not impossible’? Was he laughing up his sleeve, or has he in fact been reading between the lines of those most consistent of reports from the most admirable of ACP diocesan groups, the Men of Clogher as reported bi-monthly from Clones by the Man from Killanny? If ACP Leadership has not been taking to heart Clogher’s regular essays in ACP loyalty, interlaced with the mildest of firmly constructive criticism, then perhaps the ICCC’s interim committee members have been lurking and taking note every couple of months:
“It was felt by the gathering that the Pope Francis effect had eased the pressure on the ACP . . . (but) where is the energy for the ACP at national level now? The flagship for the ACP was always Vatican II, and perhaps the spirit of Vatican II was never really developed by the ACP. [Perhaps that's a very politely understated "perhaps" -E.F.] Maybe that could now become our flagship, to catechize, to educate on what we really do know about that great council . . .”
That’s a point that has been made more than once by Joe O’Leary, with the nuance, I think, that the famous ‘spirit of the Council’ is not necessarily captured just by poring over the Documents’ text.
Clogher, like many of us, seems to have found an excess of ‘animus‘ and a deficit of ‘anima‘ on this three-and-a-half-year old website. As one who may occasionally indulge in more of the former than of the latter, what can I do but, Schonborn-like, beat my layman’s breast in a maxima culpa? [Oh, pardon my parapraxis, my Freudian slip. I clean forgot that 'lay', 'lay(wo)man' and 'laity' have all been successfully decommissioned. Reckon it wasn't Alec Reid oversaw that furtive decommissioning act!]
Clogher’s expressed need was “about getting nourishment for the soul. A lot of articles appearing in the Furrow and indeed the ACP website, they are not nourishing our souls, there is a tiredness about their content, and are simply not addressing ‘my struggles, my agenda, my ministry, our struggles, our agenda, our ministry . . . . Give us something for our souls.”
It’s a cri de coeur, or d’ame, that I see Mary Vallely, another great Armagh fan of the Clogher 7 (or 10, or 25, or 31), agrees with. The new support group of priests (the ICCC) she alludes to may seek to supply something of that nourishment for the soul, after their own pre-Franciscan, Benedictophile, Johannipauline retro-fashion. Some, at least, of the ACP’s 1,000 may from time to time feel themselves longing for those old ‘certainties’ – the pre-VAT II fleshpots of Maynooth. Though, come to think of it, I don’t recall any fleshpots – just porridge pots, sublimated as BG, ‘Broma Gálaktos‘, a less than ambrosial glutinous glue.
But I don’t think the Clogher Group, facing the fragility of priesthood, are hankering after those old pots. In reaching for the Eamonn Conway edited three dozen essays, ‘Priesthood Today‘, they’re branching out in Hope. Maybe Fr Conway’s most hope-filled message for priests was his tweet last Saturday week: “Great to see the Vigil Mass can still cause a traffic jam in Tuam!”
So what future for the ICCC ? Well, they’ve certainly co-opted the big Patrons: Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland; St Patrick, St Oliver and St John Vianney. My questions: were any of the four consulted? Did they have a right of refusal? Will the Curé find time away from the Confessional to attend meetings? Still, the ACP missed a trick there, it seems. Then they’ve copperfastened every statute or sub-statute with a Canon or two – not necessarily of the purple variety. [Anyone else do a double-take at the sight of Very Rev Patrick McCarthy on their Executive Committee? Relax - not our Pádraig!]
Where they tempt fate, however, is in their alliterative motto/slogan: ‘Fidelity – Fraternity – Formation’. The last Irish confraternity to plump for the 3Fs was the Tenant Right League in 1850 with its ‘Fair Rent – Fixity of Tenure – Free Sale’. Within a year its more Catholic Catholics had split it with the ‘Catholic Defence League’, dropping two of the Fs, which by 1852 had morphed into the ‘Independent Irish Party’ or ‘The Pope’s Brass Band’ – i.e. Pio Nono of course. Perhaps the new ‘The 2Former Popes’ Brass Band’ should follow Brendan Behan’s advice: when you meet at the Knock House Hotel on 12-13th March, make sure THE SPLIT’s the first item on your Agenda.
On the other hand, that’s the first Anniversary of the Conclave’s start and finish, 2013. Is the ICCC about to switch its loyalty to Pope Francis? Is this the endgame? Will the ACP wipeout follow by the Ides of March?