19Aug Statement on Seminary Reform

Statement on seminary reform

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) believes that the reformation and restructuring of seminaries is less urgent than the more pressing need to reconfigure and sustain priesthood to meet the complex demands of the present time in Ireland. This critical time is an opportunity for the Church to consider both a new and dynamic vision of priesthood and a seminary preparation in tune with present needs.

What is needed is not a public relations gloss on short-term, managerial strategies but a debate on realistic and necessary reforms. It is not sufficient to present, for example, the greater involvement of Catholics in parishes where priest numbers are declining as an instance of the mind of the Second Vatican Council in action rather than to own what it actually is – making a virtue out of a necessity.

In our 2015 AGM, the ACP membership recommended for consideration a three-tier response to the vocations decline:

  • the ordination of women deacons;
  • the ordination of married men;
  • an invitation to priests who had left the priesthood to marry to return to ministry.

We are greatly encouraged that Pope Francis has recently placed the first on the Church’s agenda and given a timely boost to the possibility of the ordination of women deacons.

We believe that realistic and dynamic leadership in the Irish Church, in sponsoring the second and third, could give a huge impetus to vocations and forward the reformation and renewal of seminaries.

The ACP calls on the Irish bishops to sponsor such a conversation with interested and committed parties. There is a small window of opportunity before priests effectively disappear from Ireland and we are, at present, sleepwalking towards that mathematical reality.

What can we do, what can we say to place these essential conversations on the present agenda of the Irish Church?

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