12Jan ACP Information Card: Correspondence from and to the Kildare & Leighin Council of Priests

The letter from the Secretary of the Kildare & Leighlin Council of priests

Breen

Text of Letter

Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin

Fr. Gerard Breen,
(Secretary, K.&L. Council of Priests),
C/O Bishop’s House,
Old Dublin Road,
Carlow.

17-11-2017

To whom it may concern,
The recent letter which was sent to priests by the Association of Catholic Priests was discussed at our last Council of Priests Meeting on 9th November.
While acknowledging that the letter you sent makes some very good points in relation to the care of priests, the Council strongly disagreed with the small card which was enclosed with the letter and the sinister and false suggestion that a diocesan priest must always prepare for the worst if he is ever called to meet his bishop. One of our priests commented that “The card has put a far greater distance between the diocesan priests and the A.C.P. than it has between diocesan priests and their bishops.” All members of the council agreed with this statement. Furthermore, it was proposed that the Council should write a letter the the A.C.P. in order to express our disagreement with the card and the negative impression it advanced about the relationship between diocesan priests and their bishops. Herewith, the letter.

Yours faithfully,

Fr. Gerard Breen.

 

The reply from the Leadership of the ACP to the Secretary of the Kildare & Leighlin Council of priests

 

ACP correspondence address:

Association of Catholic Priests
Sheeaune
Westport
Co. Mayo

 

Rev Gerard Breen
Secretary
Kildare & Leighlin Council of Priests
C/O Bishop’s House
Old Dublin Road
Carlow

12 January 2018

 

Dear Gerard
Thank you for your letter. We welcome it as an example of the dialogue and feedback the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) seeks to encourage on issues of great concern to our members and to the priests of Ireland.

We note that as your letter is addressed ‘to all concerned’ and as the issues raised are of concern to our members we have posted it and our response on the ACP website.
Can we clarify a few points?

The card which you take issue with resulted from feedback we received at regional meetings of priests at which a strong desire was expressed to have some protocols to assist priests when they find themselves in difficulty.

We discovered that, in dioceses and in religious orders, practice varies significantly. Some dioceses and religious orders treat their priests well, while, with others, this is not the case. The three case studies mentioned at the AGM were recent examples of current bad practice.

It is important to note that the protocols on the card are taken from “Guidelines for the Care and Management of Respondents (i.e. priests) Standard 4” as outlined by the National Board for Safeguarding Children.

The protocols are in line with civil rights attributed to each citizen of this country by the state, yet denied by some Church organisations to their own members. The clear intention of the card is to inform priests of their rights, to make them aware of how such rights can be protected and to offer them a place where they will find support.

We note in passing that the Irish Episcopal Conference has not as yet ratified the ‘Standard 4’ guidelines and we would encourage Councils of Priests to discuss this issue with their bishops. Perhaps the Kildare and Leighlin Council of priests might talk this through with Bishop Nulty?

Regarding the comment about the relationship between priests and bishops, we believe that a mature dialogue – honest, direct, forthright, respectful, truthful and adult to adult – is more healthy and more valuable than the indirect and subservient practices of the past which were a breeding ground for the clericalism Pope Francis so regularly condemns.

Finally, we need to say that we have been contacted by priests from Kildare and Leighlin who were anxious to distance themselves from your letter, noting that it did not represent the views of all the priests of the diocese.

Indeed we are happy to say that there has been a very positive response to the card, to the advice it offers and, more generally, to our support for our fellow-priests in difficulty. The standing ovation received by our solicitor, Mr Robert Dore, at our recent AGM is indicative of the support of our members for our track record in regard to support of priests’ rights to date.

With every good wish,

Tim Hazelwood
Roy Donovan
Brendan Hoban
Gerry O’Connor

ACP Leadership Team

 

ACP Information Card

 

 

 

 

10 Responses

  1. Pádraig McCarthy

    The letter from the K&L Secretary to ACP does not appear above, so we are missing a vital part of the exchange.

  2. Pól Ó Duibhir

    Letter from Priests’ Council is not coming up for me.

    Reply is excellent.

    Some background to the original letter would also be helpful.

  3. Mattie Long

    For some reason the letter from the K&L Council of Priests is not appearing on Windows or Android systems, it is on Apple, IOS systems! The joys of technology.
    I’ll get up the text asap.
    Mattie Long

  4. Pól Ó Duibhir

    Thanks Mattie. Both the letter (now) and the text version are are fine. I’m on Windows 10.

    The letter strongly underlines the need for the ACP. Keep up the good work.

  5. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    This is a simple page out of any Human Resources playbook – legally speaking. “… sinister and false suggestion that a diocesan priest must always prepare for the worst if he is ever called to meet his bishop” – not sure how that is interpreted from this card. It is a call to act legally on the priest’s end because apparently the Bishop has no idea that he should be formally speaking to you with someone present anyway. This is just rudimentary logic when delivering negative feedback. I’m not aware of any civil requirement to do so but in terms of legality, it is a very important thing to do for both parties, not just one.

    If you insist on knowing what this meeting relates to, as advised on the card, you will know before hand if there is feedback he would like to address, be it a complaint, a reprimand, or a concern.

    The distance between people that K & L Council of Priests perhaps feels is one of experience and inexperience. Experienced priests would always act accordingly. Even inexperienced Bishops should never reprimand or bring forward a point of concern without having someone else in the conversation – that’s just courtesy and protects everyone in attendance.

    If this is some of the feedback you are experiencing, I’m afraid that I’ve been completely overestimating those in your midst.

  6. Mícheál

    One of our bishops recently made a public statement regarding a local commedian about whom allegation of sexual impropriety were made. He said “We allow justice to take its course, and not usurp it through public condemnation, humiliation and sentence without trial.May heads on plates be off the menu in 2018. May the darkness that was visited on our local comedian, before justice to all could be processed, be replaced with balance, proper proportion and fair play, so that he may feel free and welcome to make us laugh again.”

    It would have been good if he was in a position to say the same about the priests of his diocese who have been similarly accused, publicly shamed by statements read in their parishes, often by their bishops, required to stand aside immediately from ministry, and to leave their homes.
    Imagine if he could have said “May the darkness that was visited on our local priest, before justice to all could be processed, be replaced with balance, proper proportion and fair play, so that he may feel free and welcome to minister with us again.”

    It is this reality that lies behind the ACP card. The idea of a ‘sinister and false suggestion’ is a fabrication of the K & L Council of Priests. To act in a fashion other than suggested by the card, given the behavior of many bishops, would be naive in the extreme.

  7. Tony Flannery

    I spent five years (2010 to 2015) working closely with Robert Dore on various allegations against priests, so I became familiar with the details of a good many cases. Reading the letter from the Priests Council of K & L makes me wonder how they could be so unaware of what was going on over those years in various dioceses and religious communities around the country. Not all, of course; some superiors behaved very responsibly, but others showed scant respect for the human rights of individuals. I am not in touch with the current situation in K & L under their recently appointed bishop, but I trust that the relationship between priests and bishop are as good as they suggest. If so, they have reason to be grateful.
    I only wish we had brought out this card many years ago. It would have helped a great many priests, and avoided a lot of pain and misunderstanding.

  8. Pat Rogers

    One of the goals of the ACP expressed in its Constitution is to promote “a culture in which the local bishop and the priests relate to each other in a spirit of trust, support and generosity.”

    The Council in the diocese of K&L seems to think (mistakenly, I’d say) that the small guidance-card issued to ACP members implies the “sinister and false suggestion” that a diocesan priest must always prepare for the worst if he is ever called to meet his bishop.

    The devising and issue of this card needs to be seen in its actual context. Its need was felt because of the stress and humiliation experienced by several priests when called to see their bishop after a false or anonymous allegation was made against them. It is for such a scenario that the self-protective advice on the card is primarily intended.

    The ACP is hardly suggesting that if a bishop wants to discuss with his clergy matters of liturgical, administrative or pastoral concern, each priest should come armed with a canon lawyer, no matter what the meeting is about. That would be absurd. However, if a priest is called to report to his bishop on a DISCIPLINARY matter, possibly even based on an anonymous allegation, he will surely want to do what he can to protect his good name.

    A practical suggestion: in response to an allegation of sexual misconduct made against a priest, would it not be a more benign pastoral gesture if the bishop were to personally visit the priest for an informal conversation, before initiating any official “hearing”? Respect and good-will should flow in both directions if any genuine spirit of “trust, support and generosity” is to prevail between priests and bishops.

  9. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    Pat @ 8 is there not a responsibility of the Bishop in this situation to report this to the Garda immediately, no matter what the family has to say about it?

  10. Pat Rogers

    Lloyd @ 9
    Yes I believe you are right about the bishop’s obligation to report to the gardai any allegation of sexual misconduct towards Minors he may receive.
    What I was referring to is the Bishop’s subsequent outreach to the priest involved in such a situation.The ACP were trying to ensure a bit more humanity as natural justice in that stage of the process.


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