Association of Catholic Priests Statement
Monday 1st November 2021
As an association founded to represent, and if needs be to defend, our fellow-priests, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) is receiving from both members and non-members an increase in the number of complaints about the way some bishops are treating some priests.
It is important to note that this is generally not the case with most bishops. With most bishops there is a respectful engagement with their priests with whatever concerns they have and whatever difficulties they encounter. That we note and accept.
But there is a small number of bishops and archbishops who consistently represent the vast majority of complaints being received from priests, and who need to be held to account for it.
Examples of these complaints include:
(i) priests being told that they have to take responsibility for another parish at short notice, without any effort on the part of the bishop to explain the situation to parishioners, apart from a letter to be read out by the priest who is left to his own devices to negotiate the extra workload;
(ii) priests whose bishops insist on appointing them against their will to parishes, for which, by common consent, they are completely unsuited and thereby inflict an inappropriate and unnecessary limitation on their ministry and on their levels of job satisfaction;
(iii) priests who take some time out, and are then not allowed to resume active ministry. Some have been coerced and bullied into leaving the priesthood against their wishes while others have been forced to make an inappropriate public confession contingent on a continuation in ministry;
(iv) priests who have taken leave from their diocese (Diocese A) for a period and who have been refused a return to ministry by that diocese and then have applied to and are accepted by another diocese (Diocese B) in order to continue their ministry as priests but who are systematically blocked by the bishop of Diocese A;
(v) priests who are gay being refused permission to work in parishes while in other dioceses they are treated as equal and valued members of the priesthood;
(vi) priests who have concerns about the demands on their mental or physical health of remaining in full-time priestly work not being allowed to retire until they reach 75;
(vii) priests who feel unable to stand up for themselves and find themselves in inadequate accommodation and lacking a level of support that other priests in the diocese enjoy. In one diocese, the ACP had to provide legal redress for a priest on sick leave who wasn’t paid his salary for two years. In another diocese, a priest who was out of ministry was not given accommodation and had to live with his family members;
(viii) priests whose bishops comment disparagingly on their personal appearance and active ministry and who, as a result, have their confidence undermined and their pastoral effectiveness diminished;
(ix) priests who have experienced specific difficulties being refused permission to say funeral Masses for parents or close family members;
(x) priests whose bishops seem to believe that they have to dominate every encounter with their priests and who, if they ‘lose a battle’ with a priest, will later vindictively ensure that they will ‘win the war’; and
(xi) priests with no accusation against them being forced out of priesthood, on the basis of a bishop’s decision that it is ‘the ‘best thing‘ for them.
The ACP, as an association committed to supporting priests in need, is prepared to challenge bishops who fail to live up to their responsibility as bishops which is to be shepherds to their priests as well as to their people.
As Pope Francis has observed, ‘Human dignity is the same for all human beings: when I trample on the dignity of another, I am trampling on my own’.
The matter will be discussed at the ACP AGM on Wed. 10 November @ 2.00pm in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Athlone.
I suppose every body of workers is entitled to have an organisation that promotes the rights and interests of their members.
The ACP is the nearest thing to an Irish priest’s trade union?
In RC canon law and in practice priests have very few rights in relation to their bishops and archbishops.
If you made to offer someone a solemn promise of obedience it does not help you to have many rights from them.
Traditionally the bishops are MASTERS and the priests are his SERVANTS.
It gets worse when bishops like Cackle Daly believed that the bishop was the voice of God and appealed to the writings of St Ignatius of Antioch to prove his case.
DALY AND ME
Because I was powerless church wise when Daly sacked me, I had no other avenue open to me except to bring him before the industrial tribunal and high court where I lost my case on technicalities.
I think the law has changed since.
Eventually, Daly offered me a hearing with the following conditions:
1. Daly would choose the panel and I could choose one priest from a list Daly would to give one!
2. Daly could meet the panel but I could not. I could write to them!
3. Daly and the panel could see my file but I could not see it!
4. I could not hear the charges or witnesses against me!
5. There would be no right of appeal.
I told Daly to put his panel where the monkey put his nuts and that would prefer an IRA kangaroo court to his panel.
My greatest weapon Daly was my public protests and high media profile at the time.
THE ACP AND COURAGE
To date the ACP have not shown much courage in their fights for priests.
They come across as a bunch of whiners and criers.
They want to inhabit priestly pedestals, stay within the organisation, with all its benefits, and nag for better things for priests.
The bishops, as always has been the case, treat them with disregard if not contempt.
The ACP needs to grow several sets of balls.
They need to name and shame the bullying archbishops and bishops.
They need to have a courageous public campaign.
They need to threaten going on strike.
They need to threaten to create independent parishes with their parishioners and take possession of presbyteries and churches.