Priests to create reform-driven group

UP to 150 priests are expected to gather in Portlaoise today for the inaugural meeting of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) — a reform-driven organisation which is aiming to “stand for moral courage”.

Founding member, Fr Brendan Hoban, a parish priest in Ballina, Co Mayo, said the Catholic Church is 50 years behind current thinking and it needs to return to the wisdom of the Second Vatican Council.

Fr Hoban said the ACP will not be “striving to represent all priests”, as he knows from his time on the executive of the National Confederation of Priests, this would “prove ineffectual” and that the association will “become bland, never really saying anything”.

“It is preferable to support some rather than all. We want to return to the ideals of the Second Vatican Council, return to its vision and teaching, with an emphasis on the primacy of the individual conscience, the active participation of all baptised and the task of establishing a Church where all believers will be treated as equal,” he said.

“Reading the signs of the times and tuning into the movement of the Spirit, touchstones of a Vatican Two Church, will flag the main thrust of the association,” he said.

The National Confederation of Priests, which was established by the bishops, capsized in 2007 as many priests had little faith in it.

Writing in this month’s Furrow magazine, the priests who signed up to the ACP said: “For years bishops refused or neglected to attend its AGM, ignored its recommendations and often patronised its voice. The nadir was reached when its president, in a courtesy call on the papal nuncio of the day, was informed that he was ‘a Nobody leading Nobodies’.”

The North’s former police ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan, is due to open the meeting at the Parish Centre in Portlaoise. A clear agenda has not been set up by the founding members, who say they will “discuss the issues that they want to discuss on the day”.

It is an aim of the organisation that it will not become obsessed with organisation and structures at the expense of their stated aims.

ACP will be “an association with a simple, slim-line scaffolding which would allow a committed executive, supported by a realistic membership, to engage with issues pertinent to priests, their mission and their lives”.

The ACP’s founding priests say they have “received a good reaction” from the priests who contacted them after they announced their intention to establish the organisation over the summer so they could “provide a voice for Irish Catholic priests”. Their members, they say, are from all the age groups.


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