Association Of Catholic Priests Statement

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The leadership of the ACP believes that the recent disagreement between the Government and some members of the Catholic Bishops offers an opportunity to reflect on a number of issues that are pertinent to both Church and State. There is some truth in the cliché that a good crisis must not be wasted.

Some bishops expressed disappointment that they were not consulted by the politicians. This could prove useful in providing the bishops with the experience of powerlessness, and, from it, they may gain a better understanding of what it is like for certain groups within a church that teaches that we are all equal by virtue of our Baptism. Women, gay people, and those in second relationships, could tell bishops a lot about being powerless when it comes to Church teaching and practice.

The pattern of celebrating both First Communion and Confirmation has been troubling for many priests and people in recent years. Children are presented for both sacraments even though many of them rarely, if ever, attend any celebrations of the Eucharist, either before or after the big day.

The ACP believes that the current model, whereby the bulk of sacramental preparation takes place in school, in a partnership involving school, parents, and parish, is no longer fit for purpose. This way of doing things has to change. It is the role of the family and parish to nurture faith and introduce children to the sacraments.

The ACP is not aware of any discussion taking place with priests or pastoral councils by those bishops who stated that they were allowing parish celebrations of the sacraments, in contradiction of the stated position of both medical and civil authorities. Such lack of consultation is a far cry from the approach to decision-making envisioned in the Synodal Church promoted by Pope Francis, and being launched here in Ireland this year.

Finally, the ACP hopes that the Holy Spirit still broods over the church with “warm breast and, ah, bright wings”. We may all learn that the Catholic Church has no greater access to special privilege in today’s Ireland, than any other group. The result may be a humbler, poorer, simpler church, a church that dialogues with its people.

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