Association of Catholic Priests discuss Church’s future

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BBC News Europe

7 May 2012 Last updated at 05:03 ET

An organisation which represents more than 850 priests in Ireland have been meeting on Monday to discuss the future direction of the Catholic Church.

The Vatican has recently criticised leading members of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) for expressing views which contradict Church teaching.

The ACP meeting comes at a turbulent time for the Church in Ireland.

Its leader, Cardinal Sean Brady, is facing calls to resign over his handling of a clerical sex abuse case.


The ACP meeting, entitled “Towards an Assembly of the Irish Catholic Church”, has been taking place at hotel in Dublin.

It has been described as a first effort to bring people together to discuss the current state of Catholic Church in Ireland which has been rocked in recent years by a series of high profile child abuse scandals.

During that period, a number of priests have openly expressed their desire for change in Church rules on matters such as clerical celibacy, the ordination of women and the ban on contraception.

However, in recent months, some of Ireland’s most vocal, liberal priests have been disciplined by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

They include leading ACP member, Father Tony Flannery, and the broadcaster and newspaper columnist Fr Brian D’Arcy.

Fr Flannery, who is based in County Galway, was ordered to stop writing articles for a Redemptorist Order magazine to which he had contributed for 14 years.

Fr D’Arcy was told he must get prior approval to write or broadcast on topics dealing with church doctrine.


In the run-up to Easter, Pope Benedict warned that the Church would not tolerate priests speaking out against Catholic teaching.

Last week, a BBC documentary uncovered new revelations about an internal Church investigation into clerical child sex abuse in 1975.

It said a teenage boy who had been sexually abused by Fr Brendan Smyth gave the names and addresses of other children who were at risk from the paedophile priest to Cardinal Brady, who at that time was a 36-year-old priest.

He passed the allegations to his superiors but did not inform the police or the children’s parents.

Fr Smyth continued to sexually assault one of the boys for a year after that.

He also abused the boy’s sister for seven years, and four of his cousins, up until 1988.

The ACP recently commissioned a survey of Irish Catholics which found that 90% would support the introduction of married priests.

The survey also found that 77% of Irish Catholics want women to be ordained, while more than 60% disagreed with Church teaching that gay relationships were immoral.

At the time, Fr Brendan Hoban from the ACP said the results were proof that the perception of Irish Catholics as traditionalist, conservative and resistant to change was wrong.

2 Responses to Association of Catholic Priests discuss Church’s future

  1. Sylvia says:

     Here we go.  This is becoming an issue so I must post it.

    I will offer my two-cents-worth πŸ™‚

    For what it’s worth, there are about 4,500 priest in Ireland, 850 of whom are members of the ACP.  Yes, the ACP numbers are large, but there are another 3,600 Irish clergy who have not joined ranks with ACP. 

    The strange thing with these ACP priests is that their dissenting opinions have been known and tolerated for years, and it is only now that there has been a crack-down.   I will add that for decades there have been similar voices of clerical dissent around the world, and, the fact is that, barring a few rare exceptions-  and contrary to popular belief –  Church officials have routinely turned a blind eye to clergy who publicly dissented from and/or undermined and/or ridiculed Church teaching.  Vatican officials have likewise repeatedly turned a blind eye to bishops who tolerated such dissent in their dioceses, seminaries, universities and/or schools. 

    My own observation is that the tolerance of dissenting voices within the Church mirrors the tolerance we have witnessed for predatory clergy.  Just as there has been consistent and abject failure to sanction dissidents, so too has there been consistent and abject failure to sanction clerical sexual predators.

    I am not saying that I put child sex abuse on the same plane as dissent, only that I see the same disciplinary failures at play.  We all know that there is chaos in families where children know they can violate the rules without fear of negative consequence.  The Church is no different. 

    Your turn πŸ™‚

  2. deeplybetrayed says:

    *Re: The second paragraph about the Vatican criticizing the ACP for expressing views which contradict church teaching …the Vatican coverups and denials do not express church teaching either, at least not to my knowledge. Hiding priests or placing them in other positions where they still get a salary and respect as they continue to live their predatory lifestyles is not justice, not holy, not cceptable either.
    We have to go back to the kingdom Jesus founded which was not a kingdom of “religious enterprise”.

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