Priests clash over ‘sinister’ advice for meeting bishops
By Patsy Mcgarry
January 15, 2018
|The information card issued to members of the Association of Catholic Priests|
Kildare and Leighlin diocesan priests rebuke suggestion to ‘prepare for worst’ if called
Catholic priests in Kildare and Leighlin diocese have taken strong exception to “the sinister and false suggestion” from the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) “that a diocesan priest must always prepare for the worst if he is ever called to meet his bishop.”
In a letter to the ACP leadership team, Fr Gerard Breen, secretary to the Council of Priests in Kildare and Leighlin diocese, said the council “strongly disagreed” with contents of a card sent by the ACP advising what a priest should do if called to meet his bishop.
Fr Breen recalled how at a meeting of the Council “one of our priests commented that ‘the card has put a far greater distance between the diocesan priests and the ACP than it has between diocesan priests and their bishops.’All members of the council agreed with this statement,” he said.
He said it was proposed the council write a letter the the ACP “to express our disagreement with the card and the negative impression it advanced about the relationship between diocesan priests and their bishops.”
The card, issued by the ACP last year, is intended to help priests who may be summoned to meet a bishop, possibly in connection with abuse allegations. Designed to fit in a wallet, its seven pointers are in keeping with recommendations of the Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog, its National Board for Safeguarding Children, the ACP said.
The card advises a priest that:
1. When contacted by your bishop/superior always insist on knowing what it relates to.
2. Bring someone with you who is of strong character and aware of the process. (ACP can provide someone.)
3. We advise you to say nothing at the meeting.
4. Request the diocese to resource a canon lawyer and civil lawyer of your choosing.
5. Sign nothing and give no verbal undertaking at the meeting.
6. Do not be persuaded to ignore or bypass these guidelines no matter how often they say it is in your own best interest.
7.Ask the person who accompanies you to take notes of the proceedings and to sign them.
Welcoming Fr Breen’s letter as “an example of the dialogue and feedback” the ACP seeks to encourage, the association leadership team said the card had resulted from meetings with priests across Ireland.
The ACP had discovered that practice varied significantly whereby “some dioceses and religious orders treat their priests well, while, with others, this is not the case.”
Advice on the card was “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.”
In general, the ACP believed that a mature dialogue between bishops and priests was “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.”
The ACP said “ 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.”
They were happy to say too that there had been “a very positive response to the card.” The ACP letter is signed by its leadership team, Frs Tim Hazelwood, Roy Donovan, Brendan Hoban, and Gerry O’Connor.