Hundreds Turnout for Priests" Meeting

By Genevieve Carbery
Irish Times
September 15, 2010

Challenging the role of women in the church and the treatment of priests falsely accused of abuse are among the objectives which were outlined at the inaugural meeting of the Association of Irish Priests today

Some 300 priests turned out for the meeting of the association which aims to provide a “voice” for clergy. Organisers had expected between 50 to 70 priests to attend the meeting at the parish centre in Portlaoise, Co Laois and had to change venue to accommodate the interest.

The high turnout showed that the association had “touched a nerve “ and that there was a “voice needed” by the Irish clergy, one of the founders Fr Brendan Hoban said.

The association will be very proactive and will have spokesmen on issues that arise in the church and society, Fr Hoban said.

He outlined the aims and objectives which he said are based on the teachings of the second Vatican council. They received overwhelming support at the meeting.

The role of women in the church is of concern to the organisation and is “in need of a change” Fr Hoban said.

The organisation will campaign for the rights of priests who have been wrongly accused of child sexual abuse and have not been support by their diocese and priests who have been left in “limbo situations” where their right to natural justice is denied, he said.

Other issues which the association will highlight are the involvement of lay people in the church and the opposition among priests to a new English translation of the Mass. It will also campaign for a church which is not governed by a clerical elite but recognised the equality of all members.

The association will be seeking discussions with Apostolic visitors from the Vatican that are due to visit Ireland.

The low morale among priests due to the difficult times for the church was also addressed at the meeting. “Authority is diminishing, vocations are in free-fall, practice is declining, the age-level of priests is increasing all the time and priests find themselves under growing pressure, “ Fr Hoban said

“At the moment priests feel they have no voice and feel they are not understood,”

The association has said it is not anti-bishop but pro-priests however it is not a union and will not represent or be supported by all priests.

The organisation aims to have a representative in each diocese to canvas support and hopes to have a “sizeable percentage” of some 4000 Irish priests as members, Fr Hoban said.

Many of Ireland’s best known priests backed the association in the initial publication of its aims earlier this month including Iggy O’Donovan, Peter McVerry, Sean Healy, Colm Kilcoyne, Brian Darcy, Donal Dorr.


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