THE Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) celebrates its sixth anniversary later this month.
Over 300 priests attended its inaugural
meeting in Portlaoise.
It now has over 1,000 members.
provided priests with a forum to articulate their concerns about a
declining Irish Catholic Church.
It has been blessed with excellent
leaders who have contributed significantly to social, moral and
religious debate in our society.
Last week a further development in
the evolution of the association occurred. Liamy MacNally, who shares
this space with me in The Mayo News, has been appointed its first
administrative secretary. He brings to the role considerable life
experience as a journalist, priest and publisher. I wish him well as he
takes up his new task.
Recently the ACP has raised concerns about
the role of the Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Charles John Brown.
His appointment in 2012 was somewhat unusual in that he was not a member
of the Vatican Diplomatic corps.
Ordained a priest for the
Archdiocese of New York in 1989, during his post-graduate studies in
Rome he impressed Cardinal Ratzinger, then head of the ‘Congregation for
the Doctrine of the Faith’, who was a close collaborator of Pope John
Paul II. On completion of his studies, Ratzinger appointed him to the
In the Spring of 2010, Pope Benedict summoned the
Irish hierarchy to Rome to account for its failures to deal effectively
with the clerical sexual abuse cases, revealed by the Ferns, Ryan and
Dr Brown’s appointment as Nuncio followed as part of the
Pope’s plan to restore the authority of the Irish Catholic Church.
Since his arrival in
Ireland he has developed a high public profile.
Previous Nuncios were
usually elderly men of Mediterranean background, who rarely ventured
beyond the nunciature on the Navan Road. Their names were known only to
Dr Brown is different. He is a relatively
young North American who starts his day by jogging in the Phoenix Park.
He is often photographed in the conservative weekly, ‘The Irish
Catholic’, attending pious events throughout the country.
He is a
regular at Knock and on Croagh Patrick on Reek Sunday.
He has won
plaudits from right wing catholic journalists like David Quinn and
He has even attended the autumn rural extravaganza, the
Ploughing Championship, possibly to experience the ‘smell of the sheep’,
a condition that Pope Francis has recommended every pastor should
Those who have met him attest to his charm.
He is however,
somewhat eclectic in his choice of company.
Pope Francis has recommended
dialogue in the Church.
In his attitude to the ACP, Dr Brown, his Irish
representative, fails to take this advice. He has refused to meet the
leaders of the Association, though it represents over a third of Irish
If a priest refused to meet a group of such magnitude in a
Parish, he would be in trouble.
Currently, the ACP is somewhat
perturbed about Dr Brown’s role in the appointment of bishops.
Consultations with clergy about appointments, which at its best was
fragile, has ended.
Since his arrival ten bishops have been appointed
and a further six are imminent due to retirements.
Those chosen, under
his watch, share similarities.
None of these are priests of the diocese
to which they have been appointed.
They came exclusively from the
conservative wing of the church.
They are stolid men who display little
of the imagination or creative courage needed in Church leadership