Association of Catholic Priests…Laudabiliter Re-Visited

I can of course understand that Catholics, non-Catholics and anti-Catholics are angry and calling for the full course of the law to run in respect of Cardinal Brady. I am at a loss to understand a self-proclaimed athiest calling for Catholics to boycott Mass.

The Association of Catholic Priests are meeting in Dublin. The BBCs Religious Correspondent Robert Piggott is at the Conference. He was hardly just passing by. Presumably he was notified by the Association some time ago. Presumably he had to consult a BBC Editor…”look I need to go to Ireland..there is a story here”. Certainly he has been given access. He interviewed Fr Ignatius (“call me Iggy”)O’Donovan in the Augustinian Church in Drogheda.

And as Piggott moved among the audience at the ACP meeting, he was effectively talking facts (the Association is calling for an end to celibacy) and figures (25% of Irish priests are members) which had come from the “press pack folder”.

While the Cardinal Brady story may or may not be a co-incidence of timing, it is clear that the ACP is getting a lot of publicity and using their media contacts to great advantage. The Fr Brian D’arcy “gagging story” is another example of the ACP getting the story out. And this is to be welcomed. While it is true that 25% of Irish priests are members of the ACP, they are probably more influential within religious orders as they are not subject to the same strictures as priests in dioceses. Yet as vocations plummet, Bishops are forced to rely more on “order” priests to take on some duties. And this means that the messages coming from their sermons are not necessarily flavour of the month with the more conservative of Bishops.

Paradoxically the ACP has emerged as the “unofficial” voice of the church in Ireland. While many proclaim that priests should be married, at least one of them Fr PJ Madden, from Carlow is actually a widower. He WAS a married man.

Interestingly the Vatican is emerging as the focus of “rebellion”. It is a good tactic. Rome and its officials are perceived as the common enemy which unites ACP “rebel” and “mainstream” priests. And isolates the traditionalists. Indeed  Archbishop Martin of Dublin on RTE News last night publicly criticised the Vatican for gagging some ACP priests such as Fr D’arcy. On the eve of the ACP meeting, this was clearly tacit support from one of Ireland’s leading churchmen.

Attacking Rome is not only safe….and accurate……there is also a historic dimension. Rome has never treated Ireland well. The only English Pope…..Pope Adrian IV…..gave the English (King and Church) lordship over Ireland. He even went so far as to helpfully produce a Papal Bull (Laudabiliter) to legitimise it all. As one priest of my acquaintance puts it “the Papal Bull is Papal Bullshit”

Effectively the Church believes in a kind of hierarchy of nations with Rome at its head……Spain, France, England, Portugal, Bavaria….Ireland was always regarded as a bit “peasant” or “second class”.

Of course the Reformation changed things. Ireland stayed loyal to Rome and educated Irish theology students in Rome, France and Flanders. While this clearly produced a common relationship, Rome has never allowed the Catholic Church in Ireland any real clout in the corridors of power.

So the relationship between the Irish Catholic Church and Rome “should” be difficult. Papal support during the Reformation and Penal Years to Catholic Emancipation (1829) was an exception to the “rule”. There are three starands of Irish Catholic opinion…..traditionalist, mainstream, liberal.

Concentrating on Rome unites two of these strands and gains the support of the people in the pews. I wish the well.

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