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Irish priests told to stop bashing bishops

Confidential helpline considered for distressed and lonely churchmen

The annual general meeting of Ireland’s Catholic Priests has been told to ease up on attacking their seniors, amidst increasing concerns over the future of the Church in the country.

At the same time, the Church is considering a confidential helpline for priests who feel bullied or depressed, as their faith communities melt away.

It’s fair to say the Church in Ireland has had a torrid time of late, with sexual abuse allegations rocking an institution already dealing with a lack of vocations, waning attendances, and an erosion of deference.

Priests are apparently doing what any other bunch of under pressure workers would do - blaming the middle managers.

Calling the bishops spineless nerds and sycophantic half-wits is not going to encourage them to adopt your point of view

Hence Former Abbot of Glenstal Abbey Mark Patrick Hederman told the annual meeting of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in Athlone this week that bishops were “not all as bad as painted by your leadership”, the Irish Times reports.

“If the ACP is trying to change things and to galvanize the bishops of this country into positive action, then even the most junior politician and unseasoned diplomat would tell them that they are going about it the wrong way.

“Calling the bishops spineless nerds and sycophantic half-wits is not going to encourage them to adopt your point of view.”

If the good Abbot was hoping to gee-up his dog-collared audience, he might be a little too late, with priests despairing of their leadership, while simultaneously feeling increasing isolated, and in some cases suicidal. The meeting was told a confidential helpline was needed for struggling clerics.

Fr Gerry O’Connor told the Athlone meeting that it was clear from a series of regional meetings that “priests need to learn to say ‘I need help’,” and also “to say a respectful ‘No’.”

There was, he said, “no tangible Church vision for the future” while priests themselves “have enormous grief about disappearing faith communities.”

The relationship between bishops and priests had become “damaged and soured” with some priests feeling “bullied.”

Those worried for the church as a whole might take some comfort from the fact that priests seem to be in great demand in other parts of the world. Indeed, in Silicon Valley, that hotbed of innovation, Fr Vincent Lampert is rushed off his feet dealing with exorcisms. ®

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