On Monday, November 1, The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) unexpectedly issued a statement outlining eleven complaints they had surrounding the treatment of priests in Ireland, including those who are gay.
The group, which represents a third of Catholic priests across the country, says that some bishops and archbishops are failing “to live up to their responsibility […] which is to be shepherds to their priests as well as to their people.”
The ACP confirmed that they have received an increased number of complaints as of late, the majority of which being aimed at the same small number of bishops and archbishops. These officials need “to be held accountable”, state the group, as they aim to uphold their promise “to represent, and if needs be to defend, [their] fellow priests.”
Among the eleven complaints, are concerns over the treatment of gay priests in Ireland. According to the ACP, some are “being refused permission to work in parishes” by bishops and archbishops. In other dioceses, gay priests “are treated as equal and valued members of the priesthood,” a practice which should be granted to all.
The group also expressed distaste surrounding the treatment of elderly and overworked ministers. It seems that many are worried about the strain on their mental and physical health, having to attend to full-time duties until they can retire at 75.
In one diocese, one priest out of ministry was not provided with accommodation and had to live with his family, while elsewhere, officials were “being forced out of priesthood” without reason. One case has even required legal action as a priest on sick leave was not paid his salary for two years, and some bishops are appointing priests to parishes against their will.
“Some have been coerced and bullied into leaving the priesthood against their wishes while others have been forced to make an inappropriate public confession contingent on a continuation in ministry,” the statement continues.
The ACP reports that some “bishops comment disparagingly on their personal appearance and active ministry,” which has lasting and damaging effects on the priests’ confidence. Furthermore, those affected state that they are “unable to stand up for themselves and find themselves in inadequate accommodation and lacking a level of support that other priests in the diocese enjoy.”
While the group accepts that most bishops have “respectful engagement” with their priests, for some, “if they ‘lose a battle’ with a priest, [they] will later vindictively ensure that they will ‘win the war’.”
The statement comes as the ACP prepares for their annual general meeting in Athlone’s Radisson Blue Hotel on Wednesday, November 10, where the abuse of priests will be discussed in full.
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