In Ireland a group of priests – who have an official group, called Association of Catholic Priests, ACP, which makes it official and substantial and everything – got together with some other priests and mostly a bishop except for that one bishop who had to be somewhere. They got together and talked about things, and then issued a report on the things. This is that report on things.
They talked about how being a priest isn’t a red-hot popular career these days.
There is no doubt that priests are under great pressure, and that was generally acknowledged. But we did meet with a fair degree of disagreement with our analysis of the situation. There seems to be a substantial number of bishops, and some priests, who believe that the problems we are facing are not due to any difficulties in the Church or with the priesthood, but are caused by a lack of faith in the people. The people, they told us, have bought into the evils of materialism and consumerism, and don’t have time or interest in faith any more. They have, to all intents and purposes, become pagan.
Because those are the only two choices – being goddy, or being consumerist.
To their credit, the Association priests disagree.
It is a convenient belief, in that the blame lies elsewhere than among ourselves. But, apart from stating their understanding of the problem, there didn’t seem to us to be any practical ideas, or indeed energy, around how this evangelisation could be progressed. One bishop told us bluntly that he totally disagreed with our analysis, and another felt that dialogue with us would be very difficult while we held such unacceptable views about priesthood. We consider there are real problems here for the Irish Church. If there are such radically different understandings of the current situation, it is hard to see how we can make headway in working towards a solution.