In the first post, he dealt with the questions of how the ACI started and why he thought such an association was needed. Today’s questions consider the organisation’s relationships with the hierarchy.
Getting to Know the Association of Catholics in Ireland – Q & A with Martin Murray, Part 2
Does the ACI have a relationship with the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP)?
The two associations are autonomous. The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) which was formed in 2010, shares many elements of the ACI’s Reform and Renewal agenda and it is hoped the two groups, along with other existing Catholic reform groups, will maintain a very close working relationship.
There had been some online discussion about the need for two associations. Some felt separate organisations did nothing to address the problem of clericalism in the church. Others felt the laity needed to find their own unique voice, and avoid a structure where the tendency might be to give way to the clergy in decision making. It was also recognised that priests at this time of crisis in ministry, have their own issues to address. In the end it was decided different associations working in close relationship was the best way to proceed at this point in time. This could of course change in the future. Meanwhile double membership is an option.
It is also worth pointing out that there are other Catholic reform groups in Ireland that predate the ACI. The oldest is probably Pobal Dei ( http://www.pobalde.ie ) which held the first of its annual conferences back in 1987. More recent arrivals are Irish branches of the international Catholic reform movements ‘We are Church’ ( http://wearechurchireland.ie ) and ‘Voice of the Faithful Ireland’ ( http://www.votfi.com ). ACI aspires to proving an umbrella structure where all these voices for reform, can work together for change. Time will tell if this can be realised.
Has your group any interactions with the leadership of the Catholic Church in Ireland (Bishops, Archbishops, etc.)?
The ACI has had no interactions with the Irish hierarchy as of yet. While it of course can’t speak for everybody, it is hoped that meaningful and respectful dialogue will be achievable at some point in the future. Meanwhile, there is much to be done to encourage concerned lay people to have their own conversations and to imagine the shape of the future church, beyond what is presently possible. It will not be easy. There is a serious lack of encouragement for this type of engagement to take place within parishes and a culture of silence and unhealthy deference to be overcome. As one Belfast priest put it:
‘as a church, we are not good at dissent’.
It may even be too much to expect for this to happen much within parishes. It may well need to take place outside, or on the fringes of parish life; near enough for parishioners to get on board, but also outside enough for baptised Catholics who are currently not participating in the life of the church, to want to take part.
The series will conclude with a third part.