Irish priests are to form a union, the first of its kind ever. The aim will be to have their voices heard and to help reform within the church which has suffered from a massive crisis because of the pedophilia issue.
The plan is to invite all of Ireland's 6,500 priests the three leading movers said last night.
"It is based on reforming the Irish church along the spirit and vision of the church as the people of God," Mayo priest Fr Brendan Hoban told the Irish Independent newspaper.
"This was the reform policy that was called for by the Second Vatican Council when the world's bishops met in Rome from 1962-65, but it has not been put into practice in Ireland," Father Hoban stated.
They also want to address the crisis in vocations. Estimates are that there will be only 1,200 priests by 2028 if the current shortage of vocations continues
The group say they will provide a more liberal voice to the hard-line conservative approach of the Vatican and Irish church leaders to the child abuse crisis.
Organizers say there has been a very positive response so far to the organization.The three main organizers are Father Hoban, along with Redemptorist priest Fr Tony Flannery, and Columban missionary Sean McDonagh.
A statement from the trio has invited all interested clergy to a meeting scheduled to take place on September 15 in Portlaoise,County Laois about fifty miles from Dublin.
The statement follows a recent meeting in Athlone which was attended by six other concerned priests, who included the Benedictine Abbot of Glenstal, Patrick Hederman, Fr Bobby Gilmore a pastor known for his work with immigrants in London and a retired Dublin priest, Fr Padraig McCarthy. The Athlone meeting mandated Frs Hoban, Flannery and McDonagh to draft a set of prospective aims.
The organizations states there is need for priests and bishops to communicate better especially in the heated atmosphere of recent times where dozens of priests and several bishop have been forced to resign.
Father Flannery explained that one aim would be "to heal divisions between bishops and priests over how bishops were no longer father figures to their priests".
Father McDonagh said it was astonishing that the clergy was the only professional body in Ireland that did not have "a corporate voice".
Catholic Communications Office spokesman Martin Long stated he did not think there would be any opposition in the church to an association to represent priests. "It is a good thing if priests wish to organise themselves in order to voice their opinions and this would be important at this challenging time for clergy and lay Catholics alike," he said.
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