Irish priests were told that at the first annual meeting of the Association of Catholic Priests that if citizens could vote on religious affairs, church leaders would be swept out of office, the Irish Times reports.

Over three hundred people attended the meeting in Dublin on Tuesday.

If Catholics in Ireland were able to convey their feelings in a democratic way “church leaders would suffer a defeat as cataclysmic as that administered to Fianna Fáil in the recent general election”, Fr Kevin Hegarty said.

The Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne reports “highlight the acute level of dysfunction in the church,” he told the gathered crowd.

Hegarty added that the church needed to open its doors to “married priests and women priests”. 

He said the church would work at developing a “healthy and holistic theology of sexuality”.

Not since the 19th century “has there been such public disagreement among the bishops. Cardinal Cullen’s Tridentine temple has come tumbling down” the Mayo priest said.
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A priest of the Killala diocese said there was “a torpidity about the Catholic Church in Ireland today. Take the preparations for the forthcoming Eucharistic Congress” with “earnest emissaries from the congress office . . . travelling throughout the countryside valiantly trying to drum up some enthusiasm”.

Ordained in 1981, he spoke about the decline of the Catholic Church saying: “the sea of Catholicism has receded”.

He said: I have heard its long withdrawing roar . . . I have worked in a crumbling church. In 1981 it seemed as if it might be different.”

Then “the golden glow of the papal visit still enveloped the institution. Now we recognise it as the last árd fheis of traditional Irish Catholicism. It induced a sense of complacency and hubris; a deadly combination.”