Belfast Telegraph

Silencing us won't solve Catholic Church's problems, say priests

By Mark Hilliard

Silencing priests is not an appropriate method of ending disagreements within the church, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) said yesterday.

More than 1,000 people attended a meeting to discuss how to solve the church "crisis" that includes continuing abuse scandals and declining Mass attendance.

Fr Brendan Hoban of the ACP told the gathering at Dublin's Regency Hotel that clamping down on "wayward" opinions was not the way to deal with issues.

He was referring to the recent censoring of a number of priests including Fr Brian D'Arcy and Fr Tony Flannery who voiced opinions unpopular with the hierarchy.

Fr Flannery -- who has been ordered to stop contributing to the Redemptorist Order magazine 'Reality' because of his liberal views -- attended the meeting yesterday.

But he was unable to comment.

"The church needs to find a way of dealing with disagreements, other than silencing wayward voices as they would see it," Fr Hoban said to applause.

"And we need to find another way, other than the secretive processes, that often attend such silencing."

Yesterday's event was the first step towards developing a national "dialogue" in relation to the future direction of the church, organisers said.

"The meeting agreed on the need to recapture, as a matter of urgency, the reforming vision of the second Vatican council," said Fr Hoban.

"This dialogue should take place at parish, diocesan and national level and should address all issues facing our people at this time of crisis."

He told the gathering that the public "need to be listened to and not patronised".

The final stage of the meeting where members of the public were allowed to speak was briefly interrupted by a man who claimed to have been an abuse victim.

Gardai were called but he was permitted to take the stage, where he demanded that survivors of church abuse be "given some sense of release".

There was also mixed opinions on the future of Cardinal Sean Brady, who has refused to stand down over his handling of the Fr Brendan Smyth affair.

While some said his position was untenable, others said his resignation was not the priority.

"Sean abused no one. There are a lot of people out there who actually abused people. It is a nuanced picture," said Brian Lennon, a Jesuit from Armagh.

Belfast Telegraph

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