High-profile cleric hits out at 'whingeing' priests
Published 12/08/2014 | 02:30
A HIGH-profile Irish Dominican has hit out at the liberal Association of Catholic Priests accusing it of contributing to the vocations problem.
Fr Brian McKevitt, editor of the conservative 'Alive' newspaper, described the priests' association as "a bunch of ageing, disillusioned priests who seem to be always whingeing about what they see as the failings of the Church".
Fr McKevitt was responding to the latest appeal from the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) to Irish bishops to add their voice to the "growing chorus now accepting the need for a married as well as a celibate priesthood" in the Catholic Church.
His comments drew fire from Co Mayo parish priest and ACP leader Fr Brendan Hoban, who said he was "mesmerised that Brian McKevitt should make such a gratuitous and insulting attack on the membership of the ACP." He said it would not deflect them from debating issues central to the future of the church.
The ACP, which has over 1,000 Irish members, warned there was a need for a "realistic and planned response" to the present crisis in vocations.
The group said it believes the problem of fewer and older priests in the developed world can be resolved by ending compulsory celibacy; ordaining suitable married men; inviting priests who left the active ministry to get married to return to ministry; and ordaining women to the Permanent Diaconate.
In a statement, the ACP said it was clear from the statistics now available that in 10 to 15 years "the steep decline in the number of priests will provoke a Eucharistic famine in Ireland."
However, Irish Dominican Fr McKevitt responded by castigating the ACP for its "apparent obsession with ending celibacy and ordaining married men."
He said the group's stance reflects "a narrow, world-conformist axe-grinding that misses the point".
The vocations crisis in the Church is far greater than the ACP seems to realise, he said and highlighted that an estimated 80pc of the world's population has never even heard of Christ or his Gospel.
"Where is the ACP's passion about the need to bring the Gospel to billions of people," he asked.
Reacting to the Dominican's comments, Fr Hoban said he was "especially disappointed" that Fr McKevitt would denounce over 1,000 fellow priests in "such sweeping personal terms." He said the ACP's members were priests who had given life service to the Catholic Church in Ireland.
"Efforts to close down debate on the vocations crisis is a counsel of despair. If we have learned anything in the Irish church over the last few decades, surely it is that shooting the messenger is a failed policy," the ACP founder said.
The Irish Dominicans ordained three men to the priesthood this summer and over the past five years have seen up to 13 men join the order.
Separately, a spokesman for the Irish bishops told the Irish Independent that the hierarchy is focused on the Year of Consecrated Life which will be launched later this year.