Reform priests want meeting with Vatican inquiry team
THE papal nuncio in Dublin has told the Vatican that a group of progressive priests wants to meet senior foreign churchmen heading up Pope Benedict's investigation of the Catholic Church in Ireland.
The urgent request, sent by Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza on behalf of the newly formed Association of Irish Priests, is to be considered by senior Vatican officials at a meeting in Rome this week.
Plans for the unprecedented probe, in the wake of the shocking findings of the Murphy and Ryan reports, will be made at the Vatican meeting with Cardinal Sean Brady, and Archbishops Diarmuid Martin, Dermot Clifford and Michael Neary.
Last week, the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops confirmed it had summoned Ireland's four senior clerics for high-level talks with the delegation of foreign prelates leading the inquiries.
The probe was ordered by Pope Benedict in his letter to the Catholics of Ireland last March, and will cover the four main archdioceses of Armagh, Dublin, Cashel and Tuam.
The Vatican says its aim is to examine the handling of abuse cases and identify possible improvements to the current procedures for preventing abuse of children.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the retired archbishop of Westminster, will investigate Cardinal Sean Brady's archdiocese of Armagh, and Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, will investigate the diocese of Dublin led by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.
Two Canadian prelates, Archbishop of Toronto Thomas Collins, and Ottawa's Jesuit Archbishop Terence Prendergast, will inspect respectively Cashel and Emly run by Archbishop Dermot Clifford and Archbishop Michael Neary's sprawling Tuam diocese in the west of Ireland.
Described as "an Apostolic Visitation", the investigation can also decide to examine some of the country's other 22 dioceses.
Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan will also look at the training of men for the priesthood at St Patrick's College in Maynooth, Co Kildare, and the Pontifical Irish College in Rome.
Last night Fr Tony Flannery, a Redemptorist priest and a co-founder of the Association of Irish Priests, confirmed to the Irish Independent that it had formally asked for a meeting.
"We have heard from the papal nuncio that he has passed on our written request to the authorities in Rome, but we have not yet received an answer," said Fr Flannery.
"We certainly want to hear terms of reference of the inquiry and we will have plenty of things to say to the visitors about how we envisage the reform of the Irish Church."
Last night a leading Augustinian priest appealed to the Apostolic visitors to meet ordinary Catholics and especially a delegation from the Association of Irish Priests.
Drogheda-based Fr Iggy O'Donovan said he had no great expectations of the visitation.
But he added: "I would urge them to meet Catholics at the coalface and also recommend them to talk to the Association of Priests who put church reform and consultation high on their priorities."
Also, in a procedure under strict Vatican control, two religious priests and two nuns have been mandated to survey all of Ireland's 137 religious orders and congregations in both the Republic and the North, and to make recommendations for their future regulation.
No role has been provided for an input from clergy and laity, but Pope Benedict has called on them to pray for its success in bringing renewal to the Irish Church.