Bishop backs down over plan for male-only lay ministers
PROTESTS over the proposed introduction of a male-only lay ministry in the Catholic diocese of Killaloe have forced the local bishop to back down and postpone the move.
In a letter read out in parishes on Sunday, Bishop Kieran O'Reilly acknowledged the concerns raised by lay women and groups in the western diocese about the permanent diaconate.
The move came after Kathleen McDonnell, a member a parish pastoral council in west Clare, had criticised the move to set up the men-only lay ministry and had called on the diocese to create a ministry for all.
It also provoked a poster campaign opposing the new ministry which appeared on parish noticeboards across the diocese.
It comes as over half of Killaloe's 82 priests are now aged 66 or older and between them they minister to 56 parishes across Co Clare as well as parts of Offaly, Laois, Tipperary and Limerick.
In his letter, Bishop O'Reilly told his flock that in light of the conversations held over the past weeks: "I will not now proceed with the introduction of the permanent diaconate at this time in the diocese."
It is understood that a number of men had already put themselves forward for consideration as candidates for training to become deacons.
Married and single laymen usually carry the ministry out in conjunction with their own jobs.
Ms McDonnell had warned the permanent diaconate was not the answer to the shortage of priests as they cannot say Mass or hear confessions.
She explained that they can carry out baptism, marriage and preside at funerals but that lay people can also do this anyway in the absence of priests. "That is already being done in countries in Latin America," she said.
The bishop paid tribute to the level of discussion the issue had sparked, describing it as "a sign of the energy and commitment of many people in our church".
A spokesman for the bishop, Fr Brendan Quinlivan, told the Irish Independent that Bishop O'Reilly had received a lot of correspondence on the matter.
However, Ms McDonnell said members of her newly established forum on change were "delighted that Bishop Kieran has put this on hold", as it gave them an opportunity to explore alternatives.
"We didn't really expect the bishop to put it on hold. Other people have said that they can't remember anything like this happening before. It is quite extraordinary."