Elitist Church is 'stuck in a moment', warns priest

Fr Roy Donovan. Photo: Frank McGrath

Sarah MacDonald

A Parish priest has called for drastic change in Irish Catholicism as he recalled how one of his duties in the past was policing the church to stop people talking during mass.

Fr Roy Donovan, a leader of the Association of Catholic Priests, lamented acting as "a policeman" while a curate in Drimnagh and in Borrisoleigh.

Speaking in Dublin, the parish priest of Caherconlish and Inch St Laurence asked: "What happened to us priests, how did we end up like that? How did we get it all so wrong?"

Admitting there is "something very wrong with priesthood", he said Irish priests saw themselves as "the special ones".

"We had no sense of the common priesthood of all believers," he said.

In his address, What Does It Mean To Be Catholic Today?, Fr Donovan said all generations have lost their link to the church as an institution.

"We have too many dioceses, parishes, too many churches - more than we need. We have too many celebrations of masses on Sundays with small gatherings. We have reached a crisis point in the Irish church," he said.

He said that most of the congregation in rural churches are to be found at the back of the church, with nobody in the upper middle or top pews of the church.

"This demonstrates the huge distance that people have been taught to keep," he added.


He likened the Irish Church today to an old car.

"The engine is still running, but the wheels are spinning and going nowhere. Can't go forward or backwards. As in the U2 song - Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of," he said.

He said "holding on to what we know" was "a dead horse".

"A lot of priests are saying, 'Sure it will see me out' and continue to work out of the old model," he added.

"There is not enough appetite for change which would require major reversals."

Criticising priesthood as "very elitist" because it is reserved only for celibate males, Fr Donovan said the injustice at the heart of the Catholic Church was the exclusion of women from priesthood.

"Their treatment as second-class citizens was a scandalous corporate sin," he said.