The Association of Catholic Priests, a group representing over 1,000 priests in Ireland, is warning of “unease, upset and anger” among clerics over the public health responsibility some are even being “bullied” into taking on in the post-COVID-19 return to public Masses.
Full text of the statement from the Association of Catholic Priests on re-introducing public Masses
Monday 15th June 2020
The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) welcomes the re-introduction of public Masses in the Republic of Ireland from Monday, June 29th 2020. It is gratifying that the prudent decision to re-commence religious services is now deemed appropriate, in view of the improving situation vis-à-vis the coronavirus pandemic.
It is commendable too that every effort is being made to ensure, in so far as is humanly possible, that the health of worshippers is not compromised through lack of appropriate preparation.
However, it is very clear that a ‘new normal’ for religious services will be a highly complex project to execute.
Already detailed parameters have been laid down: (i) in the Return to Work government protocols; (ii) in public health regulations; (iii) by insurance companies; (iv) and by church authorities.
In the latter case, both the Irish Catholic bishops as a body and the western bishops have circulated meticulous and comprehensive directions, including (in the case of the western bishops document – Nothing Can Separate Us From the Love of God) a list of 13 specific guarantees in the Church Readiness Form that parish priests are expected to sign off on before permission is granted for public worship.
It needs to be said that there is widespread unhappiness among priests with the expectation, indeed presumption, that they take individual responsibility for orchestrating this demanding and difficult task and by implication to accept blame for, say, a possible cluster of COVID cases in their parish.
Rather than bishops spelling out what priests are expected to do, it would make more sense if all dioceses might relieve some of the burden by, for example, centrally sourcing resources such as PPE and signage, as well as offering short training courses – possibly on-line – for those implementing the new regulations.
There is unease, upset and (in some cases) anger among priests that they are being manipulated, and (in some cases) effectively being bullied, into organising and ‘carrying the can’ for the reintroduction of public Masses and for whatever fall-out emerges in time.
The ACP calls for the withdrawal of the Church Readiness Form charging priests with individual responsibility for deciding when parishes are ready to proceed with public Masses and to situate that responsibility more appropriately in the management of a Parish Pastoral Council or a designated Parish Committee.