A suggested strategy for the recovery of the Irish and Western Catholic Church

In the interests of:

  • mobilising all Catholic lay people to an activation of their own Christian priesthood to meet the challenges of their own environments;
  • alerting all Catholic young people at Confirmation to the relevance of their own priesthood to their own immediate life concerns and questions, and to all walks of life;
  • asserting our own adult conviction that no prayer to the Holy Spirit is unavailing;
  • enabling even the youngest to raise their own voices honestly in service of the truth;
  • restoring lost trust between ordained pastors and people;
  • restoring the prestige of the ordained priestly ministry and the Eucharist as agents of social betterment;
  • enabling homilists to preach more effectively on the role of all Christians living in the world;

The Irish Bishops’ Conference could:

  • Acknowledge the indispensable role of the priesthood of all of the people of God – especially of those who are not ordained – in responding to all challenges facing the Irish church, including those that can arise from any failings of the ordained ministry and the episcopate;
  • Acknowledge the lamentable absence of instances of conscientious protest by ordained clergy – especially bishops – against the neglect of child safeguarding and the culture of secrecy in the church – in the era prior to 1994;
  • Proclaim the essential role of the unordained priestly people of God in re-establishing the church’s integrity as a wellspring of justice in the world;
  • Declare an end to the era in which deference rather than honesty and courage was expected by ordained priests and bishops, from the unordained priestly people of God – as called for clearly by the Ryan report of 2009 and by the sacred cause of child safeguarding today; 
  • Acknowledge that priestly ordination does not in itself sanctify the ordinand, or place the ordinand upon a plane beyond moral error or just questioning by the priestly people;
  • Abandon all practices and attitudes that imply that lay people, including the young, need to be submissive to clergy to be considered loyal members of the church, and that paternalism – the treating of the unordained as though they can  never grow to responsible adulthood or full understanding of the Gospel call to themselves — is ever an appropriate way of relating to the People of God; 
  • Lament the absence of regular structured opportunities for the unordained priestly people to communicate their pastoral needs, their wisdom and, if need be, their constructive and charitable criticism, to the ordained priesthood, including their bishops;
  • Implement in Ireland what was clearly foreshadowed  by article 37 of Lumen Gentium (1964) – diocesan and parish church structures for regular, respectful and open dialogue between the ordained and unordained priesthood;
  • Acknowledge the importance of the common priesthood of all of the people in actuating the principles of Catholic Social Teaching in Irish society, to challenge its many and growing injustices;


In making these suggestions I acknowledge the graces received from the ministry and wisdom of many ordained priests, and firmly believe that in the church crisis of the present can be found all of the lessons needed for a full realisation of the Pentecostal future of the church and the world – trusting always first of all in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Sean O’Conaill 19/07/2019)

Along with two others, this document was formally presented to the Conference of Irish Catholic Bishops on October 1st, 2019, by the Steering Group of the Association of Catholics in Ireland. 

The Common Priesthood of the People of God and the Renewal of the Church

It was Catholic parents and victims of clerical abuse who taught Catholic Bishop to prioritise the safeguarding of children in the church.

Jesus as Model for the Common Priesthood of the People of God

It was for challenging religious profiteering and hypocrisy that Jesus was accused and crucified. He is therefore a model for the challenging of administrative corruption, unaccountability and failure in the institutional church by any of its members.

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