ACI – Don’t Wait for Bishops to Initiate Change

Dec 4, 2020 | 2 comments

Reacting to the long awaited response of the Irish Bishops to ACI proposals for change made in 2019, the ACI Steering Group advises members and all lay people not to wait for bishops to act.

ACI 2019 proposals

Oct 1st 2019 ACI meeting with two bishops

Response by Two Bishops to ACI Submissions

ACI Reaction to Response of Bishops

We welcome these responses from Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly and Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan – and especially the assurance that the Irish church is to respond positively to the call of Pope Francis for synodality in the church and is to include our documentation in the deliberative process.

We thank Bishop Cullinan also for his itemised response to the six points made by us in the conclusion of our report on co-responsibility in the Irish church, in September 2020.

However, we continue to be deeply concerned about the very slow progress made so far towards the vibrant co-responsible relationship between clergy and people that will characterise an effectively missionary and synodal Irish church.  We are not confident at this stage that the clerically-led measures outlined in the bishops’ communications will succeed in mobilising the resources of energy and commitment that will be demanded by (for example) the evangelical model exemplified by ‘Divine Renovation’.

In particular we regret the lack of detail in the bishops’ letters, in response to specific issues raised by us:

  • the need for active promotion of the importance and role of the common priesthood of all of the baptised;
  • the continuing absence of those parish and diocesan structures that can alone vindicate the right of lay people to a co-responsible voice in their own church;
  • the canonical barriers to the restoring of confidence among lay people that parish pastoral councils can deliver co-responsibility, synodality and continuity ;
  • the perceived irrelevance of Christian faith to younger generations, despite the challenges they are now facing.

In conclusion we foresee the possibility of further decline in the potential of the Irish church to re-invigorate itself via the clerically-led model so far outlined, and believe that all lay people need to be prayerfully thoughtful about their own potential for mission in their own spheres of life – especially those of family, work and friendship – at a time of radical challenge.

Faced with an obvious crisis of faith-continuity and the need to discover a truly effective model of co-responsible mission, all committed Irish Catholics need to be consciously in search of that – rather than waiting for it to be delivered to them by a process they themselves cannot influence.


  1. Tony Corcoran

    Pastoral Councils will never work if an obstructive Parish Priest is the President.
    Councils must, also, have a vibrant communication process in place, fostering ongoing multi-directional communications.
    A Council must have the backing of the community which it serves on both a pastoral and practical level.

  2. Noel

    I agree completely with Tony’s three salient observations. The Parish Pastoral Council [PPC] ‘ticks the box’ when it comes to involving the lay faithful in parish activities. However, as a concept originally introduced in 1983, adopted or not, as the local parish priest decides, it certainly doesn’t meet the needs of parishes in 2020. It is very telling that there is no indication from our episcopal leaders of any plan to review the working of PPCs across the country despite the fact that the current PPC model was introduced nearly 40 years ago. Does this indicate satisfaction with the current model or apathy when it comes to the role of the lay faithful?


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