Press Release from ACI on eve of Bishops’ Ad Limina visit to Rome

Jan 14, 2017 | 5 comments


The Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI) expresses deep disappointment that the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference (ICBC) has been unable to agree to bring proposals on ending the celibacy requirement for priestly ministry in Ireland to Pope Francis for their Ad Limina visit to Rome beginning this weekend.

We fully support Bishop Leo O’Reilly’s proposal to set up a commission to examine the celibacy issue, whose  proposal reflects elements of our own submission made to Pope Francis prior to the Synod on the Family in 2015.

The growing shortage of priests needs to be addressed now “as a matter of urgency to ensure access by the faithful to Eucharist in the years ahead”.

We underline that the move would be in keeping with the practice of the Eastern Rite Churches where clerics can be married and eliminates the current anomaly of the Ordinariate whereby married Anglican clergy have been accepted into the Catholic Church as ordained priests.

The ACI holds that married clergy would bring the warmth and richness of their lived experience to their pastoral ministry and be well placed to offer support to married couples and families in difficulties.

In addition to ordaining married men, we believe there is a cohort of ordained priests who left active ministry to marry, without seeking laicisation, who could be invited back into ministry right now.

These, we would suggest, would bring their experience of marriage to pastoral work while providing extra resources to meet the challenge of the shortage of priests.

The high percentage of priests over 65 years of age in Ireland and the low intake of seminarians suggest that in ten years’ time many parishes will be without a resident priest.

Already the clustering of parishes has resulted in some parishes being without a daily Mass and on selected weekdays only having prayer services without distribution of Holy Communion. This is upsetting to parishioners, particularly daily Mass-goers.

The ACI commend Bishop O’Reilly for initiating the listening process and extensive consultations with his priests and lay members of the church at the Kilmore Diocesan Assembly where a key element was seeking realistic solutions to the challenge arising from the decreasing number of priests and from which these radical proposals have emerged.

We point out that, in seeking the establishment of a commission, Bishop O’Reilly is reacting positively to the urging of Pope Francis who, speaking about the shortage of priests, said that local bishops are best acquainted with the needs of the faithful and should be courageous and bring concrete suggestions for reform to Rome.

We also point out that the question of celibacy is already being discussed at the highest levels in the Vatican.

In September 2013, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said that celibacy is not a dogma of faith and that “it can be debated because it is an ecclesiastical tradition.”

The Association of Catholics in Ireland is committed to the pursuit of a reform and renewal agenda in the Irish Catholic Church in the spirit of Vatican II.
Noel McCann 0879274379
Anthony Neville 0868112715

Information regarding Ad Limina visit :-


  1. AJR

    It seems as if the majority of Irish bishops are still of the disgraceful view that it is better for Ireland, north and south, to have no priests than married priests!

    • Teresa Mee

      But, AJR, the Irish bishops do accept at least, some married priests, and hopefully they will never condemn second marriage in the event of the death of a spouse, leaving young children or infants motherless.

      Hopefully also, in face of shortage of priests, R.C. Church members at large could learn to conduct life-giving Sunday services by participating from time to time in the Celebrations of some of the other denominational Churches, as indeed many are already doing. Our members could also have the practical experience of parish organisation. This is where you’ll find many of our younger generation who have emigrated from our R.C. Church.

      The answer is for us to ‘get started’. ‘Get on our horses’, try visiting other churches, for example, the Unitarian Church in Stephens Green, or in Cork. You yourself may know of others.

      Teresa Mee

  2. Patricia

    At Tony Flannery’s Mass in Killimordaly yesterday there were not enough hosts to provide for everybody. Fr Flannery asked people to take a host and share it with those around them. It was very moving to see people do that, it reflected to me what it might have been like at the Sea of Galilee at the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Undoubtedly we will have to come up with new ways of celebrating the Eucharist. I see the future lack of priests as a huge opportunity for the Catholic Church.

  3. Mike Kerrigan

    Well done ACI! The Movement for Married Clergy ( ) campaigns for similar change in England and Wales. One of our bishops, Seamus Cunningham of Hexham and and Newcastle, also raised the issue with his fellow bishops – but met the same stone wall….

  4. Brian Eyre

    What about priests who left active ministry and who sought a dispensation to marry, could these also not be invited back into ministry or is the invitation only for those who did not seek laicisation?
    If so then this would be an awful injustice and it would be a return to a very legalistic frame of mind and action.
    When I decided to marry I asked for a dispensation from celibacy, not from priesthood, I did not loose the sacrament of Orders which is permanent, just like Baptism and Confirmation.


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