September 04, 2002
Child abuse crisis rocks indentity in priesthood

by Karen O'Grady, Irish Independent

PRIESTS are struggling to hold onto their identity at a time when the Church is facing one of its greatest crisis, a conference was told yesterday.

Hundreds of priests gathered for the opening of the Annual Conference of the National Conference of Priests in Ireland (NCPI) in Maynooth yesterday.

One speaker, Tom McGovern, a chaplain in Glenard University Residence, Dublin, said priests are trying to hold onto their identities in very difficult times.

"For many it's extremely challenging to be a priest in today's society," he said. He believes priests are having "great difficulties" because people are having trouble trusting priests.

Speaking in Maynooth yesterday, Fr John Littleton, President of the NCPI said, because of the inexcusable crimes of a few, many priests are experiencing increasingly hostile attention on a daily basis. "Child abuse is a dreadful crime and those responsible must be brought to justice," he said.

"However, all priests are being targeted and labelled," he added. Meanwhile, the NCPI welcomed Justice Gillian Hussey's announcement outlining those appointed to conduct the child sexual abuse audit.

The rapid decline in the number of men joining the priesthood is also proving to be a major challenge, as workloads grow heavier for an increasingly elderly number of priests.

NCPI President Fr John Littleton described the situation as "unbearable" for many elderly priests, who despite falling numbers in Mass attendance still celebrate the same number of Masses, and also meet the committed demands for the Sacraments of Baptism, First Holy Communion, Confirmation and Marriage.

Today, UCD lecturer and psychotherapist Marie Keenan will speak about child abuse and the Church, while tomorrow a workshop will be given to help priests deal with the media.

Karen O'Grady

Posted by Donnacha at September 04, 2002 02:15 AM
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