Clergy changes should be ‘more democratic’

Bishops must take a more democratic approach to priestly appointments according to a leading expert who works with priests and religious who feel bullied in the Church.


Spiritan Fr Tony Byrne said that bishops and religious superiors who do not listen to priests’ concerns about appointments store up problems for the future. However, he also warned that priests should not refuse a challenging appointment for selfish reasons.


As priests all across the country are in the process of moving parishes, Fr Byrne told The Irish Catholic that priests can sometimes feel bullied in the appointment process.


“There should be a democratic approach applied to appointments. “Bishops and superiors who appoint priests and religious in a dictatorial and non-democratic way run the risk of having unhappy and even disturbed priests and religious.


“Making appointments in the way paves the way for serious personal problems in the future,” Fr Byrne told The Irish Catholic.


However, he also said that priests and religious should not just do their own thing. “They have to act responsible and should not refuse appointments for selfish reasons. If they feel that before God and in their conscience that they cannot accept an appointment, they should outline the reasons in writing to the Bishop or Superior.”


Fr Byrne, who offers support services to priests and religious who experience bullying from bishops, colleagues and parishioners said, “if one honestly believes, after some reflection and prayer, that an appointment to a position in the Church would endanger one’s psychological and medical health or if one believed that one would not have the capacity to perform adequately in that situation, then it would be unwise to accept the appointment”.


However, he said, “there must be dialogue with Superiors and reasons given for not accepting an appointment”.


He said that “blind obedience is not in keeping with the reality that God gave us intelligence and a free will.”