Suicide prompts call for support for priests

Priests have been urged to “reach out” in the wake of the death of a Dublin-based priest in a suspected suicide.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic this week after the most recent tragedy, the fourth such death of a priest in Ireland over the past two years, Fr Seán McDonagh of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) accused the Irish hierarchy of “running away” from the pressures facing their ever more isolated priests.

While not seeking to assign a specific cause to the latest death, Fr McDonagh said it had to be acknowledged that “pressures on priests are getting worse. Diminishing numbers mean the workload is unbelievably different to, say, 10 years ago, and leading to a greater isolation for priests.”

Pointing to his own parish, Fr McDonagh explained that in just a few years, a group of five clerics has dwindled to just two. “This has implications for priests who may need time off from their workload,” he explained, “but who do you get to step in if you plan to be away?

“The leadership is running away from the issue but it is an issue that has to be talked about,” he stressed.

In Dublin, Fr McDonagh contended, matters are compounded by the fallout of the Murphy Report for priests of the archdiocese, whose morale was sapped by being implicated en masse in ignoring the behaviour of errant clerics. “Priests feel let down,” he said.

Whatever the cause of pressure or despair for an individual priest, however, Fr McDonagh stressed that priests suffering alone “can and should reach out, and the new leadership of the Association of Catholic Priests is actively trying to encourage that”.

Fr McDonagh called for a more proactive approach by the hierarchy to supporting priests, stressing that “a more realistic vision of future ministry is needed”.