Suicide and depression rising among Irish priests

Suicide and depression and being turned into “sacrament dispensing machines” are part of an ongoing struggle for many Irish priests.

Diocesan priests in Ireland are ““often pitied, patronised, reviled, insulted, disrespected, ignored and resented.”

These words came from Fr Brendan Hoban at last week’s annual meeting of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).

Abuse scandals  were particularly damaging to the Church, he said.

One-hundred-and-fifty of the 1000-strong ACP members were at the meeting.

Hoban said most priests are over the age of  70. Many are both isolated and lonely, and are made to understand they don’t matter any more.

“At best we’re now little more than a ceremonial presence on the sidelines of life,” he said.

Hoban went on to point out that pastoral care issues have changed in ways that are well beyond the training of most priests.

These include issues such as how to minister to parents of same-sex couples or how to respond to a same sex couple’s wedding invitation.

Dublin and Killala dioceses have just one priest under the age of 40.

Hoban said the long term view for these dioceses was that in 20 years’ time, they will have few priests under age 60.

They will be expected to care for over 199 Dublin parishes and 22 scattered rural parishes in Killala.

To counter people’s negative attitudes to “the last priests in Ireland” Hoban suggested they speak out.

“We have a right to consideration, acknowledgement, support, encouragement and, above all, respect,” he said.

“Priests who have served the church for so long deserve no less and it’s time to start a reasonable conversation about this.”

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