The Association of Catholic Priests heard that most bishops were 'not all as bad as painted by your leadership'

Irish priests should stop calling their bishops “spineless nerds and sycophantic half-wits”, a former abbot has said.

Dom Mark Patrick Hederman, retired Abbot of Glenstal, told a meeting of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) that most bishops were “not all as bad as painted by your leadership” and accused them of taking the wrong approach if they want to bring about change.

“If the ACP is trying to change things and to galvanize the bishops of this country into positive action, then even the most junior politician and unseasoned diplomat would tell them that they are going about it the wrong way,” he said.

The ACP, which has been described as a “liberal lobby group”, strongly criticised outgoing papal nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown earlier this year, saying it was “no secret that under the last Nuncio, [Pope] Francis’ vision of an open Church was not reflected in the appointment of bishops.”

“During that time there has been, with one or two exceptions, a clear lack of leadership from Irish bishops, even a marked reluctance to follow the example of Pope Francis,” they added.

However, Dom Hederman said: “Calling the bishops spineless nerds and sycophantic half-wits is not going to encourage them to adopt your point of view.”

“In fact,” he added, “for the most part, many of their flock would hold that they are more pleasant, less pompous, and more approachable than others from the past”.

At the same meeting, the ACP announced it would offer group therapy sessions for priests falsely accused of sexual abuse.

“A lot of good, decent priests have been affected by the abuse carried out by other priests in the past,” said Fr Roy Donovan. “They’ve suffered shock and a sense of shame over what’s happened, and that’s partly why we’re holding a circle of healing.”

“Hopefully, those who attend will find some benefit and, if it goes well, then it’s quite likely that we’ll hold regular circles of healing around the country.”