Dublin, Ireland, Jul 3, 2017 / 03:28 am
Besides a shortage of vocations, Irish priests are facing an even more harrowing kind of crisis.
At least eight priests in Ireland have committed suicide in the past 10 years, according to recent reports given at meetings of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), and many priests are sounding the alarm about a severe dip in morale and a mental health crisis among the country’s clergy.
The drop in priestly morale has clergy calling for a confidential helpline to be set up for priests needing support.
At a recent ACP meeting, an attendee reiterated the request: “Our morale is affected because we are on a sinking ship. When will the ‘counter-reformation’ take place? We’re like an All-Ireland team without a goalie. We need a national confidential priests’ helpline. We’re slow to look for help.”
The concerns of a severe dip in the morale and well-being of priests in the country have been raised by the 1,000-member clerical group in at least three different meetings in the past few months.
Fr. Roy Donovan, a spokesman for the ACP, told IrishCentral in May that besides the priests who are speaking up, he believes many more elderly churchmen are suffering in silence, and don’t know where to go for help.
The factors for the crisis in morale and mental health are several-fold, priests have said.
Like much of the world, Ireland, once a thriving Catholic country, is facing a serious vocations crisis. In 2004, Ireland had more than 3,100 priests. By 2014, the last year data is available, the number had declined by more than 500, with 2,627 priests in the country, though the number of active priests is likely closer to just 1,900.