Report from National Conference of Priests

 On the final day of their conference, 11 September 2003, held at Trinity and All Saints College Leeds, The National Conference of Priests adopted the following motions as Conference policy. 1. That the Roman Catholic Bishops of England and Wales when addressing the problems of diocesan re-organisation do not overburden their priests with maintaining existing structures. 2. That a Residential Therapeutic Centre be established to help priests who are suffering from depression and emotional breakdown. This centre would differ from present institutions which offer care for priests who have problems with addictive types of behaviour. 3. That training and funding be made available to provide for the education of lay people who wish to train for pastoral work within the Church. 4. That the procedures which are being produced by COPCA, (the Church's Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults) be submitted to Rome for formal recognition so that they will be binding on all bishops and not left to individual bishop's for implementation. It was noted that Rome alone has the canonical authority to enact legislation regarding child protection, and that obligatory child protection protocols would lead to good practice. It was noted that the American bishops had requested a formal 'recognitio' from Rome and it was urged that the English Bishops should do the same. A related motion was also passed by Conference, "that due canonical process be observed before any priest is placed on administrative leave." That is that the provisions of Canon Law be observed with regard to accusations made against a priest about any sort of scandalous behaviour, which may lead to him being removed from is parish or place of work. These are: That a preliminary investigation take place. That a priest's good name should be protected until such time as formal allegations are made. That a priest should be presented with written accusations which have been made in the presence of a notary. That a priest be made aware that he has the right to both a civil and canonical defence council. That a priest be made aware that he has a right of appeal. (further information from the RC Code of Canon Law, cc1717-1728) 5. The Conference supported a motion calling Parliament to repeal Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act, 2002. This demands that Asylum Seekers register on their day of arrival at their port of entry into the United Kingdom in order to receive help from the State or to be able to work legally. Conference recognised the unjust burden that this emand has placed on the poorest and most vulnerable members of society and stated. We believe that section 55 of the Act is being interpreted too strictly and therefore request the Home Secretary to suspend its operation as a matter of urgency." 6. The Conference pledged its support for the National Office of Vocations and in line with the theme of this Year's Conference urged the Bishop's of England and Wales to provide "an adequately resourced national coordinator for the ongoing formation of priests." 7. Conference voted to present to the bishops once again its strong concern over lack of pension provision for future enerations of priests and noted that the Bishop's had not as yet addressed this pressing and important issue The Conference elected Fr. Godric Timney OSB, as its new Chair in succession to Fr. Anthony Wilcox. Fr. Timney is a monk of Douai Abbey, Berkshire. He was professed in 1963 and ordained in 1970. At present he serves as the parish priest of St Anne's Ormskirk, Lancs. Upon accepting his appointment Fr. Timney said. " My job will be to listen, to see what the issues facing priests are and through the NCP to support them." At the Conference a new book, "Healing Priesthood" was launched. This book was sponsored by the National Board of Catholic Women. Angela Perkins of the NBCW said at the launch, "what I hear is a voice that is close, a voice of familiarity, the voice of a sister. We fail or flourish together."

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