On the Blog, over the last few days, we have heard a fair little bit about how bishops can hurt their priests and seminarians and sometimes even destroy their lives.
We heard from the relative of a priest who claimed that Cahal Daly destroyed their brother's life.
We heard about priests being greatly hurt by the behaviours and actions of the Archbishop Emeritus of Cashel and Emly.
We have heard of the Dublin priests who feel hurt, neglect and being taken for granted by Diarmuid Martin in Dublin.
This week I personally heard of how a priest felt hurt bu the coldness and aloofness of Noel Treanor in Down and Connor.
The sad reality in the Catholic Church is that bishops can treat their priests very unfairly and like dirt and the priests have no come back.
Traditionally I have heard priests say that in Canon Law the only right a curate has is to a Christian burial!
We have also seen on this Blog over time about vulnerable seminarians are to the whim of their bishops and indeed to the whim of Maynnoth priest staff members.
We heard of the great injustice Conan in Derry suffered at the hands of Maynooth and Donal McKeown when he reacted in shock to find two fellow seminarians in bed together.
The response of the Church and the bishops seem to be: FIRE THE WHISTLEBLOWER.
This type of behaviour is no longer accepted in industry, the services industry, and the civil service. These places now have a Charter for Whistleblowers to give them protection.
If these "secular" entities protect whistleblowers and have a grievance procedure for their staff - how much more should the Church have it - the Church being ideally that body which advocates the Trust and Justice of Christ and God?
Bullying is and has always been, rife in the Church and the bullies - bishops and superiors get away with it under the illegitimate cover of the vow/promise of obedience - blind obedience!
WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?
If the Church was willing - and of course it is not - there should be a whole new section in canon law - a grievance procedure - whereby a priest or a seminarian should be able to challenge the behaviour and decisions of bishops and superiors.
This procedure would need to be totally independent of Church authority - maybe run and overseen by law people and civil lawyers. Their findings should be binding on bishops and superiors and a bishop should not be able to "punish" a priest or seminarian for resorting to this grievance procedure.
The occasional priest has successfully appealed a bishop's decision to Rome. But even then it is all done in secret courts and is very unsatisfactory.
Perhaps as part of this, there could be a Priests and Seminarians Representative Body who would speak for and represent a priest or seminarian. If you like a priests and seminarians trade union.
Those of us who have brought bishops to Industrial Tribunals and Civil Courts (like I did with Cahal Daly) know how impossible this way of getting justice is.
In Irish and UK law a priest is not deemed an "employee". Rather he is deemed to be a self-employed subcontractor to the Church and the bishop. That's why the Belfast Industrial Tribunal would not hear Buckley v Daly.
And when I got him to the Belfast High Court I was told that the Catholic Church in civil law had the same status as a golf club. In order to succeed against Daly, I had to PROVE that he acted otherwise than in accordance with Canon Law. As Canon Law was made by bishops, for bishops - a curate did not have a snowball's chance in Hell!
How ludicrous it is to say that a diocesan priest is a subcontractor and not an employee.
A bishop dictates to a priest where he shall live, in what house he shall live, at the bishop's whim. He dictates his income and working conditions. He dictates his time off and his holidays. He even dictates who he can associate with.
Not only is a poor priest an employee - he is a SUPER EMPLOYEE with very few rights.
A priest is a little better off than a modern day (if comfortable) slave!
In the absence of the Church and canon law doing something to correct this - who do priests form their own "trade union" - The National Union of Priests and Seminarians?
That's how other former work slaves freed themselves from their work masters.
The union could negotiate priests rights with the Bishops Conference and bishops would be bound by an employment contract.
An unjust or tyrannical bishop could find himself the subject of "industrial action", a go slow, a work to rule or indeed an all-out strike.
I imagine that priests would get tremendous support from their parishioners in such a venture.
Imagine a picket on Diarmuid Martin's house to stop him getting to the airport for his next international flight?
Imagine a picket on Noel Treanor's palace where other union members would not pass and prevent his delivery of fine food and fine wines?
Imagine Dermot Clifford not being able to get his latest delivery of Jameson or Red Breast because of the clerical picket in Cashel?
Imagine gynecologists and midwives coming out on strike in sympathy with Waterford priest's picket on Phonsie?
Imagine Amy Martin stuck behind the picket lines in Ara Coeli for a month and not being able to get to the Bogside to collect his fairy cakes and fresh cream sponges from his mammy?
This idea has great potential you know........................................