Assembly 2023: What we heard

2023 AssemblyAUSCPAUSCP NewsMutual Support

What was learned from the Colloquium on Support of Priests:
“How can we better support priests?”

What we learned from the Colloquium:
During the AUSCP assembly in San Diego, the Mutual Support Working Group held two colloquiums, “What do I say When a Brother Priest calls me?” and “How can we better support priests?”

Currently, the committee is addressing issues to assist priests in better understanding their rights in the event they are called to the Chancery regarding an accusation. A second priority concerns the support of priests for whom an accusation has been found to be non-credible, yet not restored to ministry. While the committee will continue to work on these two priorities in the coming year, we also recognize that other areas of support are also lacking. The colloquium was organized to listen and share with one another the expressed needs of our membership.

How can we better support priests?

The voices at the meeting were a mix of an urgent need to address a growing despair, ‘Who is there for us?’, as well as a recognition of hopeful avenues to explore, ‘We are to become the community we want’. There was considerable expression seeking ways for fraternal support in a current environment of accusations and polarization. One priest spoke dishearteningly of the ways Bishops just ’dump a guy,’ which all too often can lead to further polarization between priests and bishops. Another expressed concern of the lack of communality among priests, a broken brotherhood, characterized as a felt lack of support, empathy and concern for each other.

Several comments were made in regard to the divisions between young and old priests and a desire to find ways to dialogue with younger clergy, so that both groups can come to know each other, better understand and appreciate each other’s theological stance. Others spoke of the need to enhance an ethic of respect for one another.

Lastly, there was a call for personal responsibility. It was suggested that each of us can help make a difference by taking the initiative of reaching out to other priests, especially in neighboring parishes, and even to those whom we do not know. We can become the community we want by putting our concern and empathy for fellow priests into action through our outreach. 

The expressed needs of the group seemed to revolve around themes of a felt personal isolation or weak connection to other priests and a strong desire to feel a sense of relationship with fellow priests. This conversation will continue with members of the support committee. We will reflect on these findings and appeal to all AUSCP members to assist us in strategizing how best to address these concerns. 

If you did not have the opportunity to join this conversation during the assembly, please know that your comments are much appreciated. We need your observations as well as any suggested initiatives to assist the committee in exploring ways to better move membership toward a greater sense of personal support. Please send your comments to: Ed Palumbos at

What do I say When a Brother Priest calls me?

At the annual meeting of AUSCP in San Diego, the Mutual Support Committee held two listening sessions as part of the Thursday morning colloquiums. The first was on “What do I say When a Brother Priest calls me?”

There were about 9 men and one woman present. The focus was upon what to say to a brother priest when he calls you to tell you he has or had a meeting with the bishop and he needs guidance. We started out by going through the steps found on the card previously distributed by the AUSCP on the Rights of Priests. After telling the priest that if this is an admittance of abuse that you are a mandatory reporter, the primary job is to listen.

Listen as he tells of his feelings about the allegation, about his experience with the diocese and how he is feeling right now. Provide whatever kinds of support you can provide without breaking diocesan rules. For example, if the diocese has said he cannot be on church property do not offer him to stay at your rectory. Staying at your private home is acceptable.

Everyone agreed the action steps found on the card were very helpful. Some of the priests had already shared a card with another priest who did not receive them or of a priest who needed to see the rights he had. There were a couple of stories presenting different reasons for the priests’ suspension and different outcomes of those investigations.

One asked the question “Why didn’t I learn of this when I was in the seminary?” Primarily because the seminary did not think you would ever need this. And the Code of Canon Law was rewritten in 1983. So the rights in the old Code were not as clear as they are in the new Code.

There was a lively discussion about “recovered memories.” Everyone agreed that this was very useful information that seminaries should teach.

I would argue that priests think this sort of thing would never happen to me, so they do not listen anyway and when confronted with this information, THEY are driven by their need to be honest and forthcoming. So they say too much without proper guidance. That is why it is always necessary for a priest to know why he is meeting with chancery staff and if it is about problems in his ministry to always take a friend or canon/civil lawyer with him.

— Fr. Michael Sullivan

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