Priesthood and Mutual Support

The Mutual Support Work Group of the AUSCP was established over three years ago to provide assistance to priests as they experience challenges in their ministerial and personal lives.

Although it was initially envisioned as a way to support priests who had been accused (falsely or otherwise) of inappropriate sexual behavior, the group has been called upon to provide a listening ear and wise counsel to priests who are facing other challenges in their lives. The Work Group is made up of nine priests from around the USA and draws upon the combined wisdom of many years of compassionate ministry as well as the assistance of Canon Lawyers.

The Mutual Support group incorporates previous work of an AUSCP group toward priesthood preparation. The culmination of this effort was a White Paper, Preparing the Sixth Edition of the Program for Priestly Formation. It listed “Five Overriding Concerns,” Faithfulness to Vatican II; Call to Service; A Pastoral Model of Priestly Formation; Psychosexual Development and Celibacy; Discernment Processes and Faculty Formation. This document was shared with the U.S. bishops as they were revising their document guiding preparation for priesthood.

Featured Article Series

Mutual Support for Gay Priests

Official AUSCP Statement

The following statement concerning the AUSCP’s support of our brothers in ministry was offered by the Mutual Support Work Group, and affirmed by acclamation June 14, 2023. The statement is being released to the media and has been distributed to members of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops.

A Contribution to understanding the Bible and Homosexuality

Considered one of our major theologians, Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J., responded to the invitation of Fr. James Martin, S.J., founding Director of “Outreach Faith,” an LGBTQ+ Resource available on line, to address the issue of homosexuality for an on-going series initiated by “Outreach” of their “Guide to the Bible and Homosexuality.”   The following is her astute and deeply adept article, engaging both the tools of modern biblical exegesis and the tools handed on to us by Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., that can be used to interpret and discern official church teachings and statements.  Dr. Johnson’s contribution to this on-going, controversial, and highly-discussed moral issue at the recent Synod can be found by clicking the button below.

The Dallas Charter and the Damage Done

Humans seem incapable of correcting one problem without overcorrecting to the point that they create another, opposite problem. So seems to be the case with the United States bishops’ 2002 “Dallas Charter,” intended as a “zero tolerance” response to the ongoing abuse issue.  While originally well intentioned, over two decades later, it has now become clear that it has caused justice, common sense, and due process for accused priests to have been completely thrown out the window.  The lives of innocent priests continue to be shattered.  This article by David Pierre issues a call to take notice of this issue.  You can read the entire article HERE

Assembly 2023: What We Heard

At the annual meeting of AUSCP in San Diego, the Mutual Support Working Group held two listening sessions as part of the Thursday morning colloquia. Two articles are submitted in regard to the sessions, on “How can we better support priests?” and “What do I say When a Brother Priest calls me?” These colloquia were organized to listen and share with one another the expressed needs of our membership. These two reports are intended to inform all members of AUSCP about the conversation and the challenges that were surfaced.

Priests and the Right to Due Process

Today’s essay is on the Rights of Priests and the Due Process required by Canon Law.  It was written by Fr Kevin McKenna, a Canon Lawyer and former Chancellor of the Diocese of Rochester.  Kevin has written several books on Pastoral applications of Canon Law and has served as the President of the Canon Law Society of the United States.  Please give this short essay a read as a help to  better understand our rights as Priests.

Guidelines in Response to Accusations

What to do when yourself or another priest is accused of sexual abuse? Abuse is a terrible sin.  It is horrifying to the victims, to bishops, to fellow priests and to the alleged perpetrator.

This past year the AUSCP Mutual Support Committee has put together a list of things an accused priest can do when accused.  And a list of things that priest friends can do when a brother priest is accused.

After consultation with lawyers, diocesan officials and canon lawyers, the committee has put together the document “Guidelines in Response to Accusations.”

Miranda Rights — Not in the Church

In American law we have a sense of “Miranda Rights.”  The police have an obligation to tell you that everything you say can and may be used against you.  There is no sense of any Miranda Rights in Canon Law.  What does this mean to priests? Find out by reading the full article written by Fr. Michael Sullivan, JCL.

Rights of Priests

The Mutual Support Committee of the AUSCP has prepared a document delineating the rights of priests. It was prepared with the input of several canonists, bishops, and members of the Leadership Team. Along with the document is the text of a wallet card which the committee asks priests to print copies for themselves and their friends.

“You probably know of one or another priest who has been accused of sexual abuse, perhaps even yourself,” the document begins. “The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) is aware of such situations among its members and beyond. Some have been accused but exonerated. Others have been accused and convicted. Many others have been accused but ill-defined and protracted civil and ecclesial investigations leave them hanging for months and years. Some are never convicted or exonerated.”

Other Resources for Priesthood Issues

Since the December 8, 2016 Congregation for the Clergy’s release of The Gift of the Priestly Vocation (Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis—3rd Edition), with its mandate that each conference of bishops update its Program of Priestly Formation, we of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) have felt called and duty-bound to contribute to this important process. Our 2017 Assembly in Atlanta made addressing it one of our three top priorities for 2017-2018. A Working Group was established and has worked diligently since August 2017 to prepare observations, concerns, and proposals regarding five crucial components of priestly formation.

For a wealth of knowledge on the most pressing issues facing the Priesthood, please visit our Past Assembly Videos page. There you will find historic presentations from our annual AUSCP Assembly dating back to 2012.