On Consulting the Laity
Mr Sean O’Connor was an elected member of the Briefing Committee formed in the fall of 1998 by John Magee, Bishop of Cloyne, to “to consider how best [St. Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh] can be arranged for liturgical use with regard to the norms of Vatican 2 and to note carefully the limits which consideration for the architectural heritage of the building will impose on any change which is being considered”. According to Mr O”sConnor, committe had “15 members: 3 were elected by the people of Cobh and 12 were nominated by Bishop Magee and the religious”. The following, like “There are no plans”: A Public Meeting in Cobh (June 1998), is from Mr O”Connor’s Observer submission to the Oral Hearing of An Bord Pleanala regarding St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh Co. Cork:
I will now quote the bishops final paragraph in his brief to the Briefing Committee (no. 6 above):
A Listening Process.
Members, I look forward to hearing your considered recommendations. They will be a great help to me in arriving at a decision which will be put to the people of Cobh before any alterations are undertaken. I pray that you may be enlightened by the spirit as you undertake this most important task.
It makes for lovely reading, if only it was sincere.
I suggest that the following statement,
My decision will be put to the people of Cobh before any alterations are undertaken.
lacked sincerity and what eventually transpired was,
When I have already submitted the plans to Cobh Town Council I will announce the consultation process at all masses the following weekend.
This turned out to be a total contradiction of his original statement [about holding another public meeting before making a decision on plans].
With regard to any consultation concerning Professor O'Neill's specific plans for the cathedral, McCutcheon Mulcahy's report p.20, item 4.7 (b)states that the “diocesan authorities carried out an extensive programme of public consultation on the proposed reordering involving a series of meetings in all five deaneries of the diocese as well as with the clergy and religious of the diocese. The proposed design was presented in the context of the liturgical requirements of the H[istorical] C[hurch] A[dvisory] C[ommission]. All participants were invited to submit written comments and of 159 who expressed an opinion, 109 were in favour, 42 against, mainly on liturgical grounds, and 8 had mixed views”.
It should be noted that this consultation took place after the submission of plans to Cobh Town Council. The meetings were held in Cobh on July 18 and 19; Middleton 19 July; Fermoy 20 July; Kanturk 21 July; Macroom 22 July.
No opinion expressed could have influenced the evolution of the plans at that stage.
Concerning the number of written replies left after these consultations, the diocesan clerical magazine Linkup [Vol. 7, issue 4, September 2005] published the following figures: 103 written replies were left of which 66 were positive, 37 against, and 6 mixed views. A correction in the subsequent issue stated that “number [of written replies] was in fact 109”. While difficult to reconcile these figures, it is clear that the general public for the most part did not regard these sessions as in any sense a genuine process of consultation and ignored them.