Maynooth Seminary Crisis: ACP Statement
ACP Statement on Maynooth
August 2, 2016
The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) regrets that the seminary at Maynooth College has become a focus of unfair and unwarranted attention, highlighted by the decision of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin to move Dublin diocesan students to the Irish College, Rome.
It is the prerogative of bishops to decide where students for the priesthood receive their formation but it is also the responsibility of seminary authorities to make sensible judgements on what candidates for priesthood are deemed suitable and to be allowed to make such decisions in good faith.
It goes without saying that Irish priests should within reason be educated in Ireland.
It is clear that the anti-Maynooth issue is being driven by a number of agendas:
- conservative commentators, particularly in ‘Catholic’ newspapers who consistently criticise Maynooth for not facilitating the concerns of very traditional candidates, notably their interest in Latin Masses and traditional clerical dress;
- former students who were deemed unsuitable for priesthood by the seminary authorities but who remain convinced that they should have been allowed to continue to priesthood and who anonymously offer support to critics of Maynooth;
- right-wing commentators who are unhappy with the focus on the theology of the Second Vatican Council and suspicious of modern psychological and other insights;
- writers of blogs that consistently attack the Catholic Church.
While it is important that the highest standards prevail in Maynooth, the response to whatever the crisis is – real or imaginary – demands more than moving a few students to Rome and offering a few unconvincing reasons for the decision.
The damage this controversy will do to Maynooth is not in the best interest of the Irish Church.
Link to Brendan Hoban speaking on Morning Ireland, RTE Radio 1, on 03 August 2016
Listen here to RTE Radio Player
”The damage this controversy will do to Maynooth is not in the best interest of the Irish Church.”
The controversy now is only the rot being exposed. It has to happen. There are some very serious allegations floating around and these MUST be investigated, including by the police if necessary. I think we should have learned by now what happens when you cover up the deeds of evil men. All that has been happening at Maynooth must be exposed to the light of day for the good of the Church.
To be honest, that response by ACP worries me, I’m not sure how we can be confident that the attention is “unfair and unwarranted”. The suggestion that the matter is being driven by people with personal agendas has too many echoes of how the hierarchy initially reacted to the child abuse scandals.
I don’t have a clue whether these allegations have any foundation but now that they have been raised, they need to be independently checked. Just like previous scandals, finding out later that they were true but brushed under the carpet would do far more harm to the Irish Church than the original allegations.
In response to ‘ACP Statement on Maynooth’ I would take issue with,’the seminary..has become a focus of unfair and unwarranted attention’.
How do we know the attention is unfair and unwarranted without a full investigation of.. ‘the crisis…real or imaginary’?
Furthermore,while the crisis may well be driven by some or all of the four agendas listed above, a thorough investigation is urgently called for to explore each of these. The list you have given is the smoke; but is there a further agenda – the fire?
Your response indicates you have your own ideological agenda. How about advocating priestly formation adequate for the current needs of the people of Ireland at the pastoral level, not the tendency of the student toward a sociological tendency of rigid adherence to externals such as Latin for the Liturgy and specific clerical outfitting or rigid adherence to doctrine or moral teaching that could indicate an unhealthy emotional attitude. Virtue stands in the middle is an honoured ancient one. Extremism is not the healthy norm
Congratulations to the ACP. This is a fair and perceptive analysis.
I find it difficult to assess. Unless there’s more to it than appears in the media, it seems to be founded on anonymous and web-based allegations. I would be slow to give credence to these without verification. Such “sources” are easily fabricated and manipulated, and the internet offers a wall of anonymity. I’m surprised at how those in positions of responsibility, and the media, are making a mountain out of allegations which are so far unsubstantiated.
How would another more media-savvy organisation respond if similar allegations were made?
There seem to be indications of a problem about how college authorities responded to complaints, but here too we have insufficient reliable information.
Has Maynooth seminary ever served the Irish church as well as the training provided by the best of the religious orders?
Has mandatory celibacy more to do with a theatrical mystique of clergy than with the qualifications Jesus asked for in apostleship and discipleship?
Is hothouse training of men by a clerical institution as sure a way of building spiritual competence as real life experience – especially the experience of parenting?
This ACP statement comes across to me as an attempt to blame Archbishop Martin for just the latest Maynooth ‘smoke’ – when the entire clerical system, and the viability of Maynooth, are in question, as is especially the celibacy requirement for ministry.
My understanding of the early church is that pastors were chosen by their own communities from mature female as well as male members of that same community – and celibacy was not a requirement. That made the entire community responsible for the upbringing of those who eventually matured into ministry.
A clerical system separate from ordinary community took centuries to develop, and was eventually formed by a military counter-reformation mindset. Eventually it took even the ‘faith formation’ of children away from the necessary responsibility of parenting.
Now we have pervasive media for whom the Tridentine seminary system is a goose that continually lays golden ‘scandal’ eggs. No wonder we then get burgeoning adolescent incredulity and emptying churches.
What’s left is an almost vacant theatre usually far more effective at evoking than suspending disbelief. Time for a far bigger rethink than this ACP statement!
The commentary is unfair or unwarranted to the college as a whole. If there are issues, it is best to tackle them head on and Martin’s decision to move students is a terrible one. As a “manager”, he is required to dig in, confront and eliminate the problematic not simply flee the scene in hopes of a better result elsewhere.
The agendas listed are easy to find on-line. That was an easy way out for Martin which in turn will lead to the presentation of speculation and not fact as the ACP has stated.
So without investigation, his actions essentially breathed life into the allegations. This is not proper procedure. If he had been seriously concerned, there could have been dozens of other steps he could have taken.
It does need a thorough and independent investigation so I would agree with Martin Harran and Teresa Mee. There is a natural tendency to be loyal to one’s Alma Mater and I can well understand and indeed identify with the affection felt by so many past students of Maynooth as a former student myself. However in 1969 when I entered as a lay Arts student we went in through the gates of the old seminary and spent our days and early evenings together. There was no special campus for lay students. Looking back it was an innocent time but it seemed a lot healthier and more natural than the way it is now where clerical students have less time to mix with lay students and, following the advice of the last Apostolic Visitation, spend less time mixing with ordinary students.
The whole idea of totally segregated priestly formation seems unnatural anyway if we expect our priests to understand the lives of ordinary women and men. Some seminarians, I fear, are still treated as an elite and almost as mini-gods by older parishioners and then end up believing that they are not as the rest of us are which is unfair to both them and to us. There needs to be serious discussion on the best type of formation for priests, never mind the whole question of sexuality and mandatory celibacy which is at the root of much of the concerns about Maynooth. There are many fine upstanding priests in all our parishes who are products of St Patrick’s College and who must be very upset by what is happening. As a Church we need to learn from the way we have handled such concerns in the past and have a proper investigation into rumours and allegations and a proper open discussion on priestly formation.
Sent from my iPad
Towards the end of my posting below- Breaking New Ground- there is this paragraph.
“Such reflection will demand personal honesty as we seek to find new patterns in our lives, not totally disconnected from the mainspring of past experience, but developing from it in the light of changed times. Maturity is not just measured by age, the wise old man knowing more that the bright young up-start. Maturity is reflective, thoughtful, emotionally tested and leads often to untried ways for the mature person has the courage to walk new paths.”
Maybe seminaries as presently constituted are part of the problem rather than pathway to a solution. Sending students to Rome does not solve a problem, merely re-locates it
The issue here is the allegation that seminarians, studying to become priests have been using a gay dating app and other behaviour unbecoming of seminarians. If these allegations are true, then it is another scandal and those responsible are the students allegedly involved, not the bishops, the Church or indeed anyone else. These students would be expected to know right from wrong, have reached the use of reason and be aware of the requirements of students to the priesthood. Surely they understand what celibate means! Why, on earth are fingers being pointed at everyone except the students. Have we become so politically correct that we can no longer call a spade a spade. This issue is not about celibacy nor indeed about being gay or anything else. It is about unacceptable behaviour from students who should be role models for other young people. Hopefully this will be honestly investigated and the problems, if any found, be resolved. The Catholic faithful need to have a Church and priests that they can respect.
Not being close to or involved it is difficult to give a clear cut opinion on this matter. Archbishop Martin seems to have ploughed a lonely furrow since returning to Dublin from The Vatican,and that may a good thing,even if he incurred the displeasure of some fellow bishops!.For instance he made files available to enquiries that displeased some like Cardinal O Connell who at one stage went to the High Court.I dont know what was going on in Maynoooth in recent time or to what extent. But there was a problem there some years ago reported on by Fr. McGinnity and he was not treated the best.
But the ACP make some points which may be of relevance and they carry much import- like a right wing agenda unhappy with Maynooth focussing on the theology of 2nd Vatican council; conservative commentators criticising Maynooth for not addressing the concerns of some candidates as regards dress, Latin Mass etc.And of course the actions of some candidates who were found not to be suitable.
Brendan Hoban on RTE made important points that Cardinal Dolan found little wrong with Maynooth, but did with Irish College in Rome so it hardly makes sense to transfer students to the latter !
It seems sad and incongruous that the only seminary here,once the biggest in the world should not be deemed suitable by some. Surely any problems that exist can be ironed out,so drastic action like this could be avoided. Maynooth gave us many fine priests during the golden age of priesthood here which was from cir 1860s- 1960s,often the best and brightest and they contributed much in Education and other areas. Some things in life can often be a victim of its own success however.
I am very disappointed with the statement issued by the ACP. It seems to put the interests of Maynooth above concerns for the appropriate formation of the seminarians. It seeks to draw conclusions and attributes motives, presumably to Archbishop Martin for his decision, without first having details of any independent enquiry.
I am an enthusiastic supporter of the work of the ACP (which can be seen from my previous contributions); however, on this occasion, I find myself, reluctantly, in disagreement with your stance.
Sad that this ACP statement takes the Liveline Joe Duffy line that anything Archbishop of Dublin says is to be opposed. Thanks to Fr Tom Doyle’ OP for today’s Morning Ireland support of the archbishop.
Tom Doyle on Morning Ireland was mostly talking through his hat. He actually ended up attacking the conservatives who are behind the present brouhaha (sounding just like the ACP), apparently under the misapprehension that the teaching of the Maynooth professors is ultra-orthodox (whereas it is under attack from the ultra-orthodox). His entire speech was predicated on the mythic status SNAP has conferred on Abp Martin as a fearless advocate against clerical sex abuse. In fact Abp Martin’s slapdash snap judgments on the Maynooth allegations recalls similar attitudes in the wake of the Murphy Report. As a trustee of the Irish College, Rome, the Archbishop must know that Rome is just as much a hotbed of rumor and no antidote to the gaying of the clergy (as Una Mullally pointed out in a rather nasty article).
I have no idea what is really going on in Maynooth nor do I feel any of the discussions I’ve heard have given the full story either.
However, my main concern is with dealing with ‘anonymous allegations’.
How can any truth or clarity be reached when the concern is raised anonymously?.
Saying those who make the allegations are ‘fearful’ just doesn’t wash with me.
These are grown men, not children, who owe it to themselves and to the other adult men who are in the seminary with them, to put their name to their complaint.
Then can this matter be addressed firmly, fairly and appropriately.
Many thanks Brendan for your words, both spoken and written, on this topic over the past few days.
You have, throughout, been the voice of reason, clarity and common sense for so many parents like me.
Hurt, confused and ashamed, as I watch another sex scandal engulf our church, I wonder why our bishops and archbishops have nothing to say on this matter, nothing to add that might bring hope, nothing to explain that might bring healing. I wonder too how many will have the courage or honesty to address it, as you did here, this weekend at Mass ?
What a high price our church has paid for pushing people like Brendan to the margins- his gifts, his faith and his intelligence- is what the church in Ireland needs so badly.
Thank you Brendan for staying the course – being faithful to Mother Church in good times and in bad.
@14 Amen to that. Something of a contingency the Bishop should have started to employ. The future of the church rests on those intellectuals who can cut through the simulation and get to the root of the problem. There is always room in management for those who are able to properly assess a situation.
If any proof were needed of the orchestrated campaign towards Maynooth you need look no further than the present copy of “Catholic Voice”, issue 192 7-20 August 2016, where Anthony Murphy calls for ‘a course of action’ against the College.
Anther interesting side show are the photographs of the Archbishop of Dublin in this edition from Kracow offering Pontifical High Mass in the Extraordinary Form…mmmm I wonder.
Just to clarify for anyone who may be wondering, I receive a copy of these papers in the post, sent by a lady whom I think is worried about my orthodoxy.
Like Martin Harran, Teresa, Nessan and Mary, I too, as a supporter of the ACP, was disappointed with the tone of the ACP statement. I spent the last week in Donegal reading all the Irish papers and it seems fairly obvious to me what is going on here. Is it really plausible to believe that, if this is a move by the ultra-conservatives to undermine Maynooth, Diarmuid Martin would their dirty work for them? I don’t think so. Even good men are saying incredible things. Brian D’Arcy is someone I greatly admire and respect yet today in the Irish Independent he is quoted as saying “There are, at most, a couple of guys involved in some form of homosexual contact” …. really!!
If nothing else results from this scandal, at least the appalling treatment of Fr. Gerry McGinnity is now well and truly out in the public domain.
“Is it really plausible to believe that, if this is a move by the ultra-conservatives to undermine Maynooth, Diarmuid Martin would their dirty work for them?” He has lent them undue credence, as far as anyone can see.
“Even good men are saying incredible things. Brian D’Arcy is someone I greatly admire and respect yet today in the Irish Independent he is quoted as saying “There are, at most, a couple of guys involved in some form of homosexual contact” …. really!!”
That is also the impression I got. It’s hard to have a quorum for a “homosexual subculture” in a group as small as the Maynooth seminarians.
“If nothing else results from this scandal, at least the appalling treatment of Fr. Gerry McGinnity is now well and truly out in the public domain.”
This topic has been maximally bruited and I think fairly assessed.
Homophobic hysteria is of no use to anyone.
It strikes me that the sort of ghastly crimes against minors which surfaced in previous scandals must now be quite extinct, so that all people have to worry about is the potential gay propensities of seminarians, who are generally among the most innocent of young men.
“There are some very serious allegations floating around and these MUST be investigated, including by the police if necessary.”
This again is pure hysteria. There are no prosecutable offences alleged by the poison-pen letter-writers, and even if there were, anonymous letters hardly provide evidence for a prosecution. A seminarian got drunk, or downloaded the Grindr app — gosh! off to jail with him! Disgruntled ultra-conservatives who hate Vatican II claim that the authorities discriminated against them and that the seminary profs are unorthodox– gosh! If that sort of thing is a matter for the police it looks as if we are back in the days of the Holy Inquisition.
Joe @ 21: You forget that these young men are vulnerable and they need to be protected from malevolent influences and advances. Or is it ok because they are over 18? Surely the Church should be an example of best practice for the welfare of all, not just children and young people, but also young adults – and everyone else.
Joe, much as I respect and admire you too, I do not accept this explanation that is being offered by you and others that it is the ultra-conservatives who are causing this scandal to undermine Maynooth. Fr. Donald Cossens –definitely no ultra-conservative– found the same kind of culture, that we now know exists in Maynooth, in seminaries in America, including his own seminary in Ohio where he served as President. And, Joe, I have to say that I think you have been very unfair to Patsy McGarry by saying he should “have known better”. I think Patsy is a man of great integrity. If his piece in yesterday’s Irish Times, which I read, on Seminary A, B and C is what provoked you to make that comment, then I am completely baffled. Also, what you and others have proposed, that the anonymity of these accusations renders them valueless, is absolute nonsense. Those involved are petrified of what might happen to them if their identities became known. That, in itself, is surely a major scandal. Take for example the poor lad who was interviewed on RTE and had to have an actor speak his words so worried was he of what might happen to him if the authorities at the seminary found out who he was. And, then the appalling contract of secrecy we now know they have to sign when they arrive in Maynooth –it just beggars belief. Sadly, this frenzied attempt to cover up and deny the blindingly obvious does remind one of a similar reaction when the clerical sex abuse of children first hit the public domain.
The psychological basis of these anonymous perceptions of “malevolent influences and advances” could be homophobia from self-hating gays. Cozzens is a good source and the Maynooth staff have no doubt learnt from him. McGarry’s case C btw was exposed as a tissue of lies.
” I think you have been very unfair to Patsy McGarry by saying he should “have known better”. ” Where did I say that?
McGarry merely recounts as a journalist the main rumors, which are quite insubstantial. In the post-publication appendix to his piece he gives Maynooth’s response on case C, which shows that the things people thought they KNEW about Maynooth, notably about alleged confidentiality agreements, were far from the facts.
The elephant in the room is celibacy. I remember how we were summoned to the chapel during third divine year to sign a document promising to live as celibates. If I remember correctly there was no preparatory instruction, not even a sermon, and no advice on the wisdom of signing such a document. We had not seen the text, and were not given a copy of the text. The authorities shone by their absence, as if ashamed to be administering this. Mentions of celibacy during those years were mostly from the lips of visiting retreat masters, and their remarks often seemed wacky or jokey. As we left that chapel that day, one of my classmates, quoting the document we had just seen and signed, asked “do you know ‘all that is entailed’ [or some such phrase] by this? I certainly don’t!”
Since for those of us who were gay any sexual life was completely taboo to begin with, celibacy seemed a normal and natural part of the package deal. That heterosexual men also signed away their sexual lives (having already had their bank of high youth burgled) testified to the awesome status of priesthood in the Irish imagination at that time. Today things are radically different and it is unsurprising that a primarily gay recruitment pool should be affected by the liberal attitudes to gayness now prevailing.
This creates understandable moral tensions for seminarians now, and very many leave the seminary, or the priesthood after a few years, because of the contradictions arising. Homophobic vituperation, which is rife in the present pseudo-scandal, will no doubt discourage them further. Well at least the brouhaha has given great publicity to Maynooth in a touristic sense, with beautiful pics of it distributed throughout the planet, and it also boosts the sales of Grindr, which even if an occasion of loucheness and decadence is part of the modern world in a way that no seminary can claim to be.
Concretely what do I recommend? Embrace all gays, both lay and clerical with an effort at generous human understanding. Embrace women and married folk into the presbyterate. Reshape the church, learning from models in other churches where lay participation is a vital strand in church structure.
Oops, I did make the remark about McGarry, on Facebook. Guess he’s got a job to do, but I always dislike his tone.
The appendix I referred to is here. I think Patsy McGarry should have known better than to swallow story C, and Paddy Ferry should have known better than to repeat the line about “the appalling contract of secrecy we now know they have to sign when they arrive in Maynooth”. http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/religion-and-beliefs/maynooth-seminary-a-place-of-psychological-abuse-1.2746481
If only everyone had the honesty of Joe O’Leary@25, Maynooth might be worth saving, the Irish Catholic Church might be worth clinging onto, and this ACP forum might be worth persevering with. [from my vast experience of 5 years in Maynooth, 5 years on the ACP forum’s fringes, and getting on towards 75 years clinging on in the ICC and its diaspora.:( ]
While I was concerned initially that Archbishop Diarmaid Martin seemed to make a decision to remove his three students from Maynooth, based on anonymous allegations, I now accept that perhaps his decision may well have been wise, based on his belief that there is a ‘poisonous atmosphere’ in the college.
And surely if we’ve learned anything over the past few days it is that there is a very ‘poisonous atmosphere’ in Maynooth at present and it’s one that seems to be very deep seated and dangerous.
So who would reasonably expect a bishop or archbishop to leave his students in such a place ? As a parent, who would leave a child in a local school if there was a poisonous atmosphere in it or, as an adult who would readily stay in a work environment, if there was a poisonous atmosphere in it?. Few I’d imagine.
Yes, I can appreciate that some might feel he should have worked harder to eliminate this atmosphere – but then how do we know that he didn’t? Was it a case that he tried and failed ?
He was clear on radio that he had discussed it with the other bishops but that nothing had really changed and if, as he said, the allegations were only being dealt with ‘within the college system’, then his rejection of it’s findings was reasonable too. Sadly, Archbishop Martin has learned (as the rest of us have) that the word of a bishop is no longer always ‘the truth’. Outside independent investigators need to be involved.
Were this to happen, then it would be easier to get to the bottom of anonymous allegations and perhaps eliminate this poisonous atmosphere.
Finally while Tim @19 raised ,’The Catholic Voice’ as one such group who seems to have an orchestrated campaign towards Maynooth, I am more puzzled why ‘The Irish Catholic’, which has always had the same campaign, (even if a little better nuanced), somehow seemed to avoid the issue altogether this week.
Surely it was a subject of interest to their readers?
Perhaps the subject matter was considered too risky by it’s sales team to allow it be given widespread coverage, considering the fact that this paper still depends on priests in parishes selling their paper in church porches every weekend. It may a case of another truth emerging….money does talk after all.
Joe, your final paragraph @25 : “Concretely what do I recommend” contain aspirations that I would wholeheartedly support. And, like Eddie, I salute your honesty.
Still no further concrete evidence apart from the anonymous letters etc? There is plenty of poisonous material on the internet. We would be most unwise to let such material set our agenda. Such material is not proof of fact. That kind of material is in Rome just as much as Ireland. It is part of modern life. Such objectionable material is part of the context today: we must learn to give it the credibility it deserves. Without the concrete evidence, reaction may appear hysterical. In former times, anonymous letters and rumours had to be dealt with; now the quantity has increased, along with ease of broadcast. This does not give it any more substance.
We must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
I would ask that the statement that priests are to sign regarding celibacy be checked to make sure it adheres to local/state laws. Has that ever been done/challenged?
It might be enforceable in Rome but not elsewhere.
Lloyd, it was a very brief document promising to be celibate. No need to indulge fantasy. Agree totally with Padraig. Now I see McGarry’s case A founders on denials from all involved. Note that when we have women priests they too will be targets for hysteria and slander.
Much of the talk about Maynooth and the Irish Church is talk about human nature. Like churches, seminaries are hospitals for sinners not hotels for saints. Archbishop Martin and some of his fellow bishops might be able to set up a model new seminary where medical, psychiatric and psychological screening are required. A one hour reflection period could be set up each day, where students and faculty open up on all issues and set goals. The seal of confession, however, must be kept inviolate.In many discussions, I have conducted with laity ‘holiness of life’ seems to be priority No.1 that they seek in their priests. God Bless.
The complaints bruited by Patsy McGarry in today’s Irish Times seem to be distilled from the ghastly muck distributed by “Bp” Pat Buckley and his host of anonymous disussants. This morning’s complaints bear on academic bureaucratic procedure. For similar complaints elsewhere see https://www.thefire.org/cases/university-of-denver-sexual-harassment-finding-violates-professors-academic-freedom-in-the-classroom. The church like the university is in the process of being rotted by rampant bureaucracy.
Could a promise never to marry be found in breach of human rights and thus illegal? Perhaps.
An Italian canon lawyer wrote a book on how the promise of celibacy, like marriage vows, could be annulled in cases where it was carried out without due consideration or without the conditions of a fully free decision being respected. The Italian bishops bought up all copies of the book and it disappeared.
Celibacy is a hang-over from a different age — the age of Trent and the Roman Inquisition.
The bishops at their forthcoming meeting should take up the Pope’s invitation and urge him to abolish mandatory celibacy.
It would appear from press reports and radio interviews over the past few days that the alleged “two seminarians” having sex in the bed in Maynooth did not happen and that the purveyor of that story has now acknowledged that there was a “misunderstanding”. Additionally, it would appear that the cleric who circulated the story in the first place was asked to leave because of immaturity rather than because he was a so-called whistle-blower. A little bit late, of course, to save the immense damage to the reputation of the institution and of many of those who have been painted as not reacting properly in the circumstances. This would include the bishops who refused to act recklessly on rumour and innuendo. Maybe, they weren’t all out of step with the exception of our Diarmuid. On the other hand, it is quite clear that a root and branch reform is very necessary in the Maynooth seminary. There is a need for more transparency and openness and less of a dictatorial and defensive regime. The only good to come out of the matter is that it highlights the need for a re-look at how our aspiring priests are trained in the future. The introduction of an apprenticeship system which allies theological studies with parochial work would be a vast improvement, although this might prove difficult for an already over-burdened parish clergy. And how, in the Lord’s name, can the hot-bed that is Rome be seen to be the right place to train young men for a ministry in the poverty stricken neighbourhoods of Dublin? Once again, it reeks of the child abuse policy of move them along rather than sort out the problem.