The ACP responds to recent comments by Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, Waterford & Lismore.

The ACP responds to recent comments by Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, Waterford & Lismore in relation to Fr Richard Geoghegan.

The story was covered in the Irish Examiner.

Link to article: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/munster/arid-40787049.html

Full text of the Irish Examiner article at the bottom of this page.

ACP Statement, Thurs 20 January 2022:

Last October, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) issued a statement in relation to complaints we received about the way some bishops are treating – even it might be said bullying – some of their priests. We noted that this is generally not the case with most Irish bishops. We pointed out that, for over a decade now, the ACP has seen its role as supporting the rights of priests to fair and just treatment.

So it was with dismay and sadness that we read the news that Richard Geoghegan of the diocese of Waterford and Lismore has left the priesthood. As the ACP supported Richard’s quest for fairness, it is imperative that we add some facts, as we know them, in response to the recent statement from Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore.

In 2020, the Association was contacted by a priest from the diocese of Waterford and Lismore as he felt a priest of the diocese – Richard Geoghegan – was being “pushed out of priesthood” – even though there was no allegation or official complaint against him. One of the ACP Leadership team met with Richard and, with Richard’s agreement, accompanied him to a meeting with his bishop.

During the meeting, Richard expressed his wish to remain a priest of the diocese. Bishop Cullinan responded that he knew that Richard did not want that. The Bishop added that he felt it best for Richard if he left the priesthood. In response, Richard said that he never felt supported by the bishop since he came into the diocese.

In reply, the Bishop outlined all the reasons why he felt Richard should leave – including a mental health crisis that Richard had experienced. Sometime after the meeting, when Richard obtained the minutes, he discovered they were completely distorted and only included some of what the bishop had said and nothing of what Richard or the ACP member had said.

During 2021, Bishop Cullinan withdrew Richard’s ‘celebret’ – a card that acknowledges a priest is in good standing with his bishop – which meant that Richard could no longer say Mass publicly or officiate as a priest. Richard was not informed of this nor did any formal process take place to alert him to it. He was then asked to leave the house provided for him by the diocese. Because he felt unsupported and ‘not wanted’ by Bishop Cullinan, Richard reluctantly signed the laicisation papers.

The ACP believes that Bishop Cullinan’s treatment of Fr Richard Geoghegan fell well below the ‘pastoral care’ a bishop as ‘a shepherd’ is expected to exercise in relation to his priest, a standard of respect, support and care that is enshrined in the law of the Catholic Church and which priests have a right to enjoy. Richard Geoghegan’s reluctant signing of his laicisation papers after 28 years of service to the diocese of Waterford and Lismore has left him at 54 years of age, without an income, accommodation and dependant on a derisory financial settlement.

The ACP contends that Fr Richard Geoghegan’s treatment is inappropriate, unreasonable and unacceptable.

End

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Text of Irish Examiner article on 18 Jan 2022 by Eoghan Dalton 

Controversy has flared in the Diocese of Waterford over the departure of a popular priest.

Richard Geoghegan tweeted on Sunday night that he had been “officially dismissed by Rome” and claimed his “Bishop was happy to dispense” with him.

The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore has pushed back on this, contending that Mr Geoghegan has left the priesthood “of his own accord”.

Mr Geoghegan was a longtime priest in south Tipperary, covering Carrick-on-Suir and other parts, and is the brother of former Mayor of Waterford, Fine Gael councillor Damien Geoghegan.

He came under fire in 2017 by an international right-wing Catholic publication following an appearance in an RTÉ programme hosted by hotelier Francis Brennan, where he performed in drag as singer Shirley Bassey.

He tweeted: “I entered seminary in 1987 at the age of 19. I was ordained in 1993 at the age of 25. On 7/1/22 I was officially dismissed by Rome. On Friday 14/01/22 my Bishop was happy to dispense me.”

Mr Goeghegan added: “I’m a good man. And he talks about the shortage of vocations.”

The crisis facing the Church due to a lack of priests has been referenced in the past by both Pope Francis and Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Alphonsus Cullinan.

However Bishop Cullinan told the Irish Examiner that Mr Geoghegan had sought to leave the priesthood of his own accord.

“Richard Geoghegan petitioned Pope Francis for laicisation from the priesthood on 31st March 2021,” Bishop Cullinan said.

“At the meeting last March, Richard attended the diocesan offices, in the company of a chosen colleague, to sign the request to the Holy Father for laicisation.

“On 15th December 2021, Pope Francis granted Richard Geoghegan’s petition, meaning that he is no longer a priest.

“I wish to acknowledge and thank Richard for his pastoral ministry over the years and wish him well for his future.”

Local councillor David Dunne said it was known there have been disagreements between Mr Geoghegan and the Church hierarchy.

“Fr Richard has my one hundred percent support. He’s one of the nicest men and is extremely well liked in Carrick,” Mr Dunne said.

“It’s people like him who will make the Church relevant and who are needed by the Church — not the other way around.”

Tributes were paid on social media to Mr Geoghegan for his work as a priest, with two saying he had been “treated abysmally” in recent years.

Some of his 3,400-strong social media following were surprised to learn he was a man of the cloth, and instead knew him for his tweeting on Waterford matters, musicals and events of the day.

Parishioner Nicola Long told him: “You were, and still are, and will continue to be a wonderful person. You are part of practically every family in Carrick, for being an amazing person in good times and in sorrowful times.”

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8 Comments

  1. Pat Savage says:

    ACP Statement…

    I can’t comment on the individual case that has been raised by both the The Examiner or the senior structure of the ACP who have obviously decided to reveal some detail but not all.

    Is really the internet forum of the ACP the correct place to discuss something that is obviously so much more complex, full of detail that only leads to more scandal gossip and slanderous comments about all parties?

    I am amazed that individuals haven’t in the past considered taking legal action towards some of the loose comments that are made.

  2. Jim Stack says:

    ACP Statement…

    It seems obvious to me that there are gaping holes in both the Examiner and ACP accounts of what happened here, and I am somewhat surprised that the five separate and independent comments (at the time of writing) all seem to assume that what we have here is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It is odd, in particular, that the ACP account fails to outline either what was in the minutes of the meeting, or what was not in the minutes, but should have been. I realise that there may be issues of confidentiality here, and I am not suggesting that this man’s private business be put in the public domain, but even on the ACP’s own telling of the story, it is clear that there were issues other than mental health (ACP version) or the drag queen episode (Examiner version).

    If the ACP delegate at the meeting considered that a false set of minutes had been sent to Rome, was he not at liberty to send in his own version of the minutes?

    Is the ACP also claiming that the “derisory” financial settlement was at the instigation of the Bishop? Given the number of men who have left the priesthood in recent decades, one would have thought that there is now an established code of practice. Is the ACP saying that this was not followed in this instance? It certainly reads that way. It also seems that the ACP is calling the bishop a bully here, but the ACP account provides no evidence for this at all.

    Bishops are priests too, but if they are not on the liberal wing of the hierarchy, is it fair to say that the ACP is uninterested in treating them with fairness?

  3. Brendan Cafferty says:

    ACP Statement…

    It’s an understatement to say something is not right here. Mr Geoghegan seems to have signed a form here for the Bishop, was he coerced into it and did he realise what he was signing, that he was asking to be laicised? It seems he had a friend from the ACP with him which leaves his position more difficult. But all in all the facts at face value might suggest a case of constructive dismissal. Courts don’t generally interfere in internal housekeeping matters but do where proper and fair procedures are not complied with. Well worth a try and let’s see them deny it?

  4. Maureen Mulvaney says:

    ACP Statement…

    Is this the same Bishop that has called on all parishes to make a “conscious effort” to pray for vocations at 4pm each day for the next year, which has appeared in The Irish Catholic paper, Jan. 20,2022, page 6??

  5. Joe O'Leary says:

    ACP statement…

    Gender and sexuality are incredibly fraught issues for some Irish clergy (on which see the remarkably calm and rational posting from Robert Nugent about the out-of-control ‘bishop’ Pat Buckley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgJxc-uGdV4 ). I remember Bishop Cornelius Lucey rejecting a complaint about a student who did a drag act like Fr Geoghegan’s by pointing out that the Fourth Divines in Maynooth had an annual drag show in the classic pre-Vatican II days. The pseudo-episcopal blogger has disgorged buckets of obscene mockery on the bishop of Waterford and pretty much every Irish bishop. I think they would do well to issue a firm and detailed statement of reprimand. I think the ACP should do the same on behalf of the countless good priests who have been traduced by name (often with simply gratuitous name-calling) or in general innuendo.

  6. Roy Donovan says:

    ACP statement…

    A priest of many years said to me today that it is the Bishop of Waterford who should be laicized!

  7. Annie Mc Carthy says:

    ACP Statement…

    I SENT THIS EMAIL TO DAMIEN ON WLR FM

    Hi Damien,
    I’m a former parishioner of Fr. Richard Geoghegan’s in Carrick on Suir. I am utterly heartbroken to hear the latest news about him and how shabbily he has been treated.

    I’d like to share a couple of examples of what a good man he is.

    Back in 2012, my husband’s 16 year-old nephew died by suicide, my mother-in-law was an elderly, devout, holy, Catholic lady, everyone was worried as to how she could be told the devastating news (keeping in mind, suicide was considered sinful) – Fr. Richard took it upon himself to go to Bridget and explain to her in words only he could say – from his heart – as a human, he comforted her and prayed with her and she was forever grateful to him for guiding the whole family through what was undoubtedly the most devastating time. He has been an amazing friend, confidant, and shoulder to cry on to our extended family. We will never forget his kindness.

    He treated every parishioner the same, be they rich or poor, he could chat with the smallest child as easily as he could to the richest farmer.

    Ask anyone in the parish what it was like at Christmas Eve “midnight” Mass when we heard Fr. Richard was to say Mass…. People would start arriving from 7pm for 8pm Mass!! There would be as many standing outside as sitting inside. He always said a few words to the attending children about the imminent arrival of Santa Claus, rarely was there a boisterous child in the Church when Fr. Richard said Mass – on the odd occasion that there was, in his own calm humourous way, he would say God was listening to their chatter and enjoying it too… Young and old alike would listen to every word he would say during a sermon, he spoke from the heart, made Mass interesting, understandable…

    The bottom line is Fr. Richard is the epitome of a “true Christian” – not “just a priest”…. He is an immense loss to our parish, our religion, our community and the Catholic Church.

    Fr. Richard wears his heart on his sleeve, he is gregarious, funny, witty, kind-hearted, understanding, nonjudgmental and above all – a beautiful soul…. He has more Christianity in his small finger than a lot of people who claim to be practicing Catholics…

    I am very proud to be considered his friend,
    Yours,
    Annie

  8. Richard Walsh says:

    ACP Statement…

    I read this article with great interest as it appears dressing in drag as Shirley Bassey was the major bone of contention. I too went to St. John’s in Waterford. Throughout the years there were College plays that were put on and the Public was invited. Now as you are aware St. John’s was an all-male Seminary, why I’ll never know.
    You were expected to act in these plays, mind you, by some of the most eminent men mainly Dr. Marsh and a not so eminent one I will not even mention here… Regardless, the plays were some of the best Arsenic and Old Lace in particular; I had to play Lady Chatterly’s daughter, I believe it was and was dressed accordingly. This was a St. John’s event where future “Priests”, were expected to dress in drag.
    I completed my years (7) there but some decided I didn’t suit their mould. Needless to say I ended up here in the US and work for the State and will leave my job with a pension. Gladly I left not like this Priest who stayed and is now left like this, no home, no pension and no future.

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