One of Ireland’s best-known priests has revealed the anguish the Church’s requirement of mandatory clerical celibacy has caused him.
Marriage would have provided “a companion, a closeness, a friend, someone to call home” as well as requiring “making sacrifices for somebody else,” he told BBC NI. “At the end of my life, I don’t have a home. Ideally religious life is supposed to be a type of home. It isn’t, not now anyway.”
In a BBC documentary, he says he contemplated leaving the priesthood in the wake of his disciplining by the Vatican.
Last April, it emerged he had been told by the Vatican watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, that he must submit his writings and broadcasts to an approved Church censor before publication.
“Is the price of being a priest that you stay quiet, that you don’t be a whistle blower, and that the price of dying a priest is that you don’t speak the truth?”
The documentary makers followed the Enniskillen-based priest for several months as he talked to people within the Church about whether he should stay or leave after 50 years in the Passionist order.
Among those he consu-lted were the dissident Austrian priest, Fr Helmut Schüller, who is actively lobbying for reform of some of the Church’s core teachings, as well as Cardinal Sean Brady, who affirms the priest’s media work.
He is frank about the pain of his experience of sexual abuse, which occurred when he was an 18-year-old seminarian. “I was preyed upon by a member of my own order. Of course, the threat was made that unless I co-operated with this, that I would not be ordained.”
One of his biggest regrets is returning home to Ireland from South Africa in 1994. “I was 25 years ordained in 1994 and I went to Africa to get away from it. The Smyth affair had been going on for a year before and I was so disillusioned with the priesthood that I couldn’t even celebrate my silver jubilee. One of my regrets in life is that I ever came home.”
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