ONE of the country's most-popular priests has been censored for the last 14 months, it emerged last night.
Fr Brian D'Arcy, a regular broadcaster who has written a popular column in a Sunday newspaper for more than 30 years, has had to submit his writings for clearance for more than a year.
The Passionist priest said last night he was "disappointed" that there wasn't more respect for freedom of speech in the church. However, Vatican sources insist Irish clerics are not being targeted.
Earlier this month, Fr Tony Flannery had to stop contributing to the Redemptorist Order magazine 'Reality' after his column was cancelled on orders from Rome.
The magazine's editor, Fr Gerard Maloney, was also ordered to stop writing on certain subjects.
Vatican sources have indicated that there is a simple reason for the flurry of recent activity by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Its head is preparing to leave his post and is clearing a backlog of complaints against priests, the source said.
And CDF prefect Cardinal William Levada is going through the Irish file -- which is why he summoned Fr D'Arcy's superior to Rome last year.
In a brief statement last night, Fr D'Arcy was quoted as saying that he had been living with the censure for the last 14 months. News of the censure became public yesterday through the international Catholic publication 'The Tablet'.
Fr Pat Duffy, provincial superior of the Passionist congregation in Ireland, confirmed yesterday that "last year, concerns were expressed to Fr Ottaviano D'Egidio -- the Passionist Superior General (in Rome) -- by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about some aspects of Fr Brian D'Arcy's writings".
He continued that "since then, Fr Brian has been co-operating to ensure he can make a contribution to journalism in Ireland. Fr Brian remains a priest in good standing."
It is understood Fr D'Arcy has been told he must submit his writings and broadcasts to an approved church censor.
Card Levada had expressed concern about four articles written by Fr D'Arcy in 2010.
Fr D'Arcy could not be reached for further comment last night.
The Co Fermanagh priest has been outspoken on a number of issues, including mandatory celibacy for priests and the church's handling of the child sex abuse scandal. He was recently awarded a lifetime membership of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). The move is likely to fuel debate on censorship within the Catholic Church following a similar move against other vocal clerics.
Earlier this month Fr Flannery and Fr Maloney were told to stop writing on certain subjects. In response, the 800-strong Association of Catholic Priests said the move was ill-advised.
"We believe that such an approach, in its individual focus on Fr Flannery and inevitably by implication on the members of the association, is an extremely ill-advised intervention in the present pastoral context in Ireland," it said.
The issue also provoked a response from Fr Adrian Egan, the head of the Redemptorist Order in Limerick.
"I see nothing to be gained from silencing Tony (Flannery). It doesn't sit well in today's culture and it doesn't benefit anyone," he said.