Wednesday 28 September 2016

Maynooth crisis: Excessive drinking and promiscuity 'in the air for decades'

'None of this is new,' says former lecturer at St Patrick's College

Nicola Anderson and Ciara Treacy

Published 04/08/2016 | 02:30

Fr Brendan Hoban has fears over sending trainees to Rome and (inset) St Patrick's College. Photos: Gareth Chaney / Arthur Carron
Fr Brendan Hoban has fears over sending trainees to Rome and (inset) St Patrick's College. Photos: Gareth Chaney / Arthur Carron

A former lecturer at Maynooth has claimed "excessive drinking and dubious sexual practices" were in the air for decades at St Patrick's College.

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Mark Dooley, a former philosophy lecturer at the seminary, yesterday claimed the culture in Maynooth was "all-pervasive" amongst staff as well as students.

"One was almost expected to conform to this culture and if one expressed any desire to be faithful to one's vocation, one was made to feel like a pariah," he said.

Mr Dooley explained how he had been approached by a number of students in 2010 who asked him to sit down because they had a things to "get off their chest".

The meeting was mediated by a priest and was attended initially by around 10 or 11 students who were "very hesitant" and "terribly upset", he said.

They told him of a number of problems at Maynooth, including a culture of excessive drinking and a culture of promiscuity.

"They were upset because they went in with a vision of the priesthood and the life they were going to lead and the life they wanted to lead but there was no resemblance to it (in Maynooth)," he said.

"Their desire to transcend the worldly life was shattered."

Mr Dooley, a newspaper columnist, went on to write a number of articles exposing the crisis at the college, including one in 2010 where he claimed that "excessive drinking and dubious sexual practices in the seminaries are simply overlooked".

Afterwards he was inundated with "a tsunami" of correspondence, some from elderly men who had studied at Maynooth in the 1970s and 1980s and who all concurred.

"It was as if they all wrote the same letter - the pattern and narrative was wholly consistent," he said.

Days after the publication of the revelations, Mr Dooley received a letter from the authorities at Maynooth saying that his position had been terminated due to "financial constraints".

Read more: Maynooth is not the only casualty - the faithful are also being hurt

Meanwhile, he said seminary staff brought the students in and demanded to know who was behind the revelations.

"An air of intimidation broke out and the seminarians were petrified," he said.

He said he kept in touch with a number of the seminarians who had come to him in Maynooth, while "a handful" left the college and abandoned their vocations entirely.

"They were just too wrecked by the whole experience," he claimed.

Others persisted with their path but some simply could not see it through because the authorities kept "putting them through hoops".

According to Mr Dooley they left and joined the religious orders where they lead a different existence to the parish life which they had envisaged.

"None of this is new," said Mr Dooley of this week's revelations. "It's been in the air for a number of decades."

Meanwhile, Fr Brendan Hoban of the Association of Catholic Priests has warned that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin's decision to send trainee priests to Rome will have far reaching consequences.

He claimed it risks creating priests who are dispatched back to Ireland out of touch with reality in the parishes they are there to serve.

And he also expressed alarm that the ongoing crisis at the national seminary could seriously damage the number of vocations.

"What perception would their parents have received in the last month?" he said on RTÉ Radio One's 'Morning Ireland' yesterday.

Fr Hoban said he did not dispute the need to reform Maynooth and that "every institution is in need of reform".

Read more: Archbishops vow to send their trainee priests to Maynooth

"If it stays the same for long periods of time, things get settled in stone," he said.

However, he said the national seminary's reputation was "very strong" on keeping standards up for candidates for the priesthood.

He claimed that Archbishop Martin's arguments about moving students to Rome "are not convincing".

"If they send them abroad to Rome, the toxicity of clericalism can damage (priests) and then they come home and try to replicate it. People have no time for that," Fr Hoban said.

However, he conceded that he does not think the Archbishop is trying to bring in clericalism, adding: "I don't know what's going on."

Irish Independent

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