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Wednesday 26 October 2016

President says that there is a 'wholesome, healthy' atmosphere at the college

Sarah MacDonald

Published 03/08/2016 | 02:30

Monsignor Hugh Connolly, President of St Patrick’s College,
Maynooth, Co Kildare. Photo: Kenneth O’Halloran
Monsignor Hugh Connolly, President of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Co Kildare. Photo: Kenneth O’Halloran

The president of Maynooth has emphasised there is a "healthy, wholesome" atmosphere at the college despite the controversy currently engulfing the national seminary.

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Monsignor Hugh Connolly was commenting following on from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin's decision to pull ­trainee priests under his charge from St Patrick's College due to a "an ­atmosphere of strange ­goings-on there".

Msgr Connolly admitted that he was "worried" about the allegations that some seminarians had been listed on a gay dating app, but there was no "concrete detail" to back it up.

But he emphasised that there was a good atmosphere at the college.

"The broader atmosphere is, I think, actually quite a wholesome, healthy one because there are a lot of interplay between students of many, many disciplines, lay students and clerics, male and female, people who are engaged pastorally," he told RTÉ's 'Drivetime'.

"I do have to acknowledge what the Archbishop said today in response to and referencing in particular some of the anonymous correspondence, which we have been in receipt of in recent times, has been difficult and is a less-than-satisfactory atmosphere in which to conduct formation."

Msgr Connolly said that he was concerned about the ­allegations. "I think that [the use of gay dating apps] certainly worries me as much as it worries the Archbishop," he said.

"First and foremost it has to be said that we expect all our seminarians to live celibately here. Celibately means preparing for celibate priesthood. There can't be any compromise around that for seminarians.

"A seminarian has to know very clearly and honestly that he is preparing for a lifetime of celibacy - that's part and parcel of what it means to be a priest.

"And that's non-negotiable. So clearly anything that compromises that in any way which involves sexual activity, or inappropriate social media apps or any of that particular domain, is simply wrong and simply is incompatible with life in a seminary. So yes I am very, very unhappy when I hear reference to that kind of activity."

"We don't have any concrete detail on any of that [usage of gay dating apps]."

Msgr Connolly emphasised that there was an independent panel to investigate any allegations.

A number of ex-­seminarians have backed a call by the controversial cleric, Bishop Pat Buckley, for the trustees of Maynooth to stand down over their handling of the controversy currently engulfing the national seminary.

Bishop Buckley, who is in a long-running dispute with the diocese of Down and Connor, told the Irish Independent that the four archbishops who act as trustees and the Irish hierarchy generally had "proven themselves to be incompetent" in dealing with complaints about inappropriate behaviour and allegations concerning the use of the dating app Grindr.

However, Bishop Buckley's call was rejected by a spokesman for the trustees of Maynooth who stated they "will continue to do their work and exercise their responsibilities".

Asked if the bishops were planning to meet to discuss the situation, he told the Irish Independent that Irish seminaries are discussed at each bishops' meeting. The next such meeting is due to take place in October.

In a letter sent on Tuesday to Archbishops Eamon ­Martin, ­Diarmuid Martin, Michael Neary and Kieran O'Reilly, Bishop Buckley also formally requested that the trustees stand down the priest alleged to have behaved inappropriately towards a one-time seminarian whose story the Irish Independent reported yesterday.

Support for Maynooth was expressed by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), which represents more than 1,000 Irish priests and said in a statement that the response to the crisis demanded "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, the ACP added, and stressed that Irish priests should be educated in Ireland.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin's decision to send his ­seminarians to study in Rome was also criticised by Bishop Buckley who said Dr Martin could not "be allowed to do a 'Pontius Pilate' on Maynooth".

"He thinks sending his seminarians to Rome is the end of his responsibility. But he is the Primate of Ireland and a trustee of Maynooth and the seminary is situated in his diocese," he said.

The ACP also expressed alarm that conservative commentators who had a gripe with Maynooth for not facilitating the concerns of very traditional candidates, "notably their interest in Latin Masses and traditional clerical dress" were behind the whole crisis, as well as some former students who were deemed unsuitable for priesthood by the seminary authorities.

Irish Independent

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