A GROUP of Catholic nuns, priests and lay people wore gags yesterday as they demonstrated outside the office of the Pope's envoy to Ireland to protest at the Vatican's silencing of several dissident priests.
We Are Church Ireland says its members are "very angry and shocked" by the news that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has ordered a number of priests to refrain from writing, or to clear all written work with their religious superiors prior to publication.
The protesters chose to hold their protest outside the Papal Nuncio, Monsignor Charles Brown's residency on the Navan Road in Dublin, as the 52-year-old has worked at the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 1994.
More than 200 people joined the demonstration, despite inclement weather conditions.
Fr Brian D'Arcy last week emerged as the fifth priest to be silenced in recent times by the Vatican over columns he wrote for the 'Sunday World' newspaper in 2010.
The others are Redemptorist priests Fr Tony Flannery and Fr Gerard Moloney, Marist priest Fr Sean Fagan and Capuchin priest Fr Owen O'Sullivan.
A member of the Passionist Order, Fr D'Arcy has criticised mandatory celibacy for priests.
He has also been a fierce critic of the church's handling of child abuse scandals in Ireland.
The disciplinary action means he must submit his writings and broadcasts to an official censor.
Brendan Butler, a lay person, and one of the founding members of We Are Church Ireland, said he believes at least four other priests have been censored, who have, as yet, to come forward.
"We are here in support of those priests who have been silenced. We want to highlight the difference between the church founded by Jesus, who was all-inclusive, and the present structure of the church," he said.
Also among the protesters yesterday was a group of nuns from the Dominican Order in Dublin.
"These theologians are voicing what we all believe to be true, they should not be silenced," said Sister Marie Redmond, who is based in Tallaght.