Tuesday 25 July 2017

Seminary system is 'alien to the needs of the student'

'It's not just Maynooth,' says former trainee at Thurles institution

A second man, who studied at Thurles, said that the seminary system 'was so alien to the needs of the student who is seeking to serve the Church as a priest'. Picture posed.
A second man, who studied at Thurles, said that the seminary system 'was so alien to the needs of the student who is seeking to serve the Church as a priest'. Picture posed.

Sarah MacDonald

Another former priest who studied at St Patrick's seminary in Thurles before it was shut down in 2002 has said that the problems in seminary formation are wider than just Maynooth.

The individual is the second man to report to the Irish Independent about allegations of inappropriate behaviour at training institutions for priests.

The man spoke out ­after Archbishop of Dublin ­Diarmuid Martin explained that his decision not to send trainee priests to St Patrick's College was due to a "worrying" atmosphere.

The fresh claims come after a former trainee priest, who alleges that he was harassed by a member of staff while studying in Maynooth, made an official complaint to gardaí yesterday.

He said that a priest who was meant to be his "spiritual father" acted inappropriately towards him on a number of occasions.

He said that his faith was "severely shaken" and he suffered from a severe depression.

Now a second man, who studied at Thurles, said that the seminary system "was so alien to the needs of the student who is seeking to serve the Church as a priest".

This individual is also considering filing a report with gardaí.

"Within the walls of these institutions, young men are being forced to suppress all sexual desires and turn away from all forms of relationships," he said.

The man said that one of the seminarians who was studying at Thurles died by suicide and that another attempted self-harm.

"It is well known that anyone who would ever make any form of ­complaint regarding ­bullying or ­otherwise would simply not be believed," he said.

Read more: Maynooth student to file sex assault charge with gardaí

Read more: 'Allegations of homosexuality and misconduct': Archbishop of Dublin explains why he is not sending trainee priests to Maynooth

His own experience was tarnished by a medical examination he underwent at the start of his studies in which he believes his genitals were unnecessarily fondled.

His protests were dismissed with a reference to canon law that "only fully functional men could enter the vow of celibacy".

Asked if he believed the trustees in the National Seminary in Maynooth should stand down in the wake of the latest controversy - which includes allegations of sexual promiscuity at the college - he said he felt there was "obviously a lack of trust now towards those in charge with Maynooth".

He added: "If the statement by the Archbishop of Dublin that he is sending his students to Rome is not a damning ­indictment, I don't know what is. Unless there is real change, I see no viable future for this seminary."

Warning that too many ­people have been damaged and have been afraid to come forward, creating an atmosphere of secrecy, he said: "This needs to stop now."

Another former ­seminarian at St Patrick's College, Maynooth told the Irish ­Independent that the confidentiality ­agreements signed by trainee priests ­continue the culture of secrecy within the Church - this was later denied by the president of Maynooth.

Secrecy

"The veil of secrecy remains wrapped around the Church and practices such as these, which deny humans rights, need to be exposed," he said.

"The bishops, who are the trustees of Maynooth College, still enforce this same type of emotional abuse and ­control over its own seminarians, ­stripping them of their liberty and human rights to speak freely," he added. "There needs to be an ­independent commission to hear from both ex- and ­current seminarians about their experiences and this must be done confidentially to protect these people.

"But the findings must be made public and while they won't make for easy listening for the bishops, the air of secrecy must end - and maybe then we will understand why so many left [the] seminary and why many others do not want to enter."

Meanwhile, the ex-­seminarian who alleges a member of staff harassed him in Maynooth made a preliminary statement to the gardaí yesterday.

He said that he will continue with his complaint and provide a formal statement next week.

"They certainly felt that a couple of isolated incidents which I mentioned did ­warrant investigation by them, and would be deemed sexual ­assault," he told the Irish ­Independent. "I will be meeting them next week in person to provide a written statement concerning the above."

Irish Independent

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