The bishops' inaction is the true scandal that alienates the faithful
Published 02/08/2016 | 02:30
The latest scandal to hit the Catholic seminary in Maynooth has implications not only for a college with a venerable 200-year history, but it also appears to be tearing apart the country's bishops, while forcing some of the Irish Church's most loyal Catholics to question a few sacred cows.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has referred to "strange goings-on" in the Co Kildare seminary and a host of people are becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of transparency.
Anthony Murphy, the editor of the 'Catholic Voice', a weekly paper that in Catholic circles would ordinarily be seen as a cheerleader for the hierarchy, has described the bishops' inaction on the situation in Maynooth as "a great scandal" and he has castigated them for not prioritising the welfare of young seminarians.
He told the Irish Independent that, by their inaction, the bishops "have betrayed their obligation to protect both faith and faithful".
Although he has spoken privately to several bishops - each of whom acknowledged that there are difficulties in the seminary - none of these bishops would speak publicly and they refused to take action against the seminary over those concerns. Why?
So far, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin is the only one to have stepped into the breach.
Attempts by the Irish Independent to get a comment from the Catholic Communications Office about another bishop who is reportedly following Archbishop Martin's lead and sending his seminarians to the Irish College in Rome went unanswered twice.
The unwillingness of the bishops to intervene is now prompting Anthony Murphy and others to challenge the Church hierarchy to stand aside as trustees of Maynooth - and to allow laymen be appointed to implement reforms that they believe are necessary and run the college.
Another issue which is causing alarm is the number of seminarians and priests using the dating app Grindr.
According to Mr Murphy, before this current scandal erupted in Maynooth, as many as 12 seminarians had accounts.
Mr Murphy said it is a problem not just for the seminarians but also for ordained priests.
"We have seen recently ordained priests suspended from ministry because they were found to be using gay dating websites," he said.
"This is the elephant in the room: is the priesthood in Ireland becoming a gay profession and are the newly ordained priests encouraging the men they meet on websites to join the seminary?
"We need a serious discussion about this whole subject but this will only begin when the bishops end the denial and accept the size of the problem."
As to what needs to change at Maynooth, one of the former seminarians who alleges he was harassed by a member of staff in Maynooth has called for the present seminary council and much of the faculty to be replaced.
He claims that Maynooth has a very bad name among young men who aspire to be holy, chaste, faithful, prayerful priests.
Rather shockingly, he also alleges that the present hierarchy in Maynooth is in fact "the number one impediment to more men presenting for formation for the Irish diocesan priesthood".
He is highly critical of the hypocrisy of priests and seminarians who live a sexually promiscuous life, particularly as a married man who is now trying to live up to the Church's demanding rules on marriage.
It seems that there needs to be a confidential, safe and secure process established for seminarians to air their grievances about staff and the formation processes in Maynooth in the interests of justice for all - and to restore faith in the system.