Lack of transparency will not help the Church
Published 03/08/2016 | 02:30
To some, Diarmuid Martin is the very model of a modern major archbishop. To others, he is an anachronism, too hard-wired into the Vatican to countenance going down the roads many feel the Church must take to avoid being left behind.
The current imbroglio over Maynooth, to which he will no longer be sending seminarians of the Dublin diocese, is symptomatic of the difficulties that a church with one foot in the past has in coming to terms with the 21st century.
But if Dr Martin no longer believes the National Seminary is the right environment for men to study to become priests, should he not be attempting to reform it? Turning his back on it and sending his charges to Rome suggests he has made a judgment call.
True, there have been allegations of gay sexual activity, the use of the dating app Grindr and claims of misconduct. Substantiated or not, this is a pretty alarming scenario. Yet the president of St Patrick's College, Maynooth, has said that there is no investigation under way at the college or complaints relating to sexual harassment, misconduct or assault. Monsignor Hugh Connolly has urged people who have any fears to bring their complaints to the "civil authorities". And if Dr Martin no longer has confidence in the seminary, where do the country's other three archbishops stand? One must wonder as to the college's future. In lay life, there is a responsibility to establish the full facts before acting - but the Church is not used to having to account for itself. The hierarchy may follow its own counsel. Yet it is hardly in the interests of Maynooth - or of the wider Church - to leave so many questions hanging. The Church faces many challenges. It is perfectly within its rights to maintain its stance on women priests and the need for a vow of celibacy. Yet such positions are being widely questioned, as befits a more open, less docile, society. To date, a lack of debate, undue secrecy and a refusal to be open has had a massively detrimental impact on the reputation of the Church. Experience ought to have shown that engagement and not retreat is the wiser course.