Ground-breaking new research into the sexual lives of Irish Catholic priests has revealed many of them are or have been sexually active, that the bishops are aware of the situation, and that there is a gay scene within the church.
'Thirty-Three Good Men: Celibacy, Obedience and Identity' publishes new analysis of priests' views from a series of interviews conducted by Dr John Weafer, a former seminarian who is now married with children.
The book, which has just been published by Columba Books, reveals that one parish priest interviewed confidentially by Weafer is in a long term gay relationship.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, the author said 'Fr C' was "very happy with his life as a priest and a person".
Another priest interviewed, 'Fr L' was ordained in the 1990s. It was only when he was ordained that he finally ended up 'sleeping' with another priest.
"Although we both vowed it would never happen again, it did and I was really very confused," he said.
When he ended up in bed "fumbling around" with another priest, he decided to try the gay scene.
Fr L then "discovered a strong clerical gay scene in Ireland", although it was not easy to access because of the clerics' need for secrecy.
He believes that there are "quite a lot of gay guys in the priesthood" and on one occasion when he went into a gay bar in Dublin, he recognised at least nine priests in the bar.
Dr Weafer said he did not think that the Irish hierarchy would be shocked by the revelations in the book as the interviews showed that the "hierarchy are aware" of what is going on.
"As long as priests don't go public and don't flaunt those actions that don't correspond with being a celibate priest" they turn a blind eye, he claimed.
This will shock many as the official church's attitude on homosexuality deems it as intrinsically disordered.
According to Dr Weafer: "If a priest was to say in the morning 'I am gay', he would be fired. Priests have learned to keep their heads down".
The researcher, who was the first lay director of the Irish Bishops' Council for Research and Development in Maynooth, said that while most of the priests he interviewed lived celibate lives, and some are enthusiastic about their priesthood, others have become disillusioned.
The new research shows that the majority of Irish priests are unhappy with mandatory celibacy.
Those most enthusiastic about the retention of celibacy are younger, more conservative priests, the research shows.
Many of the priests were highly critical of the fact that sexuality was a taboo when they were training to be priests in the seminary.
The majority of 33 priests interviewed by Dr Weafer for the book were heterosexual.
One former priest had married and joined the Church of Ireland while Fr L has since decided to leave the priesthood, as he found the double standards too much. Another gay priest Fr G had opted to remain in the priesthood and was not sexually active.