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Tuesday 21 November 2017

Embattled priests fight back with new DVD that sings their praises

Grainne Cunningham

PRIESTS are striking back. Catholic bishops yesterday released a DVD to remind people that the clergy has contributed much that is good, along with the "serious sins and crimes" of some priests.

The 'In Praise of Priests' DVD consists of five brief interviews with a cross-section of Irish lay people, expressing their admiration for a particular priest who made a special impact on their life.

However, speaking at the launch, Bishop Donal McKeown of Down and Connor refused to be drawn on the controversial decision by Pope Benedict last week not to accept the resignations of two auxiliary bishops named in the Murphy Report.

Bishop McKeown said he was "not privy to any of the discussions" which led to the Pope's refusal to accept the proffered resignations of Eamonn Walsh and Ray Field.

"I've no idea what agendas were being talked about," he said, adding that the discussions were very prolonged and that while the resignations of Bishops Donal Murray and Jim Moriarty were accepted, "clearly there were other reasons involved in this".

Referring to the two auxiliary bishops, Bishop McKeown said he "found them to be fine, in many ways wonderful men, with great talents" and that he looked forward to continuing to work with them in the future.

He accepted that some people, including some victims of abuse, would be unhappy with the Pope's decision but he stressed that enabling people to cope with the past was a very complicated task. He also accepted that bishops had "been floundering around" trying to cope, and that some priests had also been hurt by that.

The DVD, which was released as part of the celebration of the Year for Priests, features interviews with Newstalk presenter George Hook, author Alice Taylor, union chief David Begg, Tyrone manager Mickey Harte and drama student Ashleigh O'Neill.

Mr Begg speaks about the late Fr Aengus Finucane and the contribution he made through decades of working overseas; Ms O'Neill talks of how young priest Fr Paul Dempsey challenged her view of faith and religion and made her realise it could be fun.

Mr Hook praises a priest he met in his youth, Fr Alphonsus Moran, who persuaded him that "sex was normal"; Ms Taylor speaks warmly about Fr Denis O'Connor who has been at the centre of family weddings, baptisms and funerals for decades; and Mr Harte praises Mgr Eoin Thynne who "led us into battle" against Kerry by saying Mass in advance.

Immediately after the DVD launch, Fr John O'Brien, from Ferns, Co Wexford, made an emotional appeal to the media for balance in their reportage. He criticised the "avalanche of anti-church" negativity in the media. "It is not easy on us; we try," he said.

Irish Independent

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