THE well-known broadcaster and priest Fr Brian D'Arcy contemplated leaving the priesthood following his censure by a Catholic Church watchdog, a new BBC documentary reveals.
The documentary, titled 'The Turbulent Priest', which is due to be screened by BBC NI on Monday evening, provides an insight into the high-profile cleric's dilemma as he confronts his censure by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and grapples with some of its thorny issues such as its teachings on clerical celibacy.
He also openly discusses his personal experience of clerical abuse as a young seminarian.
Last April it emerged that the Passionist priest had been censured by the the Catholic Church's doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in Rome, which was angered by his criticism of the church's mishandling of clerical sexual abuse and his views on celibacy for priests, its teachings on contraception and homosexuality.
The BBC documentary followed the Enniskillen-based priest over a number of months as the 67-year-old talked to individuals within the church in a search for an answer as to whether he should stay or leave after 50 years in the priesthood.
It shows him attending the International Eucharistic Congress last June and travelling to the UK as well as to Austria, where he met dissident priest, Fr Helmut Schuller, who is lobbying for reform of some of the church's core teachings.
In a letter to Cardinal Sean Brady, Fr D'Arcy questions him about the future of the church. The cardinal responds, telling him: "I know that with your excellent access to media and superb communication skills you are well placed to share the fruits of such reflection with others. I wish you well as you continue to do so."
Speaking to the Irish Independent ahead of Monday's broadcast, the popular 'Sunday World' columnist explained that talking to a range of contributors helped "clarify in my own mind" the answer. "I want to be a priest. I love being a priest. But I am not sure if the church loves me being a priest," he explained.
In the documentary he asks: "Is the price of being a priest that you stay quiet, that you don't be a whistle blower, and that the price of dying a priest is that you don't speak the truth?"
He is due to discuss this further in an interview on tonight's 'Late Late Show'.
The broadcaster also reveals his struggle with mandatory clerical celibacy, stating: "I would have been a much better priest had I married.
"I think it would have been the whole thing of sharing your life with somebody else and the whole thing of making sacrifices for somebody else and also that idea of a companion, a closeness, a friend, someone to call home."
He is frank about the pain of his own personal experience of sexual abuse in the church, which he told the Irish Independent occurred when he was an 18-year-old seminarian.
"I was preyed upon by a member of my own order. Of course the threat was made that unless I co-operated with this that I would not be ordained."
As early as 1985, the 'Turbulent Priest' wrote about clerical sexual abuse in his 'Sunday World' column but the church in Ireland wasn't listening.
"There were scandals in Alaska ... and I had picked up on this from the American papers."
He is also concerned that the Vatican is returning to the conservative church of his youth, which he believes will alienate Catholics and warns that if "we allow them to impose this legalistic church again. . . that's what led to the abuse of children, abuse of power, the abuse of the church itself".
'The Turbulent Priest' will be aired on BBCI NI on Monday at 10.35pm