Thursday 24 October 2019

I'm feeling fine, says leading priest as he battles cancer

Fr brian D'Arcy. Photo: Tom Burke
Fr brian D'Arcy. Photo: Tom Burke

Adrian Rutherford

One of Ireland's best known priests has revealed he is fighting cancer.

Fr Brian D'Arcy said he was diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this year.

The 69-year-old, who is also a prominent columnist and broadcaster, said he is overcoming the illness and is feeling "fine".

"I was diagnosed earlier this year, but I don't really like saying too much about it," Fr D'Arcy told the Irish Independent.

"It's prostate cancer, which any man can get at any stage.

"I haven't said much about it because it's putting yourself in the limelight, but thankfully I'm overcoming it."

Some of the issues the Enniskillen-based priest discussed during the wide-ranging interview were:

  • He disputes claims by Pope Francis that one in 50 priests are paedophiles, believing the true figure is actually closer to one in 12.
  • The Pope would be wasting his time coming to Ireland.
  • The priesthood must review its position on male celibacy if it is to survive for future generations.

Fr D'Arcy entered the priesthood when he was 17 and is rector of St Gabriel's Retreat in the Graan, near Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.

He is also a well-known broadcaster, and has written a weekly column for the 'Sunday World' for nearly 40 years.

However, in April 2012 it emerged he had been formally censured by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which wrote to the Superior General of his religious order, accusing him of being "a source of great scandal".

"It caused me serious ill health and within a year and a half or so I had cancer. I'm not saying it caused it but it certainly didn't do me any good," he said.

"In the end I said to myself, am I going to let a crowd in Rome destroy my health?"

Fr D'Arcy said he is doing well, and has not let the matter affect his work.

"I haven't let it affect me, I'm still working 18 hours a day.

"Not many people have been aware of the fact I've cancer, I never hid the fact, but very few people have referred to it."


In a recent interview Pope Francis said it was possible that one in 50 priests had abused children.

Fr D'Arcy said he believes the true figure is much higher.

"At the very minimum, I would say three to 5pc, and I would say nearer 5pc," he added.

"But that is only the reported cases – I would contend that less than 50pc of cases are ever mentioned or reported.

"So what is the real figure? It's probably nearer 8pc – about one in 12 priests. Certainly one in 15 have either abused, assaulted or had dysfunctional sexual relationships."

Fr D'Arcy also revealed how, in 1995, he confronted Cardinal Cahal Daly with the names of priests alleged to have been involved in abuse.

It came shortly after the pair had clashed on live television on RTE's 'The Late Late Show'.

"The man didn't know. It was all being kept from him," he added.

"I named names to him. He got very white. I thought he was going to die in front of me, such was his shock."

A critic of celibacy for priests, Fr D'Arcy said the position must be reviewed if the priesthood is to survive.

"It will have to change, of that there is no question, and God is telling us that," he added.

Fr D'Arcy also dismissed talk of a papal visit to Ireland, saying Pope Francis would be wasting his time.

"Look at the news – sure we won't let Garth Brooks come, never mind the Pope."

Irish Independent

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