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Seminarians drank, had girlfriends, priest says

A DRINK-FUELLED, sexually charged atmosphere among seminarians in Maynooth saw some go on drinking binges while others had girlfriends and carried condoms, a priest who trained there claimed yesterday.

Other trainee priests had "inappropriate" relationships with other men in the college, Fr Joseph Briody said in a frank article in The Irish Catholic newspaper.

And one retreat director for the young priests even advocated gay marriages, he said.

Heavy drinking also played a part with a team skills weekend degenerating into a nightly drinking session, he said.

"Often the St Joseph Young Priest Society money was spent in the pubs on drunken binges," he said.

He criticised the the methods used to train priests in Irish seminaries. The young teaching priest spent 12 years living in seminaries while studying.

Fr Briody from Glenties, Co Donegal and now teaching in Ballyshannon, said many "unedifying" stories are emerging of life in a seminary.

He said many who entered seminaries with high ideals, not only left the seminary, but also the Church, "disillusioned with what they had witnessed".

Fr Briody states while efforts were made to "uproot inappropriate behaviour, they were often not enough."

Pointing out that he has "very fond memories" of his time in Maynooth he was, however, "very uneasy about certain aspects of our training".

The main problem was that some of those invited in to give retreats, seminars and workshops "often undermined basic Christianity".

Fr Briody was so appalled by one priest who said "unprintable things about the Virgin Mary" during one of the "spiritual months" while he was a seminarian, that he walked out of the talk which 'amused' the priest in question.

In hindsight, Fr Briody states, he was lucky not to have been expelled for his protest gesture but he said "unfortunately it was not an isolated incident". More recent seminarians who challenged such incidents have told him they were accused of being "closed" or "having anger stored up" and were sent for psychological assessments and sometimes forced to leave.

Fr Briody states seminary training before Vatican 2 was not perfect and many of those who abused children were products of that system but he questioned if "an uncritical embracing of secularisation and modernity" is the answer.

"The impression was given that everything before Vatican 2 was bad, and therefore anything that followed it had to be good." Some priests openly admit that they got ordained under the impression that the celibacy rule would change within years, he states.

"In a way this is understandable since everything from the liturgy to certain moral teachings seemed in flux." There was little emphasis on chastity, morality, purity, character, virtue, self-control and self-sacrifice, he said.

Fr Briody praises his own Bishop Seamus Hegarty whom, he said, showed "great interest in and concern for his seminarians" but he said many others who went to their bishops got little satisfaction.

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