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Father Joe, the pragmatic priest who falls in love twice a year

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Modern: Fr Joe McDonald of St Matthew’s Church, Ballyfermot, wants to make the Church more welcoming. Photo: Tony Gavin

Modern: Fr Joe McDonald of St Matthew’s Church, Ballyfermot, wants to make the Church more welcoming. Photo: Tony Gavin

Modern: Fr Joe McDonald of St Matthew’s Church, Ballyfermot, wants to make the Church more welcoming. Photo: Tony Gavin

Ireland has a long and storied tradition of maverick priests. During the theocracy we designated celebrity status to Michael Cleary and Eamon Casey, charismatic clerics with mistresses and unlikely youth appeal. Sadly Father Joe McDonald, of St Matthew's parish in Ballyfermot, doesn't have any secret love children to tell me about, and he anticipates and winces at the inevitable 'Father Trendy' jibes.

Still, he seems like a man made in this tradition of clerical iconoclasts. He's more liberal than you would expect of a priest; he speaks of making the Church a more welcoming place for gay people and those who have had, or are considering having, an abortion. In this era of suspicion around priests, he's a survivor of sexual abuse himself. He tells me that he is bisexual and falls in love twice a year. And despite his age - he recently turned 50 - he only became a priest a decade ago, during the worst days of the Church scandals.


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