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Show of support for Fr D'Arcy

More than 1,000 people travelled from all over Ireland yesterday to hear Fr Brian D'Arcy say Mass and preach in a Passionist monastery near Enniskillen.

It was an expression of solidarity -- and much more. It was an expression of love.

Fr D'Arcy has preached the Gospel of Jesus for many years, using many means of communicating it: the pulpit, the newspapers, the electronic media. He is uniquely skilled in putting his message across, with a combination of simplicity, personality, sincerity and courage.

For this, he is loved. He does not need grudging or unthinking deference. He would have been quite at home in the hills of Palestine, preaching the Beatitudes.

He is no radical or revolutionary. He says, significantly, that he has never challenged the defined doctrines of the Catholic Church. In fact, he is a prime asset for the Church in Ireland, including its dominant conservative wing.

Instead of recognising that, the Vatican resents his criticism of its dismal record on the sex abuse scandal. Rome has reacted by placing him on the list of Irish priests whom it has censored or censured.

Now he may have to make the most painful decision of his life: whether to submit, or defy the church and risk an open breach. Whatever he decides, he will still carry the fundamental message.

And still be widely loved.