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Fr Brian represents us better than the Vatican

Bono once told Father Brian D'Arcy: "You're the last one standing."

Now Pope Benedict is trying to cut him off at the knees.

After everything the Catholic Church has been found guilty of, you'd have thought it would be open to a bit of self-criticism -- but instead it has been revealed that the Vatican is censoring Fr D'Arcy's writings as if they were some 21st Century version of the Da Vinci Code.


Earlier this week, DJ Ray D'Arcy caused a stir by declaring that the Church has "in many ways, f**ked up this country".

His namesake uses much more measured language, but the authorities in Rome seem to think that Fr Brian's message is basically the same.

He has used his newspaper columns to insist that the Church should allow married priests, accept homosexuality and too confess that it broke most of the Ten Commandments by protecting so many paedophiles in dog collars.

Fr Brian's honesty has made him one of the most popular clerics in Ireland. For some Catholic diehards, however, this sort of talk is the biggest heresy since Galileo suggested that the earth revolves around the sun. That's why, for the last 14 months, he has been ordered to submit his newspaper columns to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome -- so that anything that might cause Benedict to purse his lips might presumably be removed.

Of course, D'Arcy is not the only Irish martyr when it comes to Vatican censorship.

It recently emerged that the outspoken Fr Tony Flannery had his column cancelled in the Redemptorist Order magazine Reality, while editor Fr Gerard Moloney was also told to stop writing about certain subjects.


In all, five priests are known to have been rapped over the knuckles by Benedict's flunkies for the cardinal sin of daring to suggest that the Church might just need to update its attitudes to sexual morality.

The moral of this story is obvious. For decades, the Irish hierarchy covered up for child rapists by moving them to different parishes and told victims that they would go straight to hell if they opened their mouths.

When a priest dares to voice a controversial opinion, however, he is treated like a leper -- a throwback to the bad old days when John McGahern novels were banned and Monty Python's Life of Brian could not be shown in Irish cinemas.

In many ways, it is a miracle that Fr D'Arcy ever became a priest at all. He has been sexually abused twice himself, once as a 10-year-old by a religious brother at his school in Omagh and again seven years later by a priest while he was studying at Mount Argus in Dublin.

He is a huge pop music fan and first got into journalism by writing reviews of the Irish showband scene in the 1960s.

D'Arcy was the original inspiration for Father Trendy, a brilliant comedy character created by Dermot Morgan ("We are all fishing for something in our lives, and what is it we are all fishing for? That's right -- soul!")

While his earnestness is easy to mock, however, few people can doubt that his heart is in the right place.

He was good friends with the Dublin celebrity priest Fr Michael Cleary -- and wrote that when he discovered Cleary had fathered two children with his housekeeper, "something died inside me".


According to the recent census, an amazing 84pc of Irish people still call themselves Catholics.

However, a survey by the Association of Catholic Priests has shown that they also have liberal views on contraception, homosexuality and married priests.

In other words, Fr D'Arcy represents Irish Catholics far better than the people trying to silence him -- and no amount of censorship can change that inconvenient truth.

Fr Brian has written that the Church as it stands is clearly "a dying institution".

By giving him a belt of the crosier, the Vatican has only confirmed the suspicion that it really does have some kind of death wish.