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Why Fr Brian D'Arcy is still his own man

Fr Brian D'arcy is the fifth Irish priest to be told that he must submit his writings and broadcasts to the Vatican for vetting and censorship. A certain generation will react to that news with a 'Brian who?' But for those who know something of Brian D'Arcy, it will be seen as a stunning leap back to the 1950s.

D'Arcy was of a new generation of Catholic priests in Ireland in the early 1970s. Then as now, it was anachronistic to find a priest possessed of a love of, expertise in, and willingness to talk about youth culture.

At that historical nexus of rock, country and jive, Brian D'Arcy lived as chaplain to the stars. The music is now old-fashioned. Then it was cutting-edge. It was then as Bressie and LMFAO and Jessie J and One Direction are now. And D'Arcy was at the heart of it.

He wasn't a crawling Fr Trendy though. He was a young man with young man's interests who happened to have a calling to the common good.

And he sought to deliver through the new media of the time. He was a man at home on TV and radio. It seems commonplace now, but in the early 1970s it was like Facebook is today.

And it was where the priest from Fermanagh lived comfortably.

He went on to broadcast thoughts for the day to the biggest radio audience in Europe with Terry Wogan, to present his own radio show on BBC Ulster, and for decades to write columns in one of the country's biggest newspapers.

And in each of those media he has demonstrated great courage. Particularly when it came to challenging the dogma of his own Church. From celibacy to sacraments, Brian D'Arcy never shirked from challenging that with which he did not agree.

Most famously he took on Cardinal Daly on The Late Late Show at a time when the hierarchy was not the wounded animal it is now.

The hierarchy, personified by Daly, was then still a big bestriding beast, in front of which D'Arcy fearlessly stood.

Having courage doesn't mean you have wisdom. Being media savvy doesn't make you insightful. Nobody could suggest that D'Arcy views are a panacea for the ills of the Catholic Church or the country.

But, equally, nobody could suggest that those views are expressed with anything other than the best interests of Church and State in mind.

In censoring him directly, and censuring him by proxy, the Vatican has made that most awful of mistakes; they have confused dissent with disloyalty.

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