Wednesday, 23 May 2012


This week’s newspapers carry stories about Father Thomas Williams – the US Catholic priest and member of the scary religious order THE LEGIONARIES OF CHRIST   leading a double life and fathering a child. Father Williams is a much sought out preacher, media contributor and university speaker. He is also is the author of many books including one called: KNOWING RIGHT FROM WRONG. This week the head of his order revealed that he has known about Father Williams’ double life for at least seven years.
 But Father Williams is not the EXCEPTION. He is the RULE.
The majority of Catholic priests are leading double lives and are sexually active with women and men – depending on their sexual orientation.
Forty two years ago when I entered the seminary at Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, Dublin, homosexual activity was rife among the seminarians. Latterly it has also emerged that some of the seminarians were molesting altar boys who visited the seminary think of becoming priests.
Since being ordained in 1976 – 36 years ago – I have regularly come across priests living openly with a woman who was supposed to be his “housekeeper” but who in fact was his partner in every sense of the word.
Nor is the phenomenon of priests fathering children anything new. Just look at Irish surnames: McEntaggart (the son of the priest); MacAnespie (the son of the bishop); McNabb (the son of the abbot). In the early 1990 THE IRISH TIMES broke the story of Eamon Casey, the Bishop of Galway, who had a fling with the American divorcee Annie Murphy and fathered a child called Peter. The Vatican spirited Bishop Casey away to South America in the middle of the night. He now, in his 80’s lives under what might be called ecclesiastical “house arrest” in rural Galway.
Then there was the case of the arch-hypocrite Father Michael Cleary who was a “hit man” for the Irish Bishops who led a double life in a presbytery in Dublin and fathered at least two children. The Church and his priest pals covered up for him for decades.
I would estimate that at least 70% of priests are sexually active all during their life or at some stage of their life. Fifty years ago the priesthood  was a mixture of heterosexual and homosexual men. Today most Catholic priests are gay. One English priest, who studied in Rome and found himself in many a priestly and episcopal bed there, recently said to me: “In 2012 the Catholic priesthood is a gay profession”.
Here in Ireland many priests are dating men through web sites or by meeting them in gay saunas or gay cruising areas. Many members of the Dublin gay community have told me that when they wanted “action” they headed out to the wooded area behind St. Patrick’s Seminary, Maynooth just outside Dublin.
 The pope, the Roman curia and the world’s bishops know that most priests are not observing the celibacy rule. In fact the same English priest mentioned about told me that the Vatican is rife with homosexuality and that: “the way to get promoted in Rome is to do your superiors sexual favours”!
In one sense I do not blame any priest who is sexually active. Compulsory celibacy is a BAD LAW that needs to be changed. But I don’t like the idea of a sexually active priest, like Father Williams, condemning contraception, sex outside marriage and homosexuality from the pulpit. That makes them hypocrites.
Celibacy is a charism – a gift from God – a gift given to the few and not to the many. Compulsory celibacy is an insult to God and to human nature.
However it is all just part of a bigger problem – the problem of the Catholic Church having a medieval and “flat earth” approach to human sexuality.
Priests who live double lives may be human – but they are, by their silence and their hypocrisy, complicit with the Vatican’s antediluvian approach to one of God’s greatest gifts – the gift of our sexuality.  

Bishop Pat Buckley

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