THE BELFAST CATHOLIC AND NATIONALIST NEWSPAPER THE IRISH NEWS HAS BEEN CENSORING ME FOR NEARLY 30 YEARS NOW.
THEY DO NOT PUBLISH ANY PRESS RELEASES I SEND THEM BUT THEY ENJOY PUBLISHING TABLOID LIKE STORIES ABOUT ME THAT ARE WRITTEN IN A GREATLY EXAGGERATED AND THEREFORE INACCURATE FACTION.
I PARTICULARLY SUFFER FROM THEIR NASTY AND OUTRAGEOUS HEADLINES AND BY LINES.
I RECENTLY REPORTED THE IRISH NEWS TO THE LONDON BASED PRESS COMPLAINTS COMMISSION.
THE IRISH NEWS EDITOR OFFERED A TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
IT IS NOT NICE TO BE A VICTIM OF CENSORSHIP IN THE 21ST CENTURY BUT THERE SEEMS VERY LITTLE WE CAN DO ABOUT IT - EXCEPT PUBLISH ON THE INTERNET WHERE THERE ARE NO PROPRIETORS AND EDITORS EXERCISING PETTY POWER.
BELOW IS AN UNPUBLISHED LETTER FROM ME TO THE IRISH NEWS LAST WEEK IN THE WAKE OF THE SUICIDE OF FATHER MATT WALLACE
I agree with Dr Jill Henderson (IRISH NEWS 17.6.2013) who says that if something big is not done very quickly there will be other suicides among priests.
This year it is now 43 years since I entered the seminary and 37 years since I was ordained. The vast majority of my priestly life has been spent in the territory covered by the Diocese of Down & Connor – albeit since 1986 I have been ministering independently of the Diocese and its bishops and priests.
My experience as a priest and my regular conversations with other priests (albeit in secret) leads me to a very clear understanding of what the problems are:
1. Quite a number of young men enter the priesthood when they are emotionally and spiritually immature or under the influence of parents or others and after some years discover they are unsuitable to, or unhappy in, the priesthood, but feel they have no way out and try to carry on anyway. Very often they have no other home to go to and no training for another profession. As Father Martin Magill has said they are then condemned to “lives of quiet desperation”.
2. Diocesan priests especially are not given a thorough training in spirituality as seminaries concentrate on academics and pastoral activities. They leave seminary knowing all about God but not involved in an intimate relationship with Jesus. They often give up on prayer and spiritual reading. I know priests who have boasted to me that they are atheists and that they do not pray. Priest’s retreats have become social gatherings. And as someone wisely remarked: “They work so hard for God that they forget the God for whom they work”.
3. Most seminarians and young priests are initially dedicated to the life of celibacy. If they make it through the seminary without being propositioned or seduced by another seminarian or priest they are fortunate. However when they mature a little they are confronted with their own very normal sexual urges accompanied by loneliness and they become hopelessly trapped. The majority of priests eventually leave the priesthood, lead a double life in secret or succumb to psychotic loneliness, depression, anxiety or to various addictions. Whatever way they try to cope they are internally conflicted and lose a sense of integrity and wholeness. Also Is it an accident that there are a greater number of gay men in the Catholic priesthood than there are in society as a whole. Being secretly gay puts huge pressures on priests.
4. The “clerical club” in the seminary and later in the diocese is a cruel and unforgiving environment. Among seminarians you will find the same bullies as you find in secular life. Priests are afraid to be vulnerable before other priests. They are afraid to being judged and thought weak. When they are in a crisis they often cannot bring themselves to talk to another priest about their crisis.
5. Bishops are supposed to be “fathers” to their priests. But many bishops are aloof and cold and unapproachable. How many priests have their bishop’s private mobile number? Could they call him and go to him at 3 am if they are on the very edge? Could Matt Wallace have done that? In any event how can you talk to a bishop about your struggles or weaknesses when it is he who has the power to discipline you, take away your life as you know it, or even report you to the police?
The problems facing priests will not be solved by programmes like the current LIVING CHURCH programme whatever its merits may be. There are major issues like celibacy, women priests, attitudes to sexuality etc., that the universal church must solve – not to mention “clericalism” which is regularly condemned by Pope Francis.
However in the meantime priests and bishops need to become truly brothers in the full sense of the word – a brotherhood based on mutual love, respect and prayer. Remember what our grannies taught us: “The family that prays together stays together”. Yours,
Bishop Pat Buckley
The Oratory Society
Larne. Co. Antrim.