Friday, 5 September 2014


From bombs and bullets to pink priests

(by Suzanne Breen, Irish Times) - January 31st 2003
At first, it appears a refreshingly radical position for the ultra-conservative North.
West Belfast curate Father Joe McGuigan has just become the first mainstream Catholic priest in Ireland to publicly state he is homosexual.

Instead of the expected condemnation from the hierarchy and threats of pickets by parishioners, there has been support from the bishop and petitions from the people requesting his return.
Perhaps the local gay community has also found a hero. Someone not frightened to take a principled stand in a tough town. Someone with the guts not to hide his sexuality. A role model for the next generation.
Yet all is not as it seems. It will take a little longer for the North to become better known for its tolerance of sexual diversity than its bombs and bullets.
We have emerged as neither more nor less homophobic than before the saga began, and we certainly haven't found a gay champion. Father McGuigan (35) is a curate in St Peter's Cathedral, off the Falls Road, known for his work with the homeless and his culinary skills.
He was a live wire at a Sound of Music sing-a-long in the Grand Opera House. It was a predominantly gay audience. Some men went as the von Trapp children and clutched teddy bears. Others dressed as Nazis. Another priest appeared on stage in pyjamas. To his parishioners, a Sound of Music sing-a-long sounds like an innocent event.
Those in the know marvelled at how Father McGuigan was getting away with it all. He has been active on Belfast's gay scene for eight years. He regularly attended meetings of one group, Men of the North, in a gay pub.
This group joined its equivalent in the South, LUBE (Leather, Uniform, Bear Encounter Ireland), for a bondage and fetish party at a Dublin pub last summer. LUBE is into S&M.
Father McGuigan's photograph was taken there. It appeared on a gay website and a tabloid newspaper then approached the priest with the image. After consulting with the hierarchy, he admitted his sexuality last week.
He said he had known he was gay when he entered Maynooth. When asked if he had kept his celibacy vows, he said in his position as a priest, he had been "indiscreet and possibly careless".
Father McGuigan did not courageously come out, he was outed. If the News of the World hadn't contacted him, there would have been no disclosure.
He was tame on whether the church should allow gay priests: "I'm not a crusader for either side." That's unbelievable. A man who knows he is a homosexual takes celibacy vows, is active on the gay scene and attends bondage parties, then says he has no opinion on the issue of gay priests. He has a reputation of steering clear of radicalism and keeping in with the "clerical club".
Bishop Pat Buckley, who outed himself after he left the mainstream church, said Father McGuigan refused to shake his hand during the sign of peace at a funeral Mass four years ago: "Joe viewed me as far too troublesome and outspoken.

"Personally, I don't know why gays or feminists want anything to do with a homophobic, patriarchal church.
The Pope called a recent Gay Pride parade "an offence to Christian values" and described homosexual acts as "depraved". His official spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, says homosexuals shouldn't be ordained and steps should be taken to remove those who have been.
The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said a homosexual inclination is a "strong tendency towards an intrinsic moral evil and . . . must be seen as an objective disorder". Even today, Father McGuigan remains silent on this stuff.
Those homosexuals who don't tell the church to get lost - or at least speak out against particular teachings - then have certain duties if they are men of integrity. After all, they preach conservative morality to others. They knew the celibacy rules when they signed up.
One suspects it often isn't the case that those who break them have genuinely tried and failed. Rather, the resolve was missing from the start. These priests seem to have been quite happy to compartmentalise their lives - endorsing the rules in public, breaking them in private, for as long as they got away with it.
Richard Sipe, a former priest and psychotherapist, who has studied priests' sexuality for 25 years, believes up to 40% are gay.
We have the absurd situation of an apparently pink priesthood sustaining homophobia.
Father McGuigan says he has withdrawn from active ministry for three months to consider his future. Much public support for him is accompanied by confused statements that don't acknowledge his sexuality and propagate the idea he is the victim of slander.
One supporter said it was disgraceful someone was "out to destroy his character". The Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Patrick Walsh, has praised his curate's work and offered "prayers and support".

The entire episode has been well managed. The hierarchy has appeared compassionate and the curate hasn't lost face. But cynics predict no return to active ministry even if Father McGuigan wants it. He has broken the 11th Commandment, "Thou Shall Not Be Caught".
A lay job will be found instead. The hierarchy will have buried another problem. Father McGuigan will be able to attend whatever parties he likes, and it will be business as usual for the church.
March 19, 2003


  1. It seems to me that there are many actively gay priests in the Catholic Church who want to have their cake and eat it.

    They have a gay old time having sex with each other, with seminarians and in gay saunas and on gay holidays - but they have a right wing theology and preach moralising sermons to the rest of us on Sundays.

    I have been with 2 D&C priests who used me. dropped me and have now moved on to others. I had wanted a loving relationship with both. But they wanted to come down off their pedestals, have fun and climb back up on their pedestals. One of those priests told me that he did not believe in God.

    I now go to no church and simply talk to God in my own way.

    I have seen through the cynical charade :-(


  2. PRESS RELEASE FROM CHATEAU de NOEL (Lisbreen Emeritus) 5/9/2014

    In response to recent adverse publicity, Dr Noel Treanor, Lord Bishop of Down, Connor and Bling is pleased to announce the screening of A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS by Robert Bolt on Friday 13th September 2014 at 3 pm, which stars Paul Scofield in the role of Saint Thomas More.

    The screening will be held in THE FREEDOM SUITE (in memory of Nelson Mandela) on the first floor. Admission by production of a clerican collar (plastic or cloth)

    The theme of the event will be: "CONSCIENCE AND THE EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVE"

    Confessors will be available from 2.30 pm to 5.30 pm.

    During the interval a light buffet will be served. Those with special dietary needs should contact the Chancellor ad Interim

    Deacon Maitre D

  3. I don't think its accurate for the author of this piece (ms Breen) to state that "Pat Buckley outed himself". If I'm not mistaken I seem to recall Pat was about to be outed in a national newspaper and rather like Fr Joe decided to out himself before the press did, who were just about to?

  4. Having trained in Maynooth, many years ago, i quickly came to the conclusion that religion is poison. Many who evoke it from the pulpit don't believe it. They are comfortable in life with a pedestal of authority, financial security, homes, food etc.... in all that time i never met a Priest who convinced me he knew the living Jesus... it as all church. Through all the struggles i finally freed myself from self crucifixion, i live life to the full and daily I abide by the moral teaching of Jesus to Love. Every day i try, every day i fail, but i ain't a hypocrite crucifying others with guilt.

    Free your minds.
    Religion is superstition.
    Religion is conditioning.
    Religion as a hold on you,
    and i want you to break free.
    Free your Minds
    Religion is your jailer.
    Religion is your blackmailer.
    Religion has no relevance for the search for peace.
    Embrace reason
    Free your minds.
    Religion has abused you
    Religion has confused you.
    Religion has cut and bruised you.
    Religion has a hold on you,
    and I want you to be free.
    Free your minds.
    Break free and lose the Dogma.
    Religion is poisoning you.
    Examine what they told you.
    It wasn't truth they sold you
    but all their lies and scams.
    You were saved to break free
    From Religion.
    Free your minds from the Darkness.

    Trust in Jesus and not in Religion or any one church. No priest, pastor or bishop and anything different to their form of nature than anyone else. We are all one in the same; except some are too stupid that they cant see that the pedestals of religion are built on the corruption and guilt of their conscience by men and women who believe in religion above the freedom of the gospel.

    'And do you think that unto such as you, a maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew, God gave a secret, and denied it me? Well, well - what matters it? Believe that, too!" Omar Khayyam


  5. In the interest of accuracy:

    I published my book A SEXUAL LIFE - A SPIRITUAL LIFE in 2005.

    Six years previously - in 1999 I announced that I was gay. I did this for 2 reasons:

    1. I had just completed several years of psychological / spiritual therapy which allowed me the freedom to be myself and to tell the world who I was.

    2. A friend of mine - who I sadly no longer see - but who I still care for - and who had a drug problem approached another friend of mine in Belfast - a journalist - looking for money for my story. The moment I heard this I contacted the Irish editor of the News of the World and decided to make my own story public the following Sunday under the headline: WHY I WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW I AM GAY. I received no remumeration for this story.

    Some years later a Down and Connor priest - who himself was gay - and who is still in ministry - and who was afraid that someone would see the photo - telephoned me to say that there was a picture of Joe McGuigan at a Leather & Lube night in Connolly Station, Dublin, on a Northern Ireland website called "Men of the North".

    I made several efforts to contact Joe and left messages for him. He never called me back.

    With the photograph still on the WWW I contacted Bishop Walsh asking him to get Joe to remove the photogtaph for his own protection. I do not know what, if anything, transpired between P Walsh and J McGuigan - but I do know the picture on the WWW until it was seen by others.

    Pat Buckley

    1. Precisely my point Pat. You outed yourself before the newspaper was about to. Its the first rule of war: get your retaliation in first! Was your "shopping" of Joe to Paddy Walsh motivated by concern for him, or a desire to attack the bishop, or maybe a bit of both?

    2. My so called "shopping", as you put it, of Joe to Paddy Walsh was a result of the fact that Joe, a committed member of the Clerical Club, was not prepared to take a call from me, a clerical leper. If Joe had taken my call - or PW had warned him on time, his "outing" would never have taken place.

      My problem at the time was: "Damned if you do; and damned in you don't".

      In any event, as time and circumstances proved, Joe was hell bent on self destruction anyway.


    3. PS: You may be interested to know that on several occasions Paddy Walsh and I managed to help other priests to sort things out privately and aware from the public gaze. Our correspondence will bear this out.


  6. As one of those rare things - a heterosexual priest - I never had a problem with Joe McGuigan, or any other priest, being gay and actively gay.

    But I do have a major problem with an actively gay priest posing as a right wing Catholic priest on sexual matters - and condemning his parishioners for a lifestyle that he himself is secretly living.

    Joe McGuigan was an enthusiastic member of the D&C clerical club - wining and dining other members of that club in St Peter's presbytery.

    And then he tells Suzanne Breen that he is "neutral" on the celibacy issue! That he is "neutral" about gay priests and that he had no desire to be a campaigner for the rights of gay people?

    Of course Joe was "neutral". He had it all - the privileges of the Clerical Club and the privileges of the party scene.

    I wish Joe no harm but did he not eventually learn, the hard way, that NO MAN CAN SERVE TWO MASTERS?

    And how quickly those he cooked for - and arranged flowers for - deserted him!

    PP D&C

  7. Have the priests of my diocese have nothing else to talk about but

    Catholic Mother Twinbrook

    1. I thought sex was what the good people of the malone road had their potatoes delivered in!

  8. Well said Twinbrook.

    Those who talk about it are not getting it :-(

    Those who are getting it don't talk about it :-)


  9. Father,

    I am getting it and I also love to talk about it.

    Joe (73) Falls Road

    1. Joe,

      You remind me of my maternal grandfather, Johnny, who was married twice and had 9 children by his first wife and a further 6 by his very young second wife.

      When one of his friends suggested to him on the eve of his second marriage when he was well in his 60s that sexual intimacy could be harmful for a man his age he replied:

      "There is nothing as bad as the sting of a dying wasp".

      Joe, may you never lose your sting and your sense of humour.


  10. I seem to remember that the late Bishop Philbin used to keep bees.

    Are there still any B's in the newly restored Lisbreen?


    1. I'm not worried about the bees in Lisbreen.

      Its the wasps in the diocese that really scare me

  11. I don't know about Lisbreen but reading this Blog it seems that many of the premises in which the clergy reside are "honey pots".

    Bill (Dromara)

  12. Is a WASP a white anglo saxon priest?

    If so: NIMBY!

    Oooops! Sorry

    1. No, it refers to White Anglo Saxon Protestant I think. What does NIMBY mean?

  13. Pat,

    could I make a few more suggestions for the soirée in 'Chateau de Noel' (formerly Lisbreen) on Sunday, Sep 14th.

    Fr Hugh P Kennedy to sing "I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair" -South Pacific.

    Fr Stephen McBrearty to sing " Oh Lord it's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way"

    Fr Gerry McCloskey will read selected excerpts from "Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan.

    Fr Vincent Cushnahan will sing "tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree, if you still want me" ( Other D&C clerics in exile may join Fr Vincent on stage )

    Fr Gabriel Lyons will sing Babooska by Kate Bush. (Please note some the solid oak tables & Edwardian chairs may need to be moved back somewhat, because the performance of this song involves the swinging of the arms, and strong centrifugal forces may be unleashed-clerics you have been warned !)

    Could I ask on behalf of the diocese, for suggestions as to who will cut the ribbon at 'Château de Noel' (formerly Lisbreen) ?

    I heard someone suggest the retired Cardinal, Bernard Law, now residing in Rome. (exiled from Boston in disgrace, but none of us are perfect) Bishop Walsh may have a problem with it, as the Cardinal once came to visit D&C without informing +PW.
    But as we know Cardinals are above that 'sort of thing'.


  14. JMcG is a very nasty and unsavoury man who seemed to have mesmerised Paddy Walsh and the late Tom Toner RIP. That journalist, if she went digging, would find a veritable horror stories , including one concerning a young homeless man, who subsequently took his own life. A letter was left by the victim and it was shown to a certain Cathedral ADM who literally turned on his heel and walked away. The 'truth' is out there. It just isn't in the Sunday World yet!.

    1. Ask your contacts around St Peters, Pat. The dogs on the street,,,,,

  15. A man (be he priest, bishop lay) has the right to his good name. He is also innocent until proven guilty, and even if he is convicted in a court of law, he has a right to his good name. Having been through the courts yourself Pat I should have thought you would have known this better than anyone else. You are again trawling in the gutters of hearsay in trying to attack this man (Joseph McG) in your relentless campaign to inflict damage upon the bishop and the diocese. It does not matter how many times I raise this with you on here, you will not respond nor take to heart what I am saying. Please, please stop this cruel and merciless campaign. It seems that by you own admission Joseph McG snubbed you. Something that happens in human interactions every moment of every day in every part of the world. For the love of God have you any forgiveness in your heart? I also remind you of what you learned from your Catechism as a child: Two sins against charity. Calumny and Detraction. Both equally serious. Calumny - where you spread untruths about a person; Detraction whereby you reveal to others what is true about that person, and in so doing destroy them in the eyes of another. Both mortal sins. Have a look at the film Doubt, and what the priest (played superbly by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) says about person who had gossiped about her neighbour and as a penance was told to take a feather pillow up to the roof, cut it open, and empty out the thousands of feathers to the winds. Then try and collect them all up. Impossible. Thats what you do when you take away your neighbours good name. Please stop doing that.

    1. But the priest in that film was clearly guilty?

    2. The piece about Joe McGuigan was not put on this Blog by me. It was posted by a Blog reader.

      I am publishing in full your criticisms of me. Do you want me to censor the blogger who submitted the Joe McGuigan piece. I try to publish everything that comes in and only decide not to publish vile and vicious comments.

      The Joe McGuigan episode is already in the public arena - having been placed there firstly in THE IRISH NEWS by Joe himself with the help and advice of Bishop Paddy Walsh and Fr John McManus, the then diocesan press officer and Monsignor Tom Toner.

      Joe has publicly tried to portray himself as a victim. But events at the time - and later - do not bear out this view.

      I only approached Joe himself and Bishop Walsh about the photo having being asked to do so by another priest of the diocese who regarded himself as a friend of Joe's.

      But a general point is that if D&C does not provide its priests and people with a "laundry room" then people will wash their dirty linen in public by the river.

      A number of years ago at a Diocesan Synod in Garron Tower every time I stood up to speak all the priests present stamped their feet on the ground to drown out my voice.

      The current crisis is the result of that crude censorship.


    3. The whole point of the film is summed up in its title DOUBT! So you cannot say the priest is guilty or not. You have obviously missed the whole point of it, thats if you have even watched it.

    4. Most of us would like to give the benefit of the doubt to the young man who died!

      PP D&C

  16. Instead of the current meaningless LIVING CHURCH paper exercise charade why does +NT not hold public meetings where priests and people are free to say exactly what they want and ask ackward questions if they have them.

    LIVING CHURCH is not about listening. It is about thought control, criticism management etc

    PP D&C

  17. Brother,

    I agree. The priests and people want to talk about celibacy, married priests, women priests etc - and not about parish clustering.

    But we are not even allowed to speak about these things!

    Frustrated Priest

  18. These things are not for discussion.

    Rome has spoken!

    SENIOR priest of Down and Connor

  19. Then Rome is wrong!!!!

    PP D&C

  20. I would like this BLOG to tell us the whole story of Joe McGuigan - and how Monsignor Toner, John McManus and Paddy Walsh tried to cover up another scandal.

    I would also like the Blog to tell us the story of the aftermath of the scandal and what happened in the homeless project in St Peter's from where Joe McGuigan drew a salary.

    At the time we were all being asked to believe in St Joseph - the patron saint of The Loney.

    I was one of the blind protesters for keeping St Joseph in place.

    Loney Granny

  21. And what about the young man who lost his life?

    Does he have no one to speak up for him?

  22. FYI:

    I believe that God has already spoken to Monsignor Toner about this young man.

    He has interviews planned with others also.


  23. The story is this and many people in the Lower Falls and beyond KNOW this story! McGuigan had left the priesthood at the time having, as Bishop Pat says, successfully portrayed himself as a 'victim' - quite an incredible feat in itself (Don't Go Fr Joe, candlelight vigils and all, with good people like Loney Granny having been sucked in by the whole charade of Joe McGuigan as the 'Mother Teresa' of the Lower Falls).
    A young homeless man went to the now ex-priest McGuigan desperate for accommodation. McGuigan, now being employed in charge of the St Peters homeless centre, told the lad 'if you don't have sex with me, I will see to it that you never get a flat anywhere in Belfast. The young man agreed to sleep with him. Later, feeling bad, he went to the police who advised if he pursued it would go public. The young man didn't want his parents and girlfriend to find out. He took his own life. He left a suicide note. That note was shown to Hugh Kennedy who turned on his heel and walked away after reading it. McGuigan, an unscrupulous sex pest + a vulnerable, desperate young man = tragedy! There is also the question of Finances and McGuigan blaming it all on a local woman. McGuigan was 'quietly let go. He is now a 'Pizza boy' somewhere up the Road. The whole episode of his 'coming out' was paid for by the bishop to a very expensive PR company here in the North - a fortune was paid to 'manage' Joe's shock-horror 'I'm gay!' announcement as if we didn't already know all about his fun and games. Sick! Sick! Sick!

  24. I wonder has this awful behaviour by this man led him to get HIV or something like that. Awful people pretending to be good when they are awful pretenders.