Saturday, 20 September 2014



On a reasonably regular basis I hear from principals and teachers in Catholic schools who complain to me that their local priest is behaving like an out of control bully in their school!

 In the Catholic school, system in Ireland - both north and south, the local parish priest is often the chairman of the board of governors. This means that the school principal has to answer to the board of governors whose chairman is a priest.

But it also means that the priest who is school chairman, can if he wants, visit the school on a daily basis and make life very difficult for the principal and the teachers. If the principal does not have a strong personality he / she can be intimidated by the Little Hitler priest and in fact the priest virtually becomes the principal. 

I know of situations where both principals and teachers have become the victims of priest bullying and in some cases principals and teachers mental health have suffered and they have been out of work with illnesses directly related to the stress of coping with a bullying priest.

In one case I know of the priest's behaviour towards the principal and teachers became so extreme that the local bishop became involved and he had to ban the priest from the parish school!

But what did the priest do in that case? Instead of accepting the bishop's decision he stood outside the school everyday, like a spoiled child or an out of control teenager with an ASBO, to intimidate the principal and teachers on the way in and out of school!

When I became the curate of Kilkeel in County Down I also became the secretary of the board of governors of five primary schools. Soon after becoming school secretary another priest in the diocese showed me a "black list" of teachers I should never give jobs to! Those people on the black list were not bad teachers or "criminals" of any kind. They were simply good Catholic teachers who had a bit of courage and backbone who had stood up to various bullying priests over the years. As a result they were secretly placed on this priestly black list. 

My reaction to seeing that black list was to make a vow to myself that if anyone on that blacklist applied to one of the schools of which I was secretary they had a head start :-)

During my time on that board of governors we needed a new principal for one of our schools. The board of governors consisted of the parish priest, myself and a number of lay people. The parish priest was under pressure to give the job to a particular person who had big connections with the clergy. But that person was not the best candidate. Even a consulting expert, who had no vote, had said that they were not the best candidate. I had to fight very hard to get the best qualified candidate appointed.

But even then the parish priest sneaked away under the cover of darkness to inform his preferred candidate that they did not get the job and that it was my fault. That unsuccessful candidate eventually brought the parish priest to court, lied in the dock and failed in their case. At least the parish priest had the good grace to say to me afterwards on the steps of the court: "From now on we will do things the right way".

Too many principals and teachers in Catholic schools get jobs because their uncle is a priest or a monsignor or because they have licked clerical asses for years. This is unjust and has to stop.

Also teachers and their unions should take a stronger stand against these Little Hitler parish priests who abuse their positions in the Catholic school system. Many of these Little Hitlers are not very bright, are emotionally stunted and psychosexually maladjusted and cope with their petty little lives by trying to exercise power over others.  

In the 21st century all appointments and promotions should be on the basis of ability and merit. Anything else is unjust and corrupt.

+Pat Buckley


  1. Pat, you've said previously that you publish all comments, including those criticising you. Fair play to you. But I have to say that I'm finding the patently stupid ignorant inconsequential comments of some obviously embittered commentators like the above extremely tedious. They seem to represent a rump of aged unthinking blinkered clerics of the 'old school' now long recognised as a derelict relic of past days clinging on to forlorn wishes of continuing unquestioning subservience to their edicts. Such comments add little information or knowledge to any truth seeking debate, other than to portray the limitations of such contributers.
    I'd be interested to know other's views on these typically unsubstantiated vitriolic comments.

    1. They add nothing that is for sure but BP does have to give everyone a voice. I read them and think exactly what you say. That they are the embittered, vitriolic, ignorant and blinkered contributors to this blog. They neither add nor take away. I try and see where they are coming from. What have they grown up and old with. Why do they see it differently from you and me. I often can't work it out but they have my pity quite frankly. They do not sound like fundamentally happy people whatever they might tell you. Thankfully their comments are few and far between and can be skipped over quite easily. They are more than made up for by the very witty, articulate, progressive, sincere and well-informed contributors who are the reason I keep reading this blog.

  2. Dear MMM,

    I take your point. The purpose of a good Blog is to provoke and facilitate debate.

    Most of the personal abuse I get on this Blog comes from priests of Down & Connor who cannot answer the things I say rationally and therefore they revert to the "argumentum ad hominem".

    But they are not all aged either. That is the sad part. They are not very bright members of an "elite" who feel that they are above criticism. Like cornered rats they come out of their dark corners with fangs exposed.

    One of the problems we have today is that with the great shortage of priests the Church is accepting people it would never have accepted years ago. And so we also have to deal with the "argumentum ad ignorantiam"


  3. Dear Bishop Pat,

    Thank you...thank you...thank you for this particular blog.

    I am a teacher in a Catholic school in Belfast who is currently suffering at the hands of one of these Little Hitlers. My principal is very unhappy about it but they are afraid of the priest too. It is having a very damaging effect on my school life and my home life. I do not know how much longer I can cope.

    1. Dear Teacher,

      I am sorry to hear what you are going through.

      You MUST take action.

      If you need support - get in touch


  4. Open Minded Parishioner20 September 2014 at 14:25

    We had a Priest who was on the Board of Governors and would come and say Mass in school every couple of weeks and he did not like children at all. He came across as quite scary. He was awful to the Headteacher who did have to just grit her teeth - he would try and belittle her at every opportunity. I think he was very much on a power trip. Luckily the school chaplain was the nicest Priest you could ever hope to meet. Very sadly he died recently still working at 75. He was worth his weight in gold. He loved children and it radiated from him. He used to get involved in the First Holy Communion classes and, once, at the end of a rehearsal for the big day, he asked if there were any questions. One little boy stuck up his hand and said "what if I make a mistake like forget to say Amen or something" to which the Priest answered "so long as your intentions are for the good then there are no mistakes in the house of God". In one fell swoop you could see about 20 children visibly relax and actually look forward to their First Communion. When I get a chance I will email you a picture from one of the First Communion preparation books that the other priest insisted on using (and which the Headteacher asked him not to use). It shows a cowering child and is surrounded with phrases such as "God hates sinners and will punish them". When my then 7 year old showed me the book she said "I thought God forgave sinners and God loved everyone". I was fuming. I crossed out the picture in her book and told her to ignore what was written on the page. If the Church thinks they can frighten the next generation into coming to Church they are wrong. They know they have choices now and they will make them. I used to have a battle to get all my children to go to Church on a Sunday because the Priest was such a bully. Now we have a lovely priest and one of my children asked if she could be a server. I couldn't have imagined her doing that a couple of years ago - she had no interest in going to Mass at all.

    1. Dear Openminded Parishioner,

      Thank you for your very informative comment.

      It is important to say that there are very good priests out there, who behave wonderfully in schools and who treat the staff and children with the love and respect they deserve.

      One of my greatest joys when I was in parishes was going into the schools - not as a "auxiliary teacher" but as a priest friend to staff and children.

      I have wonderful happy memories of Slate Street PS; Belfast, St Peter's Secondary, Britons Pde, Belfast; St Louise's College, Belfast; Attical PS, Kilkeel and other Kilkeel schools.

      I hope that when I was the secretary to the governing body of the 5 Kilkeel primary schools I behaved as a gentleman.

      Our teachers are generally wonderful people and need our support and not our misbehaviour.


  5. As a priest of the Diocese of Down & Connor - we - the body of priests know who the school bullies are among us. Actually you could count them on one hand.

    As you say Pat they are not very bright and in former times would never have been ordained.

    I have spoken to several bishops about this small group of priests and expressed the view that they should not be allowed into schools at all. These same bishops have had multiple letters from principals and teachers about their behaviour.

    If they were in any other "job" they would have had their verbal and written warnings and would now be unemployed.

    But do not worry - their day is coming.

    PP D&C

    1. PS: I meant to say that you seem to have your hand on the pulse of all that is going on in D&C - and you seem to know more than the local ordinaries do - and whats more - you seem to care more.

      AS far as I am concerned you have been a great loss to D&C.

      PP D&C

    2. Yes Pat,

      Had they any sense - and had they not abused their power over you:

      They would have kept you inside the tent pissing out -

      - Instead of outside the tent pissing in :-)

      Falls Road Armchair Philosopher

    3. Well at least I do not suffer from fluid retention :-)


    4. Could it be that "PP D&C" is in actual fact Pat Buckley?

    5. PP D&C is not Pat Buckley.

      But in fact he is one of the few contributors to this Blog whom I know personally - and who knows me.

      You might in fact be surprised to know who he is!


  6. Bishop Buckley,

    I stumbled across your blog today after reading some material on the internet, and feel i would like to add comment. As a former chair at branch level of an irish teaching union, and have had some experience of dealing with the matter in which you have raised today. I hope you understand that my comment is from a personal perspective and I am not in any way speaking on behalf of the union to which i belong.

    The role of faith schools has in recent years come under great scrutiny for many reasons. Here in Ireland it has been focused on the right to educate without the interference of the Roman Catholic Church which has in the republic seen huge numbers of RC schools handed over to the state and in the north the growing demands of most political parties to have integrated education much to the opposition of the RC Church.

    In both states, school lands were owned by the church but mostly funded by the state. Today the lands are still in the trusteeship of parishes or religious bodies but new builds and 100% of the cost of running is completely financed by the two governments. Automatically, in most parishes, the clergy, upon their appointments assume the role of governor of schools within their parish. This means, that young curates from the age of 23/24 could find himself governing the education of his parish, coercing people into positions with the board of governors and therefore holding the majority vote and the Senior Management Teams within the schools to account.

    Now, it is a fact that finding members of the public to fill governing roles is a very difficult task indeed, and the clergy have the time in which to fill this role whereas doctors, teachers, barristers, window cleaners etc who have full time working hours and who would like to be involved find it is impossible to take a chairing role as they aren't free to chair selection, financial or disciplinary panels.

    We all know the stories in the past where the local priests word was 'Gospel' and his way was the only way. Thankfully, today this in most schools is not the case. Yet, i am aware that this is not always the way. Many priests serve their schools with great compassion, with a sense of spirituality and pastoral care, but i have in my time been made aware of teachers and principals having been bullied by clergy to a point where Teacher Unions have had to have been called in to facilitate often discovering a breakdown in school morale as a direct result of the underhand tactics of clergy. But, i must stress this point to you and your readers ... 90%+ of clergy make a positive contribution to the day to day running of schools by simply allowing the trained educators to carry on with running schools in the best way they know how.

    See below...

  7. cont...

    What we have in Ireland is a society that is very much at odds with the RC Church. It is in these areas that Teaching unions are involved with and often find themselves at odds with clergy and bishops. Take for example the issue of LGBT rights at the moment in Ireland.

    Until about ten years ago, no teaching union had branches to facilitate LGBT teachers, simply because LGBT teacher were to afraid to raise their heads in the staffroom. So we had in Ireland a situation in which LGBT teachers, who simply by being teachers found themselves in a Catholic schools, were forced to keep quiet about their personal lives for fear of dismissal, while their friends in other spheres of life were able to be open and honest about their identity. Thankfully the Law in the North prevents a GLBT teachers from being sacked or discriminated against, and in the south the loophole for churches to dismiss LGBT teachers who are at odds with their ethos is being closed. Yet, for LGBT teachers there has been known examples of unjust treatment by the clergy who have talked opening to their colleagues about them in negative terms, who have been prevented from advancement up the management ladder. Today, in the whole of Ireland i do not know of one open LGBT principal or vice-principal. Why? If they are open the chair of the governors is unlikely to appoint them but will carefully play the game so the teacher cannot take a case against them. Thankfully, it is changing and unions are supporting LGBT teachers like never before with (SAY NO TO HOMOPHOBIA) campaign (Last year in the republic, a priest pulled this poster from a union notice board in the staff room, tore it up and tossed it in the bin. The Union quickly reacted by writing to the bishop of his diocese, saying that this poster would be back on the wall and if the priest touched it again then the whole school teaching staff would be asked to boycott him whenever he entered the building. The ripped poster is now framed in the staffroom wall even though none of the staff identify themselves as LBGT in identity - but being a secondary school they knew that a lot of their pupils were entering adulthood aware that this was their identity. The priest never returned to the school. For the last five years, LGBT teachers have openly marched in Pride parades behind their union banners in Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Derry, Galway and Newry. In fact, the Principal of St Paul's Bessbrook led a delegation of his own students in the Newry pride , A great act of leadership.

    Now, if faith schools were 100% funded by the church and if the majority of its pupils and their families were practicing catholics, then i could understand a strict religious ethos being enforced. But the fact is this. If you live in Tobbercurry in Sligo your child is going to attend the local national school which is going to be controlled by the local parish priest. It doesn't matter if you are a believer or not. The same goes for the LGBT teenager who wants to be a teacher and finds themselves working in a school - the chances are its going to be governed by the local catholic priest.

  8. Cont.. (3)

    Still, we have this paradox where in schools teachers live in fear if they, have an unmarried partner, have children outside wedlock, if they're gay, if they are divorced, if they are remarried, if they change religion, if their own children identify themselves as LGBT etc...

    Education is a pressurised environment. Teachers have, apart from a nice summer break, one of the most stressful jobs that anyone would find hard to imagine unless they've set foot inside the classroom. With the changing world around us, with more aggressive parents and pupils, with an ever demanding curriculum, with data tables and increasing targets to be met, it is my view that teachers have enough to be dealing with without priests who's influence is perceived by many members within the main teaching unions as bullying.

    Throughout Ireland, there are many staffrooms in which the moment the priest arrives the staff are delighted to see him and have a great professional relationship with him. However, there are other schools in which the moment the priest enters, staff become filled with stress and fear. This is quite wrong. Priests, unless he a trained principal, has got no right to question or interfere in the private lives of teachers nor does he have the right to question or have a say in the teaching of the curriculum and how it is managed or delivered. If this is happening - teachers need to contact their unions and with one call the matter can be dealt with. It is often my experience that these priests, who are bullies, have a history of similar mistreatment of staff in the previous parishes that they have worked in.

    As a Catholic myself, i believe the era of faith school should be drawn to a close. Our economy needs schools that are education children from numeracy and literacy to computer coding for the future. In other words, Schools should be places of learning excellence. We need collective governorship of schools to help society manage them - and in that governing body there should be chaplains who are administering quietly to the staff, parents and pupils who wish to avail of their services. No doubt, there are those who will disagree - but the legacy of the RC Church running and governing schools speaks for itself. We need a new model and new beginning.

    JD (Dublin)

    1. Dear JD,

      Thank you for your very expansive and experience based comments.

      Your contribution requires reading and re-reading.

      Your contribution should also be distributed among teachers and clergy.


    2. Thankyou for publishing it Bishop Buckley, i just think a few bad apples shouldn't give the genuine and hard working priests as bad name. But, we need to change the whole system. JD

  9. Dear Teacher of 20 Years,

    Like JD above you give an excellent insight into the good / bad side of Catholic schools in D&C.

    I cannot understand how a principal, teachers, teachers unions allow the priest in Scenario 2 to get away with this behaviour.

    If we lived in the old days someone from outside the school might have brought him on a little "educational drive". Its what bullies need!


  10. Priest Bullies in schools..... When I went into Second Class-Marist Brothers in 1966 in the old Brothers School I was warned by the bigger lads about brother collumban. He was famous for his "six of the best" I dont know how much was fact or fiction. Then there was brother Desmond. I remember Sean Keegans Dad coming to the door of the class that if he ever -I think threatened to hit his son-he would sort him out. Desmond also referred to me as "page from arm" The then council estate that consisted of 26 houses and was seen as a troubble spot for the poorer class. The lads said he used to watch the girls in the next door secondary school playground from his teachers desk by the window. Finaly there was brother Gregory. A talented teacher who wrote music for the parts of the mass for my ordination. I heard he came out of the gents in a local pub with his trousers down and later got convicted for sexual related crimes. What a strange world we live in. Sean






    1. Thank you Pat. As I commented earlier, I've found their stupid unsubstantiated hostile personalised comments devoid of any merit or benefit to sensible discussion.
      So I agree entirely with your stance.
      Thank you too to the commentator who succinctly summed up the poverty of their crass comments.
      By the way, I'm now enjoying my fourth Sat night Guiness in local, posting this on phone, and don't feel any need to be hostile, negative or aggressive to anybody.
      Funny old world!

    2. MMM,

      Its wonderful that you can enjoy a few drams and not feel the need to attack anyone.

      Its the difference between being happy in your own body and living a lie, behind a mask.

      My decision tonight was prompted by particularly vicious and personal attacks.


    3. Propper Order Pat. Nobody wants or needs this type of s*itetalk. I can imagen priests in the lonleness of their presbyterries and in the warmth of their bottlefriend trying to right the world. This of course includes slagging you off into the bargain. I say leave the buggers to their fate. Continue to feed the flock God has entrusted to your care. By their fruits you will know them. Sean