Wednesday, 14 January 2015



Joe Mc Gurnaghan
Father Joe McGurnaghan (80) - the retired parish priest of Dunloy in County Antrim, who died in the past year was my torturer from 1978 until 1983, when we were both priests at St Peter's Cathedral, Belfast.

Seeing his obituary in the 2015 edition of the Diocese of Down & Connor year book has brought back to me a flood of very sad and painful memories.

I am sad about the way he treated me and I am also sad that he and I did not manage to be reconciled before he went to God. 

Have I forgiven him for what he did to me? I am not sure ! I certainly know that as a Christian I should forgive him. I certainly want to be able to forgive him. 

I do not wish him any harm at all. I hope that he has met God and that he has had all his sins forgiven and that he is now happy in Heaven. 

Over the years I have tried to understand why he treated me the way he did. I was told that he did not want to be a priest and that he rigid Catholic headmaster father forced him into priesthood ? I do know that he was very fond of a girl in his native Ligoneil whom he was not allowed to marry. I believe that this young girl - now and elderly lady is still alive and has happy memories of him.  I was certainly aware that he was not a happy priest.

I was also told that when he was a curate (junior priest) senior priests tortured him and that he went on to become like his torturers?

What did he do to me?

He treated me very badly and either ignored me or swore at me and made little of me.

With a fellow priest - Father Vincent McKinley - he kicked my bedroom door late at night and mocked me and sang crude songs through my door.

With Father McKinley he banned me from eating in the priest's dining room and made me eat in the kitchen with the housekeepers. I was happy to eat with the kind housekeepers.

He jeered me through the presbytery windows when I was working with parishioners and gave me the two finger sign.

He came into the cathedral and jeered and mocked me when I was sitting trying to pray.

He put notices up on the presbytery door which read: "FATHER BUCKLEY IS NOT IN. PLEASE DO NOT RING THIS DOORBELL".

And when he was made "administrator" in 1983 he told the bishop he would only take the job if I was moved to another parish. 

I was a very young and vulnerable priest of 26 years old. He was an experienced priest who was 44 years old.

He made my life hell for 4 years. I was unhappy, isolated and suffering from anxiety - to the point where I had to be treated medically.

He was my perpetrator. I was his victim.

When I told people, including the bishop, what was happening they did not believe me. As we all know nowadays victims suffer further by not being believed.

Nobody in Down & Connor has ever believed me about what I suffered. 

In fact they have turned me into the reviled.

When this Blog is published I will get really nasty anonymous comments from clergy calling me a liar and a lorry load of other things.

The "empire" and its operatives can do no wrong.

In later life Father McGurnaghan suffered great ill-health. A few years ago I saw him in Marks and Spencers in Belfast and was shocked by how he had failed. 

Forgiving those who have hurt us is a great human and Christian challenge - especially when they have never said they were sorry. 

But I know that forgiveness makes us bigger and better people. 

I am working on forgiving Father McGurnaghan. But I have to admit that I am finding it a very challenging struggle. 

+Pat Buckley


  1. This is the first time I realised that "DOMESTIC VIOLENCE" can occur among priests and in priest's houses.

    Jack - Falls Road.

    1. Never thought of that. Fair comment. Sean

  2. You will forgive him when you are ready. But it is you that is carrying all the burden. My 8 year old son's headmistress was very cruel to him. She belittled him at every opportunity, when he was bullied she made out he brought it on himself and accused him of making it up instead of helping him. He is not the only child she made school hell for - others left the school. This is in 2013 but she was like someone from the Victorian ear. She is retired now. I am not ready to forgive her and the anger is inside me. She cares not a jot. One day I will let it go but it is not yet. But it is true when I can forgive her I will feel a weight lift.

  3. I once said a prayer for Brendan Smith (Paedophile) in public & got told off. The point I was trying to make was that Smith in death had gone beyond our jurisdiction and God would deal with him justly. The underlying point I was getting at is that our prayer does not control God. Same with McGurnaghan-he is in Gods jurisdiction now I experienced something of a hell in St Annes. I was not mature enough to deal with my issues and the "whispers" coming from under closed doors in the parish house did not help. Presbyteries can be pressure cookers and the fact that one particular lay person ruled the roost and held court did not help either. I am well shut of the place now. I would say "get on with your life Pat" Forgiveness is a choice and not a feeling or emotion. Then again who am I to point this out to you as you have experienced more than ever I can imagine. With kind regards Sean

  4. Your usual low commentary, sick mind.

    1. This is one of the comments I predicted. No openness to the truth :-(

    2. Please (rev?) Anonymous define sick. I suppose the elite of St Annes thought I was sick too. God bless you. Sean

  5. Now now now dear Buckley. Story after story after story. These are good men that you are always writing about. One common denominator, thet met you! Are you seeing it?

  6. Pure bitterness.

  7. Liar liar! Give your sick mind a break. It'll soon be time when you'll be sitting in someone else's house, bitter, twisted and telling yourself stories, of course you will respond to yourself.

  8. You are a real miss havisham character. All who come into contact with you are the pips whom you are so cruel to. Tragic situation Buckley. Repent and sort it out.

  9. Ahh, you have it hard, so tragic. This dear soul is a victim, a victim of a mentally ill man, an arrogant and unaccountable storyteller. The blessing for Joe is that not a person believes one word you type, utter or think! Crackpot.

    1. Of course no one believes ! If they did they would have to take moral responsibility. Amorality trading as morality !

    2. Why do anonymous fekkers talk such shite? Sean (It only adds to the credibility of the tale you tell.

  10. You story, Father Pat, does not sound far fetched to me. I too have been in a similar situation, perhaps not as obvious and nasty, but living in a situation as a young priest where I was belittled, felt as though I was being pushed around, ignored, and feeling very isolated. It was all very subtle, but living in a community of alpha male muscular christianity men was no fun. Every word, every action, brought down some comment from somebody, or a silence, or a belittling. It was almost as if 'we are going to show this guy how to be tough like us', and we will treat him with toughness and a faux sort of manliness, hard drinking, self-sufficiency, foul mouthed, hard judging.....

    It was terrible, although at the time I didn't really understand it. Except to say that I was very unhappy, and by one means or other was able to escape that community.

    There was something very dysfunctional in that group of men. It appeared that the 'harder' you were the holier you were. I know now that many of them were unhappy in themselves, had probably been treated themselves as they were now treating me, and didn't know any other way to deal with a young, new priest and member of the community. There was definitely that muscular christianity character to the whole thing. lots of denial and inability to recognise who they really were. Lots of suppressed sexual stuff, anger, resentment etc. etc. They thought that the more they repressed that stuff, the 'holier' they were. But infact they just became more and more dysfunctional.

    The contradictory thing is, however, that they did great work. They were successful and the mission of the community prospered. But at what a cost tho themselves and each other. I am so glad I got out, even though I didn't fully understand what or why I was doing it.

    I got out, and made a life, still as a priest, elsewhere. Thank God !

    1. Good for you.

      Yes major sexual denial and dysfunction :-(

      Yes - religion parading as spirituality

    2. Well done you! The old rout was repression, regression, or sublimation. I attempted all three and did the good work. The price to pay was severe unhappiness. Sean

  11. To be fair, Pat, while I certainly believe you had a fairly miserable time, I don't think you have justified the accusation of "torture":
    1. " ignored me or swore at me and made little of me."
    2. "With a fellow priest....he kicked my bedroom door late at night and mocked me and sang crude songs through my door."
    3. "..... banned me from eating in the priest's dining room and made me eat in the kitchen with the housekeepers."
    4. "jeered me through the presbytery windows when I was working with parishioners and gave me the two finger sign."
    5. "... jeered and mocked me when I was sitting trying to pray."
    6. "He put notices up on the presbytery door which read: "FATHER BUCKLEY IS NOT IN. PLEASE DO NOT RING THIS DOORBELL".
    7. "... he told the bishop he would only take the job if I was moved to another parish. "

    I think it would be fair to be more precise about the actions of the man - rather than your response to them. Your language is, perhaps understandably, emotive and imprecise. When you publicly accuse, I think it is your duty to be very clear on the actual behaviour of the accused. From your writing, I can't really determine if this was simply a cranky ould bollox with whom you didn't get on, or something more serious. Context is everything. I met you a long time ago, and have nothing but admiration for your people-focused work in Divis. I also know that you were a very independent, driven and opinionated man, as often the best are. Maybe you were also a little "difficult" around people who had different values? Tell us more.

    Up the Road

    1. I fully take all your points.

      I would have to admit that I am an independent, driven and opinionated man. Although at 26 I was not so strongly so.

      I used the word "torture" advisedly as it was a mental and psychological onslaught 24/7.

      It only became physical on one occasion when I was assaulted.

      Fr McGurnaghan was only 44 and not really an "old crank".

      I do believe that he should never have been a priest, was the victim of a bullying headmaster father and was a very unhappy square peg in a very unsuitable round hole. I'm afraid that all this created a sadistic expression.

      It would take a book to write about the whole 5 years - but such a book would be unnecessary.

      I blogged about it because my Blog comes from my heart and mind and I write about what is on my mind.

      This Blog was precipitated by the arrival of the year book and the reading of Fr Mc Gurnaghan's obit.

  12. Didn't know the priest you spoke of as I live in England. But a priest friend told me that he was at the funeral of an auxiliary bishop in his diocese some years ago. He said the priest who preached heaped great praise on the deceased to the point that many of the priests present thought they were at the wrong funeral. It was especially hypocritical as many of the priests ( including the preacher) knew that the late bishop had a reputation for a fondness young males including seminarians Now there's hypocrisy in action !!

    1. When a priest dies there is always great praise heaped on him by the clergy present - no matter what kind of life he lived. It happens at other funerals too. I have often sat at funerals thinking I was at the wrong funeral. We should tell the truth about people whether they are dead or alive.

  13. It was not so many years ago that a family member, a priest, on hearing that a newly ordained priest had been assigned to a certain parish in Belfast said that the young man was going into a house full of "witches and bitches". I don't know who was who, the housekeepers or the clergy. If I remember right the young priest lasted only a couple of years and left priesthood.

  14. Sounds like the "old" St Patrick's, Donegal Street, to me. Gladly Retired D&C.

  15. There have been some proper old bastards among the D&C clergy. Sadly - their places have been taken by some newer bastards - cynics and power hungry bastards. The only difference is that the old bastards were more intelligent and educated. Some of the ones we have today would not have been accepted in times past having such low IQs. Rev Seen It All.

  16. Couldn't agree more. I started off in a parish where the old Canon lorded it over all he surveyed. He hadn't an ounce of charity or kindness in him. Then as soon as Philbin arrived to do confirmations he suddenly became like John Bosco. He opened my eyes to what deep unhappiness and resentment in a man could be like. But he paled into insignificance compared to the wicked bastard I was sent to next. Eight weeks with him was enough. I made up my mind that if this was the result of years of priesthood then I wanted to cut my losses there and then. I did. Now I'm a much older,wiser and happier man.

  17. After all this time should all Dioceses not have an Occupational Help Group, independent of the bishop or clergy, to look at cases of bullying and inappropriate work conduct. This sort of behaviour would not be tolerated or accepted in any other organisation. This group might also be in a position to offer the necessary care/counselling to help the individual recover from whatever trauma they have been through. I think this is very much needed not only for clergy but also for parish staff who, especially in country parishes, have no-one to turn to if the conduct of the parish priest they are working for is causing them extreme stress and having an adverse effect on their health.

  18. I'm not sure what Joseph Campbell says about it but the "torturer" has to be an essential figure in the "fairy tale" that is the life of one truly professed. I have a feeling that to be completely effective they must be as sociopathic as one can imagine, being able to "understand" them prevents their effectiveness. When one does understand them, do not expect to be able to easily accept what you understand, because you sit with "Old Nick".
    But that entity is as essential a part of the sacred Mystery as that which is arriving as the bell rings at the altar. The bell is always ringing, the inquisitor and his cronies are always laying out their tools, mocking their client.
    Golgotha needs to be always present, for us perhaps to always know that our debt is paid, but we will always be outside that city wall of authority's "belonging", we can be a guest, a visitor, but those mocking voices will ever lurk in a narrow alley, they are our friends in a way, though we will never "get" them, never love them except in the way I adore the wolves when I meet their still warm grizzly meal on the hills over my house. They are designing their pony prey, just as it has fashioned them. They are the hands of Pan, the other christ, (not anti) hung from a tree, wronged and ridiculed young lord of dance and music and famous for "speaking truth to power", "tricked" by solar Apollo into being flayed alive to death, and yet, his pipes are heard.
    We too are flayed as was our other lord, can we seperate them, probably not, can we distinguish them from evil, yes because we have suffered under evil hands, as did they.