A former trainee priest who alleges he was harassed by a member of staff while studying at the national seminary in Maynooth is to meet members of the Garda sexual assault unit over the coming days to file a formal complaint against the priest.
The man, who wishes to remain anonymous for now, told the Irish Independent that the priest concerned was meant to be his "spiritual father" who would help him to "discern if God was calling" him to serve in the priesthood, and also to "act as a support and guide in living a chaste and celibate life".
Instead, he alleges that the priest placed his hand on him inappropriately on a number of occasions, and that he asked him very intimate questions concerning his sexuality during meetings. This, he said, was not part of the priest's remit.
He also told salacious jokes during the meetings.
"I am now, thank God, a happily married man. My faith was severely shaken after my experience in Maynooth, and I suffered from severe depression for a long time," he recounted.
He said he would "definitely not suggest Maynooth to any young man currently considering a vocation".
"I am not homophobic - my main issue with the priest is that he grievously abused his position of power and influence," he said, adding that he believes the Church has lost many vocations because some members of staff in Maynooth have behaved inappropriately and because seminarians' grievances are not listened to.
The man, who joined the seminary at 26, reported his experience at the hands of the priest to the college president and vice president in Maynooth, and though he was invited to return to his studies, he declined, saying the priest concerned needed to be "investigated and disciplined".
|MONSIGNOR CONNOLLY - PRESIDENT|
However, an internal complaints panel which investigated his claims did not find any grounds on which to discipline the priest.
|FATHER MULLANEY - VICE PRESIDENT|
"I was highly disillusioned and depressed with the Irish Church at the time," he said.
"When I was in Maynooth there was an atmosphere of neurotic fear among seminarians who loved the Church and wanted to be holy priests. Seminarians felt they had no support from their bishops in relation to voicing their concerns about problems with priests or formation programmes in the seminary.
"This type of atmosphere protects and enables abusers."
Separately, another former seminarian who studied in Maynooth for three years has told the Irish Independent that he believes part of the problem which prevents abusive behaviour by staff and senior seminarians being tackled in Maynooth is the culture of secrecy that pervades the seminary and the Church.
"Within nine weeks of commencing formation, each seminarian is summoned by order by the president to enforce the signing of confidentiality agreements forbidding the disclosure of any activities - heard, seen or experienced - within the seminary, including disclosure to our families," he said.
He likened the practice to confidentiality agreements signed by victims of child sexual abuse, and said it contributed to the "culture of secrecy within the Church".
"The hierarchy of the college still enforces this same type of emotional abuse and control over its own seminarians, stripping them of their liberty and human rights to speak freely," the disappointed former trainee priest said.
He claimed the compulsory agreements are "deceitfully presented to the fledgling and naive seminarian without prior warning, explanation or consultation".
They are told they must be signed when presented, and the seminarian is given no choice or any opportunity for understanding or seeking advice on the agreement.
He said the experience had left him "feeling disgusted, intimidated and ambushed".
Meanwhile, the editor of the 'Catholic Voice' newspaper has warned that seminarians who report inappropriate behaviour are being expelled from Maynooth, as happened last May.
Anthony Murphy said: "It is unfathomable - the one who speaks up is punished, while those engaging in behaviour which the Church regards as objectively sinful remain in formation for the Catholic priesthood.
"The only thing that can save Maynooth is a complete overhaul - a new leadership team needs to be appointed."
He also called on the bishops to publish the full report of the Apostolic Visitation and appoint a senior bishop to ensure the recommendations made within it are implemented in full.
Separately, the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin (pictured inset) has explained that his decision not to send trainee priests to St Patrick's College, Maynooth was due to a worrying "atmosphere" at the national seminary.
Following on from the Irish Independent's story yesterday, Dr Martin said that he "wasn't happy with Maynooth".
"There seems to be an atmosphere of strange goings-on there, it seems like a quarrelsome place with anonymous letters being sent around," he told the 'Irish Times'.
"I don't think this is a good place for students. However, when I informed the president of Maynooth of my decision, I did add 'at least for the moment'."
DUBLIN WITHDRAWS SEMINARIANS FROM MAYNOOTH
The country's largest Catholic diocese has confirmed it will not be sending any of its trainee priests to study at the national seminary in Maynooth this autumn.
Amid reports of a crisis at the Co Kildare seminary, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has now opted to send his student priests to the Irish College in Rome.
The seminary is headed up by Dubliner Monsignor Ciaran O'Carroll, who has worked closely with Dr Martin in the past.
Three trainee priests from the archdiocese of Dublin will move to the Rome this autumn to further their studies and training.
The seminarians are all at various stages in their training.
There are roughly 60 resident seminarians studying at Maynooth.
Archbishop Martin is a trustee of Maynooth along with the three other catholic archbishops in the Irish Church and a number of bishops.
"I have my own reasons for doing this," the Archbishop said.
His decision comes amid growing unease over accusations of inappropriate behaviour among some of the seminarians in Maynooth after it was claimed that some of them have, until recently, been using the gay dating app Grindr.
Maynooth has insisted that robust procedures are in place to handle such complaints against seminarians.
Playing down any link between his decision and the current crisis engulfing Maynooth, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin added that he had made his decision before allegations about inappropriate behaviour at the Co Kildare seminary had arisen.
According to the current issue of the international Catholic journal, 'The Tablet', Dr Martin said he had made the decision "some months ago" and informed the other bishops of his intention at the summer general meeting of the Irish hierarchy in June.
A second bishop is also reported to have decided to send his seminarians to Rome this autumn.
However, the Catholic Communications Office in Maynooth was unable to confirm this to the Irish Independent as the bishop is attending World Youth Day in Poland and was unavailable for comment.
The suggestion that a gay subculture exists in Maynooth first emerged in May of this year after an anonymous letter suggested seminarians and staff members at Maynooth had been using the gay dating app Grindr.
Msgr Hugh Connolly told 'The Irish Catholic' the church intended to "thoroughly deal" with any concerns regarding such behaviour.
A spokeswoman for the archdiocese of Dublin confirmed that three Dublin seminarians are Rome-bound this autumn.
Acknowledging that the number of seminarians for Dublin is down, the Archbishop stated: "What is more important for me is the quality of the men who come forward and the training that they receive."
Meanwhile, a new group called VAMA - Voices Against Maynooth Abuse - has been formed by controversial cleric, Bishop Pat Buckley, who is in a long-term gay civil partnership.
VAMA has invited current and past seminarians to reveal any 'unorthodox' behaviour they have experienced or witnessed in Maynooth.
The country's largest Catholic diocese has confirmed it will not be sending any of its trainee priests to study at the National Seminary in Maynooth this autumn.
Instead, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has opted to send his student priests to the Irish College in Rome.
His decision is a new setback to the seminary amid growing unease over accusations of inappropriate behaviour among some student priests in Maynooth - after it was revealed that some seminarians have, until recently, been using the gay dating app Grindr.
Archbishop Martin is a trustee of Maynooth, along with the three other Catholic archbishops and a number of bishops.
"I have my own reasons for doing this," Archbishop Martin said.
But he added that he had made the decision "some months ago".
The seminarians from the Dublin diocese are all at various stages in their training.
Dr Martin informed the other bishops of his intention at the summer general meeting of the Irish hierarchy in June.
In the wake of the Grindr scandal, the National Seminary in Maynooth has insisted that "robust procedures" are in place to handle any such complaints against seminarians.
IRISH INDEPENDENT: EDITORIAL 2.8.2016
The Church has been under sustained attack for more than a decade.
Abject failure to deal head on with a series of scandals has done irreparable damage. There has been a clamour amongst its enemies to tear down its structures; but by far the greatest reputational threat to its standing has come from within.
Confirmation by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin that he would no longer be sending priests of the Dublin Diocese to St Patrick's College, Maynooth, and would instead be sending them to the Irish College in Rome, begs many questions.
Dr Martin has refused to elaborate, obliquely referring to "strange goings on," and "a quarrelsome atmosphere."
Neither, one would imagine, would be conducive for preparation for a life of service. All the same, the difficulty is that refusal to clarify what precisely is the problem will not do much for either the standing of the college or, indeed, the church.
For centuries, Maynooth College has been one of the most respected institutions in the country. Founded back in 1795, by 1850 it had become the largest seminary in the world.
So it is simply not good enough for Archbishop Martin to decide to no longer send seminarians there without offering a proper explanation.
The church has endured a firestorm of anger for its failure to learn from the past. The main charge levelled against it was that it continually elevated its own interests ahead of those of its members. Avowed atheist Richard Dawkins chided that: "religion is about turning untested belief into unshakable truth through the power of institutions and the passage of time."
Archbishop stops trainee priests going to
Alleged sexual harrassment at St Patrick’s College reported to Garda in Dublin
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: “atmosphere of strange goings-on.” Photograph: Alan Betson
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The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin is to cease sending trainee priests from the diocese to St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, because of a worrying “atmosphere” at the national seminary.
Meanwhile a former Maynooth seminarian has in recent days made a complaint to the Garda in Dublin about alleged sexual harassment at the college between 2007 and 2009.
Asked why Dublin is to send its three seminary students next autumn to the Irish College in Rome rather than to Maynooth, Dr Martin told The Irish Times he “wasn’t happy” with Maynooth.
“There seems to be an atmosphere of strange goings-on there, it seems like a quarrelsome place with anonymous letters being sent around,” he said in Krakow, Poland, where he was attending World Youth Day. “I don’t think this is a good place for students. However, when I informed the president of Maynooth of my decision, I did add ‘at least for the moment’.”
Dr Martin’s decision follows anonymous allegations being circulated about seminarian activities in Maynooth, including that some had been using a gay dating app.
He made no comment on those reports, saying only that he felt the Irish College in Rome offered “a good grounding” in the Catholic faith.
Irish College rector Msgr Ciarán O’Carroll confirmed the three Dublin seminarians would be “transferring” there, adding this was normal practice as this was the time of year when bishops nominated students for the college.
Last year, 12 Irish seminarians studied at the college along with 38 international priests who lived there while pursuing postgraduate studies. Maynooth currently has 55 seminarians.
A former Maynooth seminarian told The Irish Times yesterday how, as a seminarian there from 2007-2009, he felt he was being continuously sexually harassed by an individual. He made a formal complaint to authorities. An internal inquiry was set up which found the allegations unproven.
Senior church figures
College authorities tried to persuade him to forget it and stay on but he said he felt so aggrieved he could not. He brought his complaints to other senior church figures and it was suggested he might attend a seminary abroad.
Now in his mid 30s, he is married and works in Dublin.
He said it remained a concern to him that the individual about whom he had complained at Maynooth never faced any discipline, while a seminarian who witnessed an incident he complained about was badly treated later.
It has taken me MONTHS to get anyone even remotely interested into the abuse(s) that are taking place in Maynooth seminary.
For trying to raise the issues I have been vilified and threatened.
Now the scandal is seeing the full light of day.
Maynooth now needs to be fully investigated.
Any alleged crimes need to be reported to the Garda.
I know the name of the priest who has been accused of sexual harassment / assault by a former seminarian.
I will be conveying that name to the Bishops and Maynooth Trustees today.
In fact I have already given his name this morning to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.
He should stand down IMMEDIATELY pending the outcome of the Garda investigation.
I fact I think that the position of all the Maynooth priests is now UNTENABLE !
Tel: ROI: 01 5133199 UK: 07900 287283
083 831 3151.
WITHIN THE LAST HOUR THE ALLEGED VICTIM HAS NOW NAMED THE ALLEGED ABUSER IN A PRELIMINARY GARDA STATEMENT.
ITS NOW TIME FOR THE ALLEGED ABUSER TO STAND ASIDE PENDING THE OUTCOME OF THE GARDA INVESTIGATION.
MY LETTER OF TODAY TO THE 4 ARCHBISHOP TRUSTEES OF MAYNOOTH
TODAY - 11.40 am
Archbishop Eamon Martin
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop Michael Neary
Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly
2nd August 2016
You will be aware from the national media that a priest involved with Maynooth Seminary stands accused of sexual harassment / assault of a former seminarian.
That priest has now been named to the Garda by the alleged victim. His name is Father xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
As the Trustees of Maynooth I am hereby formally requesting you to have the priest stand aside until the Garda – and possibly – the Church have – have concluded all investigations.
I would ask that you, or some person representing you, confirm to me that the priest in question has been stood down.
If not, I will presume you are taking no action and in my view you will become a party to the alleged abuse by nature of your inaction and covet up.