PRIEST TORTURERS PART 11
YESTERDAY I published a blog about my sufferings in presbyteries at the hands of 4 priests - Father Bernard Driscoll and Canon Patrick Creed in Wales and Fathers Vincent McKinely and Joe McGurnaghan in St Peter's Cathedral Belfast (1978 - 1983).
A RETIRED PP of Down and Connor published the following challenge to me and asked an answer:
"While this is an interesting post, and I really do empathise with your sufferings Pat, I wonder how much you were responsible yourself for the activities of those priests towards you? I can't speak for the Welsh situation, but I can for the Down and Connor as both Fathers Vincent and Joseph were friends of mine. I believe them to have been good, if somewhat limited, men and priests product of their own homes and upbringing, who certainly tried to get on with you in the early months of your time at St Peter's Pro Cathedral. The problem may have been their jealousy of you, but you too didn't help yourself with your arrogant and supercilious attitude and above all your insatiable appetite for self promotion and publicity. Long after you had gone, these men too were having nightmares of your time with them. I know, because they shared that with me. Father Vincent would often say that "Pat Buckley was a nightmare". I wonder looking back can you accept any responsibility for how you mis treated these men. Sure you wanted to side with the parishioners, the poor and the downtrodden of Divis Flats, and that is admirable, but these men were your brothers too. Charity begins at home and you certainly weren't charitable to these priests. I would be interested in what you say. Please no self serving justification of how hard done by you were, try and accept responsibility for clearing the rubbish on your own side of the street. Retired PP Down and Connor".
Today I wish to address his challenge.
"FATHERS VINCENT AND JOSEPH WERE FRIENDS OF MINE. I BELIEVE THEM TO HAVE BEEN GOOD MEN, IF SOMEWHAT LIMITED, MEN AND PRIESTS PRODUCT OF THEIR OWN HOMES AND UPBRINGING".
I understand that this retired priest was a friend of Vincent and Joe and as such probably knew them much better than I did and had the opportunity to experience, more than I, the good and kind side to both.
On the other hand there is the old saying: "IF YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW ME COME AND LIVE WITH ME".
VINCENT MC KINLEY:
When I arrived in St Peter's Vincent McKinley had just been made the administrator after more than 20 years as a curate. I think that the new responsibility was difficult for him and when I arrived he was "on leave" suffering from a minor stress / anxiety problem.
When he came back he immediately liked me and I liked him and we were indeed new friends. We went about together quite a bit and he liked my preaching and invited other priests to come and listen to my sermons. He seemed proud to have me as his curate.
He then injured his knee badly in a golfing incident and I not only visited him in hospital but used to bring him fresh clothing to the hospital and bring home his washing to the housekeeper.
When he got home I used to massage his injured knee several times a day with olive oil and I think this helped his healing.
After about a year of good friendship Vincent called me to his room one day to say that Joe McGurnaghan, who was the "senior curate" resented our friendship and that from now on we would have to be lesser friends. I was disappointed with this but accepted it.
I hope it is unnecessary for me to make clear that there was nothing inappropriate in our friendship. Vincent McKinley was a very robust North Antrim heterosexual and I had absolutely no other thoughts about Vincent apart from friendship.
Vincent McKinley was a very sexually frustrated man. He had no sisters and was in awe of women. I know for a fact that he behaved inappropriately with a number of women and girls and was tackled about his behaviour in St Louise's Girls College by the infamous Sister Genevieve of whom people said: SHE WAS THE TOUGHEST MAN ON THE FALLS ROAD. In fact she banned him from the school at one time.
Vincent was probably very unsuited for the priesthood and celibacy and I think he would have been a much happier man had he married and had children and worked in civvy street.
JOE MC GURNAGHAN:
When I arrived in St Peters Joe McGurnaghan was on holidays and Vincent Mc Kinley was on the sick.
Initially I was there with my two fellow curates - Father Jimmy McCabe - a holy, chainsmoking Derry man and Father Jimmy Burns - a member of the Salesian Order.
When Joe returned from holidays and I met him I found his to be reserved and a bit cynical. A few days after I met him he gave me this advice: "This is a bad parish. The people here as as thick as bottled pig shit. Don;t get too involved. Say your Masses, do your funerals and weddings, have a drink and a wank and wait until you get a better parish".
At 26 and two years ordained I was a bit shocked at this approach and obviously had no intention of adopting it.
Joe had himself been treated very badly by one of his former PP's - either the parish priest of Portaferry or Holywood.
This was Joe's daily timetable:
9 / 10 am - Morning Mass followed by breakfast and a read of The Irish Times.
After Breakfast - Went to his room and listened to classical music.
1. pm Lunch and back to his room for a visit from his bother Matt or a priest friend like Father Brendan Mooney.
6 pm: Tea.
After Tea: Back to his room for TV or more classical music.
The only break on this timetable was for his day off on Thursdays.
Joe was an expert in fine wines and cognacs. He arranged the cathedral wine cellar and at lunch everyday we had red wine; vegetable soup supplemented with sherry and coffee and brandy at the end. Joe's evening tipple was Remy Martin cognac.
I never got close to Joe but tried to please him by bring a bottle of wine to the dining room. Unfortunately I knew very little about wine then and my choices were met with disdain by Joe.
I do believe that there is an explanation for how Joe was - apart from having himself been abused by a parish priest.
Joe McGurnaghan's father was a hard man and the headteacher of a school in Ligoniel. I believe that he was very hard on his children ans his behaviour may well be called abuse. I think this affected Joe and his brother Matt.
I have a friend whose grandmother had been Joe's girlfriend many years ago in Ligoneil. Maybe Joe would have been happier had he married a good woman who made up to him for the severities of his youth.
"The problem may have been their jealousy of you, but you too didn't help yourself with your arrogant and supercilious attitude and above all your insatiable appetite for self promotion and publicity".
Was I arrogant and supercilious and did I have an insatiable appetite for self promotion and publicity?
The dictionary defines arrogance as being: "having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities".
It also defines supercilious as: "behaving or looking as though one thinks one is superior to others".
I do not believe that I had or have an exaggerated sense of my own importance. I am the oldest of 17 children and grew up in relative poverty in the suburbs of Dublin. I went to no posh schools and did my Leaving Cert in a Tech in Dublin.
I suppose I must be strong willed and stubborn to have survived. But that was not easy and at times in my life - including my time with Vincent and Joe just survived with the help of doctors and counsellors. At my worst times in St Peter's the local GP and SDLP politician Joe Hendron had me on valium and was fully aware of my issues.
I think it was a clash of generations and pastoral approaches. Vincent and Joe saw Divis as hopeless and I wanted to tackle the hopelessness by pastoral work, cleaning up the streets, organising music festivals, tackling the "joy riders" etc.
But of course - "Nemo iudex in causa sua" - No man is a judge in his own cause.
While I had clashes with clergy I never had problems with the parishioners in the parishes I worked in.
At my Last Judgement maybe the parishioners of Llanrumney, Bridgend, Briton Ferry, Whitchurch, Divis, Kilkeel and Larne will speak for me.
The "prosecution" will undoubtedly call the clergy to the witness box.
In any event the court will be considering the following charges against us all - including myself, Vincent McKinley and Joe McGurnaghan:
Did you feed the hungry?
Did you give the thirsty a drink?
Did you clothe the naked?
Did you care for the sick?
Did you visit prisoners?
Did you welcome strangers into your home?
I suppose we will all be hoping more for MERCY than JUSTICE?