Wednesday, 23 November 2016


Girl's torment over Catholic priest dad whose church bosses tried to bully her mum into giving her away
Hannah Robinson never knew who her father was - until her mum dropped the bombshell and said the church had sworn her to secrecy

Hannah Robinson has now come to terms with her parentage (Photo: Stan Kujawa)

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For most of her childhood, Hannah Robinson had no idea who her dad was.
The inquisitive schoolgirl kept asking her single mum questions about him, but all she was told was that he was a university lecturer.
It was only when she reached 12 that her mother revealed the bombshell truth – Hannah had been fathered by a Catholic priest.
And his church bosses had tried to bully her mum into hiding the explosive secret – with one even coldly suggesting Hannah should be put up for adoption.
Now, after nearly 30 years of failing to find acceptance and love from the man who fathered her, Hannah has received a groundbreaking apology from Britain’s most senior Catholic.
Yet her disgraced dad is still allowed to say Mass at a parish in the south of England.
For Hannah, 38, it is scant recompense for what she really wanted: a loving father.
And, instead, the married mum-of-three has been torn apart by her feelings over him. “Covering up the existence of your child and not being honest with your colleagues and congregation smacks of hypocrisy,” she says.
“How can you represent the Church as a priest and preach about love and family when your actions in your life show anything but that?

Hannah Robinson as a baby with her mum, who was told to keep her a secret
“I’m now in a place where I don’t wish my dad any harm. I believe he is a hard-working priest who serves his parishioners well.
"But the issue surrounding my paternity has affected me deeply.
“Like many women in similar positions, my mum was coerced and bullied into keeping my father’s identity a secret.
"I was left with this deep sense that I was a source of shame to my dad – but I didn’t ask to be born.”
Hannah’s Catholic mum met her dad at university in the 70s.
They started a relationship despite him training for the priesthood.
Hannah says: “My mum loved my dad and she insists he was considering leaving his seminary until she fell pregnant.
“He was aghast and arranged a meeting with a senior priest who was his mentor.
"This priest suggested my mum should go and live by the sea until I was born and then have me adopted.
"She was horrified and refused. The priest then told my mum if she wanted to bring me up, she’d have to keep the identity of my father a secret.
"I think my mum struggled with the concept of standing up for herself against such a powerful institution.”
Documents seen by the Sunday Mirror show her dad, ordained a month after Hannah’s birth in 1977, is listed on her birth certificate and that he paid regular maintenance.

Hannah Robinson, aged 11, when she believed her father was a university lecturer
But he also told her mum the child support money was dependent on him having a job – and he warned her he might be sacked if his secret was discovered.
So, for over a decade, she told Hannah her dad was a university lecturer, scared even to reveal his real name.
Hannah says: “I asked a lot of questions. Eventually she told me my dad was a priest.
"I attended a Catholic school and I have to admit it was very strange, but I wasn’t upset.
“I was simply determined to meet him, convinced he’d fall in love with me and we’d have a normal father-daughter relationship.”
Tragically, there was no chance of that.
“When I finally went to meet my dad, in my early teens, at the office of a Catholic mediator, I felt sick with nerves,” says Hannah.
“I expected it might be like something from a film. Naively, I thought we’d both burst into tears and run into each other’s arms.
"But he was very in control of his emotions. He didn’t hug or kiss me.
“There was no warmth or love. I remember feeling really overwhelmed by it all.
One thing I was desperate to ask was whether I had any brothers and sisters. He assured me I didn’t.
“At the end of the meeting, he told me we shouldn’t meet again for a few years. I was crushed.
"He still didn’t love me and that really hurt.”
It was several years before Hannah saw her dad again.
She says: “On our second meeting, I asked if I could meet some of his family as he’d told me I had two aunts.
"He told me no – because his sisters didn’t know I existed. He came from a very strict Catholic family.
"He said it would upset them if they knew he had a child. After that, I felt so worthless. At school, I’d burst into tears for no reason.
“I was given tablets to help me sleep. I had lovely friends, but I knew they could never understand what I was going through.”
When troubled Hannah left school, she threw herself into a party lifestyle and was seriously injured on holiday in Tenerife after a heavy night of drinking.
She fractured her skull in three places and suffered liver trauma after falling off a mountain ledge.
She says: “That was a wake-up call. I started to focus on the good things in life. I realised how lucky I’d been to have such a brave and supportive mum.”
Hannah now has letters her dad sent to her mother during her childhood.
They show little emotion, only discussing financial arrangements and signing off with “yours sincerely”.
But in one letter, written nearly 20 years after Hannah’s birth, he finally acknowledges how stressful the situation has been for his former girlfriend.
He wrote: “Things have been, I realise, acutely difficult for you and a big strain. You’ve been carrying on heroically.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols issued a letter of apology to Hannah (Photo: Getty)
Sadly, Hannah’s story is not a one-off. It is estimated Catholic priests have fathered thousands of ­children worldwide.
Coping International, a support group for the secret offspring of these men, has had hundreds of ­thousands of inquiries since it was set up in 2014.
With the organisation’s help, Hannah has started to come terms with the circumstances of her birth and has written a memoir about her ordeal.
She also recently met the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and, in an unprecedented move, he issued her with a written apology.
He wrote: “Your situation was certainly very difficult and distressing. One painful factor was that your mother was expected to keep silent about the identity of your father.
"This expectation is something with which you have grown up. I deeply regret this.”
Cardinal Nichols added that Hannah’s dad was unlikely to have been accepted into the priesthood if her existence had not been hidden from the local bishop.
Now she wants the Church to revoke its celibacy rules. She says: “It’s not natural for men to live without this kind of human contact and there is nothing in the Bible to suggest priests shouldn’t marry.
Perhaps if there wasn’t an expectation for my dad to be celibate we’d have had a rewarding relationship.”
Sadly Hannah, of Milton Keynes, Bucks, and her father have not met for over a decade. She does not call him dad. They have occasional contact by letter.
She is no longer a practising Catholic but considers herself spiritual.
She says: “I forgive my dad because I don’t think he ever set out to hurt or reject me. But there is a wider issue here which the Catholic Church needs to deal with.
“Cardinal Nichols was a lovely man and I feel he really listened to what I had to say. I hope his apology is a step in the right direction.
A Coping International spokesman said: “Cardinal Nichols’ sincere apology marks a turning point for children of Catholic priests across the UK. In this regard, Hannah is a pioneer.”
A Catholic Church spokesman said: “Every bishop in England and Wales is willing to meet anyone in their diocese in a similar situation.”

·         Dying to be Free by Hannah Robinson, published by O-Books at £9.99, out now


  1. The last two lines: "Every bishop in England and Wales is willing to meet anyone in their diocese in a similar position".
    And in Ireland? Hmnnn?

  2. Amys permance at the recent funeral kind of says it all.

  3. Its like back in the middle ages only worse. No matter what anyone says the Church still seems to carry on as if nothing happened. So where to from here

  4. This priest, Hannah's father, reminds me of a seminarian I knew at Maynooth. We were partying one night at student lodgings in the village. We were a mixed bunch, which included not just seminarians and lay people, but female students as well.

    There was alcohol, too. I didn't drink at the time, but the seminarian I referred to earlier did. And he had a pretty female student sitting on his lap.

    I did not like the way things appeared to be going at that party, so I excused myself and left early. I was at Maynooth to train for the priesthood, and I knew there were personal and social boundaries that should not be crossed, but which weren't being respected by all at the party. Another seminarian took courage from my leaving and came with me. Once outside he asked if I left for the reason he did. I knew what he meant and replied "yes". He then told me that had I not decided to leave first, he couldn't have mustered the courage to leave on his own.

    The seminarian with the girl on his lap, and slowly getting drunk, stayed behind. I don't know what happened afterwards, and I don't want to know. Perhaps nothing more serious. But that seminarian's uncle was a very high-ranking cleric in the Irish Catholic Church.

    Boundaries, of whatever hue, exist usually for a good reason: protection of self and others.

    Neither that seminarian nor Hannah's father respected their own boundaries, nor the boundaries of those each hurt or mistreated.

    Unfairly, this personal pain isn't always confined to those directly involved, as Hannah her self is well aware.

    It is true what is said about sin: it wounds not just the culpable, but the innocent, too. It wounds the Body of Christ.

  5. it wounds the body of Christ. What a load of tosh! If some guy gets pissed at a party in Maynooth and has the good luck to get "the leg over" I don't think Christ or anybody else will give a toss. In the scale of matters of the universe the lucky man in this case doesn't even register. Any wonder so many Irish Catholics are plagued with guilt and remorse over the sex thing if the beliefs of 15.17 are anything to go by. Get a grip. Get a life.

    1. You have a strong point.

      What about the situation of the guy who is getting the "leg over" is pretending to be celibate.

      Leaving the sex out of it - is there not a double life involved?

    2. Anon at 17:35, so Hannah growing up as a Catholic (and, therefore, along with her mother, as part of the Body of Christ), knowing her father had chosen the priesthood over her mother and her, was not hurt (wounded)?

      You seem not to care much (if at all) for the pain of the innocent. Instead, you congratulate a seminarian (presumably, you would congratulate Hannah's father, too) who was meant to be preparing to accept celibacy (and who should have been practising chastity) for getting ' "the leg over" '. And worse, you claim that Christ wouldn't "give a toss". I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the sheer crassness of your remark.

    3. Isn't there a difference between a regular and ongoing thing, and someone who has had too much to drink and let's things get out of hand? It's the same as the lay catholic trying to be holy. He/She regularly fails but I don't think everyone needs to know the details of their failings and judge them for it. I think we need to distinguish between genuine hypocrisy and occasional failing. The guy in the pub story strikes me as being someone who has had a bit too much to drink and got carried away. No big deal.

    4. If a guy is having sex in the seminary it is more than likely he will continue in the priesthood.

      As my Dad used to say: "When you are used to wearing shoes its hard to go in your bare feet".

    5. So do you take the view that anyone who has been sexually active prior to the seminary is also unsuitable? That would seem to be the logical conclusion of the quote. And I profoundly disagree with that assessment based on the experience of men I know who had pretty wild lives but had a total change of heart (admittedly prior to seminary). And I can think of a couple of nuns in that category too.

    6. I do not agree with compulsory celibacy.

      I do think that celibacy is harder if you have had a good sex life.

      Of course it can be done.

      But why should it be done?

      Celibacy should be optional?

    7. But taking Roman Catholicism on its own terms (and leaving aside the question of celibacy for the moment), the question is whether or not God's grace is sufficient to allow a man or woman who has been called by God for some particular form of vocation to live a life of chastity? I believe strongly in supernatural grace and I think that God gives that grace to those whom he calls. And that includes those who were sexually active before seminary, even if if may be somewhat harder though I do not think it is particularly so (from my own experience and the experiences shared with me by friends).

      I am still somewhat less confident than you that someone in seminary who sins sexually will necessarily continue to be sexually active. I think that the nature of sexual desire is so strong that it can be very difficult to resist, though as you say it can be done. So I am much less certain that those who may have fallen will continue to do so. That said, I agree with you that if we are talking about continual habits then a life of chastity looks unlikely.

      The reality of life after the sexual revolution is that few candidates for seminary will be virgins when they enter. This is a significant change from years gone by. A few may be, but perhaps they may be the less usual of their peer group in every respect (to put it delicately......)? So for those of us in the Roman church, I think we really need to get rid of this idea that priests have been forever virgin. But we should expect that seminarians are able to practice continence, and if they cannot, then orders in the Roman church are not the path for them.

      [As a aside, I do not agree with compulsory celibacy, despite being celibate (and faithful to that vow since before seminary) myself. But I think if that is the life one has signed up for, then one should stick to it.]

    8. Candidates for seminary must have been chaste for at least two years before entering seminary life.

      It is absolutely forbidden that Catholic seminarians be engaging in sexual activities with either men or women. Those who are doing so should be expelled.

      It is my view, concerning the antics of some of these buckos, that even if celibacy were abolished, they would still be unsuitable candidates for ordination.

      They are promiscuous, unscrupulous and hedonistic. They are not good Catholics/Christians, never mind seminarians. They seek pleasure, their own comfort, gratification and satisfaction.

      They should be expelled. They will wreak ruin on the Church and parishes.

      Those who allow them to be ordained should themselves be dismissed from the clerical state on account of the grave damage they are doing to the Church.

      Priest, Co Tyrone.

  6. Personally I would think that having too much to drink is just an excuse.
    I must try that too much to drink sometime, to see if I can do something that I normally would not
    I will let youse know how I get on...big party coming up Friday night

    1. Please do! It will be very interesting to see you drink a huge amount and be exactly the same man/woman you are without the booze. We can then get you enrolled in a scientific experiment to see if scientists can arrive a a physiological understanding of your moral superiority!

    2. Could not drink a huge amount as I only ever have 2 glasses of wine, but I will try 3 maybe
      Anything more and I would be risking my health, but might try 3/4 of a bottle

  7. Trying to google what the word permance means in relation to Eamon.

    1. There is no such word as "permance" so good luck with your googling!!

    2. It did show up,just thought it was one of those Latin type words that seminarian educated use.
      I can tell when a cleric types.
      Pat you once said that some hetro clerics would like to meet a woman for companionship etc wink wink
      And with it being christmas an all and some wine flowing
      Only over 65s though entertained

    3. So what do u think he/ she ment
      Typos are common with this format

  8. Pat in your opinion and experience, what is the percentage of gay to straight priest in Ireland? Not sure if you could include bi guys!love the blog

    1. Currently 90% gay and 10% hetero.

    2. On what basis can you say this?
      This seems to be an outrageous claim - you do need some scientific, statistical evidence to back this up!
      Where and what is it?

    3. I was asked for my opinion / experience and that is it.

      Of course I am quite happy to be corrected by some social scientist who has studied the matter.

    4. I have to repeat, Bishop, that this is an outrageous suggestion!
      You have offered these figures as facts n- not as your opinion!

    5. I wd say 60 % gay
      Pat, when did u know that you gay?

    6. Please prove me wrong or quote someone who can.

      The priesthood is NOW a gay profession.

  9. Why are so many correspondents here so preoccupied with the sexual antics or promiscuity of some seminarians and priests. They all seem to be of the mindset which prevailed when the Catholic Church ruled the roost.Wake up and be realistic. It's a dying,leaderless institution. In 20 years time it will be unusual to find a priest under 60 years of age. Be content that there are those who..warts and all..are prepared to enter a seminary and study for the priesthood.

  10. The figures you quote are based on your opinion and experienced.
    It is your obligation to prove yourself right rather than for others to prove you wrong.

    1. 22.50
      Why should the Catholic laity be content with the type of today's seminarian, hopefully our husbands and us women will have the guts to lead us when you lot give up pretending to be holy and committed

    2. Why should Catholic seminarians be content with the type of today's laity? They aren't very holy or committed either. The laity is getting the type of seminary they deserve.

  11. Sorry,
    22.51 is from
    Armagh Sam

  12. Pat isn't obliged To prove anything to anyone, as if. Lol

  13. To follow up on 22.25 and priests over 60 in 20 years time. I was at a funeral recently of a very popular priest. I counted 71 priests and 2 bishops in the procession. The majority of the clergy were over 50, many in their 60's and 70's. No more than a handful were under 50!
    The clergy club in Ireland is dying the death of a thousand cuts.

  14. Thinking back-the first response to a crisis is "Cut out the cancer". The second is Damage Limitation. The third is "for fex sake everybody knows lets bury our heads and hope it goes away" Social media is breaking through the protective shield.However in general more pressure is needed