Wednesday, 18 October 2017

BISHOP WILLIAM PHILBIN




BORN 26.1.1907 - DIED 22.8.1991

BISHOP OF DOWN AND CONNOR 1962 - 1982


William Philbin was a difficult man to understand - extremely shy and reclusive, an intellectual and a man who was out of his depth when he was catapulted into Down and Connor in 1962.

He had entered Maynooth at the age of 17 or the Diocese of Achonry and was ordained on June 21st, 1931.

He spent most of his life as the Professor of Dogmatic Theology at Maynooth. 

On the 22nd December 1953, Pope Pius X11 appointed him Bishop of Clonfert and he attended all 4 sessions of the Second Vatican Council.

In 1962 Pope John XX111 appointed him Bishop of Down and Connor. 

There is an apocryphal story of how he was moved from Clonfert to Belfast. John XX111's priest secretary, Monsignor Thomas Ryan (later Bishop of Clonfert) recommended Philbin to the pope to give the Vatican retreat. John XX111 was impressed and one day pointed to Philbin and said - "There is the new bishop of Down and Connor". 

Clonfert was a small rural diocese with a small number of parishes and it would have suited an intellectual bishop who liked to spend his days in study.

Down and Connor was a large diocese - unlike any Irish diocese - and from The Troubles in the late 1960's was a very troubled diocese.

Poor Philbin was lost - thrown in at the deep end. 

He made the fatal mistake of going up the Falls Road with a British Army general on the back of a British Army lorry to tell people to take down the barricades. The people fired besn tins and other missiles at the bishop and general.

Poor Philbin retreated into the seclusion of his Lisbreen Palace - now known as Chateau Noel.

Philbin read, studied and translated ancient manuscripts while Belfast burned.

His right-hand man - Monsignor Paddy Mullaly ran the diocese with an iron fist and was above all else feared by priests.

Monsignor Mullaly liked to wear the purple socks of a monsignor and like his gin and tonics. 

At one clergy dinner some senior clergy - with a dram taken - were slagging Mullaly over his purple socks and one of them called him a bastard.

Mullaly replied to the bastard accusation by saying: "Yes, I am a bastard. And what's more, I am a vindictive bastard". That particular cleric's career had come to an abrupt halt!

Incidentally, Mullaly was the man who took me into Down and Connor and we always had a good relationship.

Bishop Philbin was also a beekeeper. He kept beehives at Lisbreen.


ENTER ZOMBIE:




When in St Peter's I had a regular punk rock teenage caller nicknamed "Zombie".

One day Zombie was standing ringing the doorbell looking for me when Philbin's car arrived for Confirmations. The chauffeur accidentally mounted the footpath and the car hit Zombie on the legs. Philbin jumped out of the car and screamed at Zombie for being in his way. Zombie tried to say: "Fa'r I was on the path. your car hit me". Philbin was having none of it and continued to scream at Zombie. In the end, Zombie shouted: "Would ye f... off Farr".

You would have thought that Philbin had been hit on the head by a hammer. When I got to the door poor Philbin grabbed my arm and shaking said: "Dear Father Buckley. Get me a glass of water quickly. Someone has just used an obscenity to me". When Philbin had taken his water I said to him: "My Lord, if I had a pound for every time I was told to do that since you sent me here I would be living in a villa in Marbella" :-)

ZOMBIE/PHILBIN RECONCILIATION:

One Sunday after that incident I was due to pick up Philbin at Lisbreen and drive him to an adult Confirmation ceremony in Andersonstown. As I was leaving the house Zombie arrived and as he was feeling a bit under the weather, I brought him in the car to pick Philbin up.

I put Zombie in the rear seat so that Philbin could sit in the front. But Philbin climbed into the rear with Zombie and a great conversation ensued.




On the way back to Lisbreen Zombie and Philbin continued their impassioned conversation and when we arrived at Lisbreen Philbin insisted on bringing Zombie in to see his beehives. 

While I waited for 2 hours Philbin and Zombie had a great discussion on the ancient art of apiculture :-)  All was forgiven :-)

MY OTHER EXPERIENCES OF PHILBIN:

1. Being asked by him to sit by his side at clergy dinners in Lisbreen.

2. Being begged by him to do all I could to keep the youth of the Falls Road out of the grip of the IRA.

3. Being reprimanded by him for using the term "we ask God to be kind" during the Prayers of the Faithful I wrote for the diocesan requiem Mass for Popes Paul V1 and John Paul 1.

4. Being reprimanded by him for daring to send him a Christmas card. He did not like priests sending him Christmas cards?

5. Watching in stunned silence as the 20+ stone Father Denis Newberry threw himself on Philbin's antique chaise Longue in Lisbreen shattering one of its legs and Philbin on the floor examining it !!! 

When I look back now and think of Philbin I feel a little sad and melancholic.

He was a shy man - an intellectual - who was never suited to be a bishop. He did not ask to be a bishop. He had it thrust on him.

He must have been very lonely and isolated in Lisbreen - feeling rejected and misunderstood.

In Lisbreen he wrote poems. 




Here is one of his poems:


BELFAST CHRISTMAS 
1975

In earth's elemental war of death and life
Rampage of winter famine microbe flood
By stages effortfully are stemmed, withstood.
Not so our making's Minotaur, inborn strife:
Forgotten it's infancy of sling and knife,
Adult now, adept of atom and lightening, shod
With space-shoes, making earth inert sod
Should men stay savage - doom forboding's rife,

Our part to make killing customary, cheap?
A bar's clientele mangles to charnel heap;
Murder across peace-net volleys;  beside Christmas cards
Mails carry instruments of unkind regards;
Death strikes indifferent from vehicle that bombards
At random, from footsteps, that to quiet doors creep.



AND PAT SAYS:

I think I preferred William Philbin's Lisbreen to the Lisbreen of Daly, Walsh or Treanor!

Better, I think, the incense of study and struggle for meaning than the testosterone of the ego, the sadist or the hard of heart!

74 comments:

  1. A most reflective, fair and beautiful set of memories and reflections Pat. These types memories from you help me understand more your journey. Thank you.

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  2. What was Bishop Philbin's personal circumstances? He left a large collection of expensive paintings etc to Maynooth. There is the Philbin Room there etc. He appears to be the first bishop which you feel sorry for/respect. I think you appear to have gotten on with him. For all the 'chip on the shoulder' boasting of Down and Connor seminarians/priests, they could never really produce anyone of note themselves. They also had to borrow from what became the NUI and the Pontifical University at Maynooth. They also had to borrow clerics from the South to rule them. Pat, this isn't a cheap shot at you, but at the silly petty 'seminarians' one had to endure in Maynooth. Those who did the Sem/Diploma course were the worst offenders. Now they go around in satin and lace. Some have even been mentioned as bishop material. Laughable.

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    1. I know of at least four intellectual clerics in Down & Connor. Cahal Daly, Ambrose Macauley, Martin Henry and James O'Kane. There was also Stephen Douds though when he was a deacon he exincardinated from D&C and joined the Archdiocese of San Francisco and did not proceed to priestly ordination.

      You mentioned the Sem course (ie the course taken by seminarians who lack the requisite exam results which would allow them to do the BA, BSc or BD in Maynooth). Paul Prior, the unliked former Senior Dean of Maynooth did the Sem course. He's very touchy about it.

      Until the 1970s all Maynooth seminarians had to be undergraduates in the NUI part of Maynooth. The Sem course was a reaction to declining numbers and the declining educational attainment of seminarians.

      I think there are fewer than 10 seminarians in Maynooth enrolled on Maynooth University courses now.

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    2. A slight hint of intellectual snobbery without foundation to be detected here. Not matriculating for Maynooth University is merely a reflection of the L.C. or equivalent points once achieved if one is under 23. That's not much of an indication of anything, except the ability to pass exams.

      There is such a thing as late development. Plenty of those who began with the seminarist course went on to matriculate to take degree and postgraduate courses including up to doctorate level.

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    3. In my time in Maynooth (late 1980s) there were enough 3rd year Arts and Science NUI undergraduate seminarians to fill two floors of New House, though the formerly used bedrooms are now offices.

      In the early 1980s there were so many 3rd year Arts and Science undergraduate seminarians that they occupied Long Corridor, with its 51 bedrooms. Long Corridor is no longer occupied by any seminarians and there are only two or three 3rd year seminarian undergraduates. Why the bishops retain that gigantic campus is beyond belief.

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  3. You must have a great view Pat

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  4. Strangely, Pat, you paint a sympathetic picture of Philbin. I always found Desmond Connell similarly academic and quite innocent in the ways of the world and equally likeable in spite of his other failings.

    The modern bunch of Irish Bishops have an altogether different air - smartarse, arrogante know-it-alls who know all about Gay worshippers pandering to their power and damn all about the utter collapse in vocations nationally.

    Maynooth's Hugh Connolly's project to rid Ireland of "the medieval church" [what's that?] and 'fundamentalist' seminarians has contravened the law of unintended consequences - in the Maynooth melée to promote Gay candidates, the number of regular imperfect vocations has collapsed!

    Cardinal Sean Brady and cronies take a bow!

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    1. When Hugh Connolly was a seminarian he was considered to be a conservative. He wrote an article for the seminary magazine in which he deplored pop psychology. But pop pschology was a mainstay of the formation team in Maynooth during his Presidency, especially Prior, Collins and Enda Cunningham, all the spiritual heirs of Nial Ahern who destroyed many during his far too long stint as a Maynnoth Dean. Prior was one of his favourites.

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    2. Very poor analysis and, therefore, even worse conclusions. For starters you could clean up your language.

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  5. I have no difficulty with Rory Coyle's sexuality in general. I will condemn no persons for sexual weakness since we all carry that cross to different degrees.

    I have no problem with Stephen Crossan snorting cocaine through a twenty pound note in his parochial house, betrayed as he was by one of the gay 'friends' he brought back after a party lasting two days. Stephen has my sympathy.

    I could go through a list of names of fairly recent graduates of Maynooth who have since their ordinations fallen from even the low standards taught them in Maynooth.

    My issue is with the Powers That Be in Maynooth and in the Bishops' Conference who have regularly covered up for and defended these young men, indeed promoted them beyond their capacities and in some sense have contributed to their double-life ills. These same defenders have shown neither sympathy for respect for 'straight' candidates.

    I note Fr. Joe McDonald, former Christian Brother and Newryman and recent graduate of Maynooth has taken time out from regular dream analysis in Ballyfermot [too much time spent sleeping, Big Joe!] to pen a book entitled "Why the Irish Church Deserves to Die" - get on here, Big Joe, and tell us more!

    How have we managed to get together a coterie of bishops who are more concerned to spend a very great deal of their annual work concerning themselves with the consequences of young Gay seminarians, recent young Gay ordinations or late proclivities of serving Gay priests than promoting any kind of Gospel nationally?

    I am probably allergic more to favouritism and unfair selection and sexual hypocrisy than to any particular sexual identity. If Gorgeous is not ordained by Diarmuid The Stare it will not be because Diarmuid is converted from his poor choice of seminarians, but only because Gorgeous was an embarrassment in being publicised.

    Diarmuid's motto should be repainted in the Pro-Cathedral:

    "Puttus Nothingus In Writingus You Damnus Foolus!"

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    1. Is Timmo Bartlett, the heir apparent to several vacant sees, also an ex-Christian Brother?

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    2. Indeed he is. He didn’t stay very long when he realised brudders don’t become bishops!

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    3. Interesting that someone discerns a vocation to be a brother and then after a while decides to be a priest. Which is the true vocation in such a case? Being a brother or being a priest?

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    4. I can't wait till Tim gets a throne he can call his own. The suspense is killing me. Will it be Clonfert? Cork and Ross? Clogher [though that'll be an inside job] or even Dublin?

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    5. @19.41
      Interesting point. When Joe was in Maynooth another man had discerned to marry but having been widowed he discerned to become a priest..

      Meanwhile the Director of Formation - imagine this, the Director of Formation who had clearly discerned to be a priest was later to discern that he should get married before leaving the priesthood.

      Stuff happens dude.

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    6. In Tim’s case - his vocation is to be a Bishop.

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    7. I’ll be forever grateful to Brudder Mary Spartacus O’Kelly. Brudder Mary Spartacus regularly skinned layers of me bare arse with his leather. Sure it made a man of me and I knew that it hurted him more than it hurted me. Thank the good lord above for de brudders.

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  6. Bishop Philbin was an art collector too, and the "Philbin Collection" is on the walls of Renehan Hall in Maynooth. He bequeathed them to the college.

    Cackle Daly bequeathed his books to Queen's university. They didn't put them into the main libraries in the Belfast campus but sent them instead to their outreach campus in Armagh. As they were chiefly about theology and philosophy they were of no use in Armagh as such courses weren't taught there and the general public couldn't access them.

    I went on a guided tour there and the lecturer guide said, disparagingly that the books were like something you'd find in a charity shop.

    As the Armagh campus is now closed I'd love to know where the books ended up.

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    1. Recycling skip one hopes

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    2. Some of Philbin's few books lay long abandoned in a Maynooth corridor, gifts from sycophants many of them. The extravagant dedications brought much mirth to passers-by in the know and lost nothing in the re-telling.

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    3. Magna @ 10.32, "er, in a skip" -----many of us believe that's where your brain is most of the time!! --- so horrible and poisonous is your abusive behaviour....

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    4. I know, 21:20. I'm bad; real bad.😈

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    5. There's Philbin's Collection and there was Newman's erection.

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    6. Newman's erection, ie the brutalist footbridge over the Galway Road, linking the old and new campuses in Maynooth, and built when Mgr Jeremiah Newman was president, is no more. It was demolished a few years ago.

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  7. Big Ballyfermot Fr. Joe McDonald's regular trips to his Dream Analyst should not detract from his "Why the Irish Church Deserves To Die" tome.

    He is of course a Belfastman, and not a Newryman, formerly a fan of Medjugorje. I don't imagine Joe will have told any tales from his fairly recent time in Maynooth under Enda Cunningham and Des Hillery and surrounded by many of the young lads since fallen from grace. Joe won't rock any ecclesiastical power boats anytime soon, always keeping on the right side of Hierarchy.

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    1. I was there at the same time as Joe. Joe arrived a man better than Maynooth could destroy, and left it a man better than Maynooth could make. He is a gent of the highest order.

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    2. Has Fr Jo taken time out of his parish

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    3. Arlene's on fire but shortly to be shortened to just Arlene.19 October 2017 at 21:54

      He hasn't taken time out of McDonalds. The traddie orders won't admit overweight applicants, their reasoning being that if you cannot control the food appetite how willpox you get on with everything else; are you comfort eating; and how can you with conviction preach on fasting, self-denial, austerity and poverty. They ask if it's likely that Jesus had a big belly.

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    4. Isn't that what he always has been doing? - Oh sorry--you meant officially taken time out..

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    5. And the 'traddie' orders have a point, Arlene. Wasn't it Pope Paul VI who said (paraphrasing) that people listen better to witnesses than to teachers, and to teachers only if they are witnesses?

      I recall a priest in the States who lectured on sexual self-denial, his target demographic being LGBT people. He had been appointed by his archbishop/bishop specially for the task.

      As it turned out, neither man had a well-honed sense of irony, not just for the questionable (and now well known) sexual self-denial among priests in the States, but specifically for the lecturer himself: the man was a mountain of quivering, blubbery body fat, and sweated profusely. If no one in his audiences laughed, it was out of strained politeness, not engrossment in his lectures.

      The very idea that someone like this could preach to anyone, on ANY kind of abstinence, and be taken seriously was an insult to human intelligence.

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  8. If J McDonald is from Belfast and formerly a Christian Brother in Newry, why did he not offer himself to serve in Down and Connor instead of in Dublin?

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    1. Pointless question. Being born in a place is not the same as being chained to the place.

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    2. Maybe D&C wouldn't take him!

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    3. Maybe he just didn't apply to D&C.

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    4. Arlene's on fire but shortly to be shortened to just Arlene.19 October 2017 at 21:37

      15:44 is being pointlessly passive aggressive. Until the 1990s Irish bishops would not accept a would be seminarian who had been born in another diocese. They were told to revert back to their home bishop. And even in Maynooth seminarians from overseas dioceses were only admitted to the seminary if an Irish bishop vouched for them.

      Though at St John's, Waterford, it was possible to be a self-funding, self-employed seminarian and wait for an Anglophone bishop to pick you up. Maybe +Pat would confirm that was the case in his time there. St John's Waterford is now sheltered accommodation. Good old Vatican II, the gift that keeps on giving.

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    5. Oh good!--maybe that will mean her posts will be shorter too..

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    6. Arlene,
      I was not pointlessly passive aggressive, I was being rational. A man can today apply for any diocese he chooses.

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    7. Not so, Arlene at 21:37. The Irish bishops (at least some of them) were indeed accepting as seminarians candidates from other dioceses long before the 1990s.

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    8. 10:25 - sorry for intemperately accusing you of being passive aggressive, that was rude of me. I didn't realise that candidates could present to any diocese. Thanks to MC for the clarification.

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  9. Philbin was the first bishop to withdraw his students from Maymooth and send them to Rome.
    He was a gentleman!

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  10. Poor Mc Donald, duck, made np sense on the late late, I’m still trying to figure out what he was on about.
    Maybe he should join Stephen Nolan on the big diet.

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  11. I think all goes to show that the rift between the hierarchy of the church and the ordinary world has only deepened as time goes on

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  12. Pat, I expressed my concern yesterday about words that have homophibic connotations, used frequently here, and suggested that bloggers who use them should not be printed or tolerated. Zero tolerance. Today there are unkind, personalised words used about Fr. Joe McDonald. This good priest of immense integrity and courage spoke on the Late Late show last week about the effects of sexual abuse which he endured. To allow any word that demeans and trivialises his trauma is unforgiveable. You should exercise moral authority with such nasty bloggers. Again, zero tolerance.

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  13. What about the Bishop Philbin under the table incident, Pat?

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  14. Who is this priest calling for ordaination of married men.

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    1. Whether you @ 21.11 "Doubt it" or not is entirely up to yourself.
      The poster is correct in that it was Fr Paddy O'Kane of Derry Diocese.
      (Funny how there is always a smart ass poster trying to insinuate that the other poster couldn't possibly be right because he "doubts it"!)

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    2. Do you mean Father Peter O'Kane of the Derry diocese?

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  15. +Philbin seems to have been in the tradition of the Greek play bishops. Quite an interesting entry today!

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  16. Why, in the Clogher clerical changes press release is it announced that Fr Ian Fee has taken "leave of absence from the the diocese". What does that mean? If it was a sabbatical they would say so, as the same press release refers to a priest going on sabbatical. Fr Fee is one of the good guys.

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    1. There are lots of reasons and many of them are legitimate although I imagine, for example, alcohol rehab is more successful than defagmentation.

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    2. There was a curate in st Dominics parish in tallagts a few years back. He was just ordained. Didn't get on with his pp and appearently left the priesthood soon after leaving Tallaght.i heard from a parish worker he now atheist and living with a man! How do these people make it to ordination?

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    3. I heard he left to be a church of Ireland minister.

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    4. I remember him. Always dressed like a priest, didn't drive and walked everywhere. He used to always stop and chat especially if you had a dog. It was his first parish and when he was leaving nothing was done for him by the parish. I sorry to hear he's gone but id sau he's better off. He was Dominican

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    5. Is that the Dominican priest who had been a diocesan seminarian for a Western Diocese and who fell foul of a Maynooth dean?

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    6. Did he have a falling out with a Maynooth dean mention on this blog?

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    7. How do people like this make it to ordination (in the Dominicans)?

      Can of worms and Pandora’s box are images that come to mind.

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    8. This guy was from Kilkenny. I don't think he was in Maynooth as a seminarian.

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    9. Not DB. DB is still with the doms working as a curate. The guy who departed after leaving Tallaght was DM.

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  17. I think Joe McDonald, Author and Priest, can take the criticism if he can write a book of criticism about the Catholic church in Ireland.

    What is fair comment about the bold Joe is that he was one of the very few mature adult men to enter Maynooth with his character surely already formed. He had been a Christian Brother and Headmaster of a school in Newry.

    He manages to write a critical essay on the church in modern Ireland and yet has managed to keep absolutely silent about 7 years in Maynooth where all around him were breaking scandals, seminarians being abused and bullied, dismissed for invalid reasons, seminarians sleeping with other seminarians, seminarians cruising Phoenix Park and telling everybody about it - the bold Joe, Author and Commentator, saw years of this going on and yet has never uttered a single word of criticism of the Powers That Be - never, not a word.

    No word in defence of the brave but foolish GP Donnelly.

    Joe sailed through Maynooth with his colours nailed surely to its masts, always close to the Seminary Council members.

    I take my hat off to you, Joe, you saw no evil, heard no evil and spoke no criticism.

    And nothing of what I have had to say about Joe here is in any sense infused with any kind of connotations.

    If the bold Joe left Maynooth every Saturday morning to visit his Gipsy Dream Analyst for €30 or €40 a pop, so be it - such New Age crapology was sure to lubricate his passage through Maynooth under Diarmuid Martin.

    God Bless you Joe! Dream On Brother! Father!

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    1. The trouble with Aynooth is often the culture of all formation meetings being kept a secret. Every seminarians is told not to open their mouth except to their spiritual director. Often people are gone before you know they were heading for the door. And normally ejections occur at key holiday moments so everybody is going home for Christmas/Summer but then when you get back you find an empty chair in St. Mary's... But what can one expect when the Director of Formation didn't have a vocation to priesthood either!

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    2. It was always the way in Maynooth. People didn't come back after the Christmas holidays. I don't know if this still happens, but in my days the names of departed seminarians were typed up as required and put in a picture frame that sat on the table beneath the big painting of St Peter's Square in the Pros' Ref. This was to let the priest teaching staff know that their students had departed or been kicked out, though the list made no distinction.

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    3. The other insensitive thing they did was to type up and place on the notice boards the list of seminarians who were to receive the ministries of Reader, Acolyte, candidacy and diaconate. All your classmates clamoured round, and as it in alphabetical order it was obvious who wasn't getting the nod. That's how you found out.

      Though even that is an improvement. There used to be a balcony in Pugin Hall, where the big painting of St Patrick sits. The door to the former balcony still exists on the other side of the wall. On prize day, with the bishops present, the deans would announce from the balcony who was getting eg porter, sub-deacon etc. You heard the verdict in public and in front of your classmates and co-diocesans. From that point you were a dead man walking.

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  18. 20:00 refers to the next Clogher bishop being from the inside. That is a given. The powers that be in the diocese are frantically working to get Joe McGuinness the job on a permanent basis.......what a disaster it will be. Yes, Clogher is in the doldrums but those in charge put on a grave face......in fact their faces can't be seen because they all have their heads stuck in the sand! An excellent young priest walked away recently and not a word from the diocese. Shameful!The sooner the church in Clogher and elsewhere dies the better.

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  19. Where was the young priest from?

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    1. Is that Fr Ian Fee, formerly the curate in Bundoran-Ballyshannon? He left a cryptic message in the parish newsletter, saying that he wanted to develop his ministry elsewhere and that the diocese had graciously granted him leave of absence.

      There is no replacement available, apparently, even though Fr Paddy Connolly is a theology lecturer in stab city, and Fr Ben Hughes has some sort of role in TCD. Both should be recalled to serve in Clogher diocese.

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    2. The Fr Fee situation is quite weird - I fear this leave of absence is code for he's gone and wont be back. Any diocesan priest in other dioceses in other roles should be recalled to serve their home dioceses - there is a bloody shortage for God sake

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    3. Bishop Philbin withdrew his students from Maynooth for a few years in the mid 1970s. They returned again in 1977. He was a gentleman, and was kind to me during my student days at Maynooth.

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