OCCASIONAL CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS BLOG, EVEN IN RECENT DAYS, HAVE ACCUSED ME OF BEING ONCE A PART OF THE CLERICAL CLUB AND CLERICALISM - AND OF ENJOYING IT WHEN I WAS PART OF IT.
I have to say that I NEVER felt part of the clerical club and never felt at home in it.
This became apparent before I was ordained at all when I was expelled from Clonliffe seminary in Dublin because I did not fit in and was not a great rule keeper.Having said that, Clonliffe did give me a reference that allowed me to be accepted by another diocese and seminary 6 weeks after my expulsion. So the cause of my expulsion from Clonliffe cannot have been "terminal" as they did give me a reference. In those days -1973- they were coming down with seminarians and very few were expelled WITH a reference.
|CLONLIFFE FIRST YEARS 1970|
MY CLONLIFFE CLASS 1970
(Back Row: From Left: Michael Murphy PP, Dublin; Kevin Doran Bishop of Elphin; Vincent Kenny left seminary; Des Murtagh - left after News of World scandal involving a married woman.
Third Row: Doyle, independent priest USA; ???? nickname: "Madame Bovary) left seminary; Fr Paul Churchill, a canon lawyer, Dublin; Fr. Barry Murphy PP (RIP); ??????
Second Row: Fr Gerard Deegan; Peter O'Reilly, left seminary; ??????; Fr. Paddy Kavanagh, left priesthood;
First Row: Fr. Alex Conlon PP Dublin; Fr. John Ennis PP, Dublin; Fr. Paddy Monahan CC, Dublin; Pat; Fr. Paul Tyrrell, Dublin.) People welcome to fill in blanks in my memory.
After ordination in 1976, I went to a parish in South Wales where my first parish priest was first generation Englishman called Driscoll who hated Irishmen.
He tortured me verbally and psychologically and after some months, when I could take no more I went to speak to the Archbishop - John A Murphy of Cardiff - another man with an Irish name who did not like the Irish. Murphy told me that my PP was a saint and that if I stuck it out I too would become a saint! I knew that instead of becoming a saint if I stayed with Driscoll, I would become mentally unwell - or an alcoholic as my predecessor had. So I gave Murphy an ultimatum, which he did not accept and I headed home to Ireland.
I had two further attempts at Welsh parishes where my PP's had various issues that made life difficult, to say the least, so I departed for Ireland permanently.
So I could not fit in with the clerical club I found in Wales. In fairness to the Welsh people, who were wonderful, the problem was not them but Irish priests with a host of problems ranging from celibacy to mental illness to alcoholism.
In 1978 I came as a curate to St. Peter's Cathedral in Down and Connor diocese. I was living with 4 other priests - Fr. Vincent McKinley, Fr. Joe McGurnaghan, Fr. Jim McCabe and Father Sean Crummey - a Salesian.
Everything in St, Peter's had to be done to suit the priests.
- Lay people were not allowed past the hallway and especially not into the priest's dining room. Even when my parents visited from Dublin they could not stay with me and I had to bring them to a cafe for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Wedding Masses were started and finished without the bride if she was late - so that the priest would not be kept waiting.
- People coming to the door - or even to the Confessional - were laughed about later in the priest's dining room. One Saturday evening Vincent McKinley arrived for his tea saying: "Pour me a whiskey lads, I've just had a queer in the confession box with me for 30 minutes".
These clerical rules were endless and soon made me deeply sad and unhappy.
I began not to observe these clerical rules and this led to raging rows in the dining room and me being eventually banished to have my meals with the housekeeper in the kitchen. Mind you, I was more at home in the kitchen.
My transgressions of these clerical rules were reported to Cahal Daly who began to take a dim view of me - and to me telling him a few home truths about the clerical club - and eventually to my exile from the diocese.
So, from the very beginning, I had great difficulties fitting into the Clerical Club - not because I didn't want to - but because the Clerical Club membership meant my alienation from the People and an inability to serve them as I felt called to.
The Clerical Club in every diocese is very strong and all-pervading. To be a member of it is certainly to have an easy life, a sense of belonging, a certain camaraderie and the avoidance of a sense of isolation.
But the price is too much. One is called upon to sacrifice one's sense of vocation, one's integrity, one's ability to respond to the People in Gospel-based ways.
Of course, there were happy times in the Clerical Club - the Confirmation dinners with the food, the wine and the crack, the assurance of not wanting for anything, the respect of the other "professionals" in the parish, the private health insurance, the prospects of becoming a PP, a canon, a monsignor or an archdeacon etc, etc.
But this is not the sacrificial and challenging ministry that Jesus calls his disciples to embrace.
Jesus Himself would have fared a lot better if he had become a "respectable" rabbi, priest and a card-carrying member of the Sanhedrin.
But He deliberately chose a different way.
I did not really choose a different way.
But when I was faced with the decision to join the Sanhedrin or go it alone, somehow God's grace helped me to choose the way of discipleship - and I do not mean perfect discipleship - that would not be possible for me because of all my human weaknesses and sinfulness.
But in life, we all have a choice.
We are all sinners.
But we can choose to be "good" sinners or "bad" sinners.
For me, the Clerical Club is for those wishing to settle for "bad" sinfulness.
I can already see the comments that will flow into today's blog - comments telling me that I am deluded, unwell, a hypocrite etc, etc.
Bring them on.
The least hateful will be published.
The ones full of venom - including those from Clerical Club members - will be sent to the spam box!
"What good would it be to a man if he gained the whole world, yet suffered the loss of his own soul"!