"By any standards, the images published recently on your blog are shocking in the extreme. I can well understand how many, clerical and laity, will be disturbed to the core of their being with incontrovertible evidence of depravity carried out in a sacred place by a priest and (possibly) a student for the priesthood. These men have photographed themselves f*cking on the altar of the sanctuary of a church. What could be more depraved? Indeed many of your commentators have allied this to satanic behaviour, more usually at a "Black Mass" or other such satanistic ritual. Have we reached a new low?
Such behaviour, while uncommon, is not unknown to psychologists. It is quite often the case that men and women, deeply disturbed in their psychosis, can "act out" in ways that try to gain control over what it is that is causing their distress and pain. This is often the case with adults who have been the victims of abuse, either sexual, mental or physical, in their childhood and all the more so when this has been carried out by parents or close relatives. I have heard of such adults going to the grave of the perpetrator and urinating or defecating upon the grave as if this in some way will release the pain and help them to gain back some control over the forces that have been causing the distress and the pain. I have also heard of cases, less often to be sure, where a sexual act is carried out over or nearby the gravesite. These too are ways of gaining control. I wonder might this help in trying to fathom out what has been happening in this parish church in Cloyne diocese, and no doubt in other churches in Ireland and throughout the world?
The priest in question is certainly in need of intensive help and therapy, as by any standard he is presenting in a way that is extremely disturbed and putting himself at great risk, and others too. When I saw the photographs I thought to myself that this priest is not only f*cking ON THE altar, he is actually f*cking THE altar and all it represents in his life and in the lives of Catholics. So we move away from someone who is so addled with addiction, be it drugs, sex, alcohol (though he may well have all there) to someone who is so angry with the Church, and all that the Church represents, that he literally wants to f*ck it; out of his mind, his life and the lives of those he has charge of.
Whatever the cause of his behaviour, he needs help and not just a few chats with a therapist. This man needs deep and intensive psychotherapy to address the underlying issues and pain that would cause him to behave in such a way. I would imagine that he has had treatment before, as I feel sure that his behavioural problems have brought him to the attention of his bishops in the past. They have probably applied the "sticking plaster" solution of getting him "dried out" and returned to ministry as soon as possible. This cannot be an option in this case. He needs to be removed from ministry, perhaps permanently, so as not only not to harm others but equally importantly, harm himself. The great sadness of all of this is that he is harming and destroying himself by these behaviours.
There has been some comment as to the identity of the recipient of the sexual acts on the altar. Some have suggested that he is a student for the priesthood. If this is the case then this is very worrying indeed. Perhaps even more so than for the priest who is the perpetrator. This seems to be a much younger man, and whatever the explanation for how he has found himself in this position (he could have been out of his mind on drugs or alcohol) he really does have issues that need dealing with. If he is a student for the priesthood, in "formation", then this is a real concern. Most of us, when we are younger, are idealistic and innocent - that is the developmental stage associated with young adulthood. Cynicism, or wariness, comes later as we grow older and realize that people can do bad things to us and to others. For someone to behave in such a way as a teenager or young person, on an altar, in a church, when he is training to be a priest is almost incomprehensible. Goodness knows what pain and suffering such a person would inflict on others, and on himself, should he be allowed to continue with his studies for the priesthood and be ordained. He too must be intervened upon and removed from the seminary, if indeed he is a seminarian.
There has been a lot of negative comment about the bishop of the diocese in which this behaviour has taken place. To some degree, I feel some sympathy for him, as I am sure that he is shocked and appalled as to what he has seen as anyone else is. He is also at the distinct disadvantage that he is called upon to act and to act quickly. He has probably no idea whatsoever what to do. I would imagine like most bishops I have met he is of average intelligence but totally ill-equipped to deal with psychosis, and especially when it involves one of his priests. I feel sure that he will wish to protect the identity of the priest, and so he should, as this man is one of his charges and has the right to his privacy if he is engaged in medical or psychological treatment. But he must ensure that the priest is intervened upon, removed from ministry (perhaps permanently) and undergoes intensive residential psychological screening and treatment. Not to do so would be to put the people of the diocese at grave risk of further abuse, even if only on the level of damage to the Church and its reputation, in the lives of these good men and women who attend church and who believe in it and in the probity of its ministers.
I offer these reflections to assist the debate, and in no way to minimise or to seek to excuse what by any stretch of the imagination is the reaching of a new low in the long and sordid history of the abuse perpetrated by some in the Church (be they bishops, priests, monks or nuns) upon the people they have been called to serve in Ireland and further afield. Perhaps it is as if that now we are in the "end times" of the Church in Ireland as an Institution, that such things are coming to the fore, and much more will come out also. Almost like a disease in the body bursting out on to the surface of the body. Generations upon generations of abuse of power, (and remember this is the heart of sexual abuse - the inflicting of power over others), are now coming out on the "body of the Church". Priests and nuns, even though they have been participants in this, have also been "victims", and this is displayed in the abhorrent behaviours we have recently been made all too graphically aware off.
A priest psychologist