Hundreds protest at papal nunciature against censuring of priests by Vatican

Mon, Apr 30, 2012, 01:00

A SILENT vigil was held outside the papal nunciature in Dublin yesterday to protest against the censuring of priests by the Vatican.

Well-known priest and journalist Fr Brian D’Arcy last week said he had been censured by the Vatican over four articles he wrote for the Sunday World newspaper in 2010.

Fr D’Arcy is the fifth Irish Catholic priest known to have been censured by the Vatican recently. The others are Redemptorist priests Fr Tony Flannery and Fr Gerard Moloney, Marist priest Fr Seán Fagan and Capuchin priest Fr Owen O’Sullivan.

More than 200 lay Catholics and religious, several of whom wore gags in the Vatican colours of white and yellow, yesterday handed in a letter at the gates of the residence of papal nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown, calling for the censures to be revoked. It is not known if the archbishop was at home.

Sr Siobhán Ní Mhaoilmhichil, a member of the Dominican order for almost 50 years, said she was angered by the way the priests had been treated.

“These are all good theologians who have worked for the church for many years and we are here to show our solidarity with them.”

Brendan Butler, a spokesman for We Are Church Ireland, which organised the vigil, said the Vatican had been heavy-handed in silencing the priests.

“The treatment of these priests goes against the teachings of Jesus Christ and the church founded by Jesus. These are outstanding priests and people are outraged by the disrespect that has been shown to them.”

Mr Butler said he was aware of four other priests who had been silenced but were choosing to remain anonymous.

Speaking on RTÉ radio on Saturday Fr D’Arcy, who was censured by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said he could not be silent about the protection of children.

“Any system depends on the integrity of the person carrying out the system. And if the person carrying out the system is afraid to talk about this, or that, or question why about that, then the secrecy veil comes in again, and children will not be protected,” he told RTÉ Radio’s Marian Finucane show.

“I speak strongly about this and I will make no apologies. I don’t mean it to be an offence to anybody when I say this, but if people expect me, who was abused twice in my life, to be silent about issues and about the protection of children, I can’t do that.”

Fr D’Arcy who is a regular broadcaster on BBC radio and writes a religious column for the Sunday World newspaper, was censured for articles concerning how the Vatican dealt with the issue of women priests; why US Catholics were leaving the church; why the church must take responsibility for clerical child sex abuse; and homosexuality.

The Vatican is also understood to have complained about headlines on some of the articles, which would have been written by editorial staff at the Sunday World.

Fr D’Arcy, a member of the Passionist Order, said he was told 14 months ago of the disciplinary action, which means he must submit his writings and broadcasts to an official censor.

The BBC did not respond to a request for comment yesterday on whether its editorial guidelines would be breached if Fr D’Arcy submitted contributions to another party before they were aired.

The priest did not refer to his censure in his Sunday World article yesterday but he said “false obedience” to a senior cleric had led him “astray” at the age of 17.

Fr D’Arcy told a story – also recalled in his weekend radio interview – of being ordered to fell 20 cherry trees by the rector at the Graan centre in Enniskillen.

“Today I think it’s probably the most serious sin I have committed in my life . . . But as I think of it now I recognise that God was teaching me about the limits to human obedience,” he wrote.