Archbishop rebukes priest who cast doubt on Cleary fatherhood

Diarmuid Martin strongly dissociates himself from Fr O’Neill

Fr Michael Cleary during the Papal visit to Ireland in 1979

Fr Michael Cleary during the Papal visit to Ireland in 1979

Tue, Jul 1, 2014, 01:00

Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has strongly dissociated himself from a parish priest who cast doubt on claims that Fr Michael Cleary had fathered children.

Fr Cleary, who was among the best-known priests in Ireland and a champion of orthodox church teaching on sexuality, died at the end of 1993.

In 1995 it was revealed he had a son, Ross, with his housekeeper Phyllis Hamilton, who subsequently revealed the couple had previously given another son up for adoption.

In his June newsletter for St Brigid’s parish in Cabinteely, Fr Arthur O’Neill described these revelations as “exasperating”, unproven and the result of “shoddy practice” by named journalists, whom he challenged to prove them. He suggested his former clerical colleague had suffered a serious injustice: “The burial of a person’s legacy deeper than their body just isn’t fair – if it’s based on a falsehood.”

Responding to questions from The Irish Times, Archbishop Martin rebuked Fr O’Neill.

“Fr Arthur O’ Neill’s publicly expressed views are his alone and are not supported by Archbishop Martin,” a spokeswoman for Dr Martin said. “Parish newsletters are not vehicles for the expression of personal views. Archbishop Martin fully respects Ross Hamilton’s right to privacy and his right to determine what is said publicly about him.”

Meanwhile, a former confidante of Fr Cleary and Ms Hamilton, who died in 2001, has revealed she “sounded out” the Dublin diocese on their behalf while Fr Cleary was still alive.

In a statement published in The Irish Times today, Róisín O’Shea writes that following the revelation in 1992 that the bishop of Galway Eamon Casey had fathered a son, she urged Fr Cleary to tell his family the truth about his relationship.