Censured priest warns over secrecy


A high-profile Catholic priest censured by the Vatican for his writings has warned  that the creation of a "veil of secrecy" worked against efforts to prevent clerical child abuse.

Fr Brian D'Arcy, a broadcaster and newspaper columnist, said he had not challenged church doctrine but was censured for articles on a number of issues, including criticism of the church response to sex abuse scandals.

The priest, from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, who is a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio 2 and Radio Ulster and writes a religious column for the Sunday World newspaper, was censured by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

The four articles by Fr D'Arcy concerned 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 (67), said he was told 14 months ago of the disciplinary action which means he must submit his writings and broadcasts to an official censor. News of the episode only emerged publicly over recent days.

Today he said the sanction was prompted over a complaint about a headline on an article he had written, a letter on homosexuality he had published in his column, plus his fierce criticism of the church’s handling of child abuse scandals in Ireland.

"One of them was that I was critical of the Vatican, in particular the Pope, about views on how the sexual abuse of children should be handled, and that I seemed to be pointing that all the blame was going back to Rome," he said on RTÉ Radio's Marian Finucane programme yesterday.

"Now I never said all the blame was going back to Rome, but if we're honest about it, I think some must go back to Rome," he said.

"And that is a sort of self-obvious fact. How can anybody be criticised for saying a self-obvious fact?

"I must also take responsibility as a man who lived through this - and in some cases lived with men who abused and didn’t see it - God you know, that’s what keeps me awake at night now I have to say.

"This is where the secrecy, the non-questioning mind - and therefore anybody that speaks out at all is bound to be silenced or gagged, or whatever word you want to use, censured is the word I prefer - if you go back to that, no matter what other structures you put up around the protection of children, it won’t work.

"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 'that, or that, or question why about that', then the secrecy veil comes in again, and children will not be protected."

He added: "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 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 Sean Fagan and Capuchin priest Fr Owen O’Sullivan.

Fr D'Arcy, a member of the Passionist Order who has also criticised mandatory celibacy for priests, said there must be room for discussion in the church, or else there would be little point in him being a priest. He said he had been told his media work reached people who might otherwise not experience religion in their lives.

"I want to use that gift for the church that I have grown up in, that I have given 50 years to this year, of committed service, that I love," he said. "I don't want to end in failure, and say the Catholic Church that I believed in and would grow to be something beautiful, was not what it appeared to be.

"I think that would be the ultimate crucifixion."

Additional reporting: PA