Irish theologian Fr James Good dies after brief illness

Priest was sanctioned after speaking out against church’s teaching on contraception

Irish theologian, Fr James Good, who publically spoke out against a papal encyclical opposing artificial contraception, has died at the age of 94 following a brief illness.

Fr Good was working as Professor of Theology at UCC in 1968 when he publically opposed Humanae Vita, the papal encyclical which supported the Catholic Church's ban on artificial contraception.

He was suspended by the then bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr Cornelius Lucey from preaching and hearing confessions as well as some other priestly duties in his native diocese.

Fr Good, who died in Cork University Hospital, recalled the experience earlier this year in an interview with The Irish Times.


“The process took less than an hour and I was given no opportunity to defend myself,” said Fr Good as he recalled that he continue to lecture in theology and general philosophy at UCC for period.


But “it became increasingly embarrassing for me to be saying parish Masses on Sundays and not being allowed to preach. Being banned from the confessional was also distressing.”

In 1974, Fr Good visited Kenya and decided to move there as he had always wanted to work on the missions. He left for the East African country the next year to work in the Turkana Desert.

When Dr Lucey retired as Bishop of Cork and Ross in 1980 he decided to join Fr Good on the missions in Kenya and the two men became good friends as they worked together for two years.

But, as Fr Good recalled in his interview with The Irish Times, Bishop Lucey “never once referred to my suspension, though he did once say to me that I should go back to my own diocese”.

“I believe that he deeply regretted the suspension but believed that he could not do anything about it. ..... we both understood our position and accepted it,” observed Fr Good.

A native of Nicholas Street in Cork's South Parish, Fr Good was educated by the Christian Brothers and he won a scholarship to Farranferris Diocesan Seminary before going to Maynooth in 1941.

Social thinker

Ordained a priest in 1948, he studied for a Doctorate in Theology and later lectured in All Hallow's College in Dublin before going to Innsbruck in Austria to study philosophy.

He later returned to Cork in the late 1950s where he spent 13 years teaching theology at University College Cork where noted Catholic social thinker, Prof Alfred O'Rahilly was president.

Upon his return from East Africa in 1999, Fr Good retired and lived in Douglas and it is there at St Columba's Church that his funeral mass is scheduled to take place on Thursday at 3pm.

Fr Good’s body is to be donated for medical research at UCC where he was conferred with honorary doctorate in literature in 1999 “as a scholar and a man of courage of whom UCC is proud”.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times