Seminarians dismissed by bishops took case to dean

 

Father Gerard McGinnity, the former senior dean at St Patrick's College Maynooth, who has confirmed that representations were made to him by seminarians there about the behaviour of Mgr Micheál Ledwith towards junior colleagues in the 1983/4 period, is now parish priest at Knockbridge, near Dundalk, Co Louth.

From Derrynoose, in Co Armagh, Father McGinnity was ordained for the Armagh diocese in 1972. From 1973 he taught communications at Maynooth and completed a doctoral thesis on the theology of St Ambrose.

He was appointed a dean in 1973 and became senior dean in 1978 and completed his doctoral thesis on the writings of St Ambrose while in the post. He conducted retreats for diocesan clergy, contributed to RTÉ religious broadcasts, and published a number of books, including Priesthood: Christmen - the Experience of Priesthood Today, a best-seller in 1985.

Following a year's sabbatical from 1984 to 1985 he served as a curate for three years at Stonebridge near Portadown and was then appointed dean at St Patrick's grammar school in Armagh. He was there 10 years before becoming parish priest at Knockbridge three years ago.

Over a period in 1983/4 six senior seminarians at St Patrick's College Maynooth were so concerned about the behaviour of Mgr Ledwith towards their junior colleagues that they "did the unthinkable", as one put it yesterday. "It was not done (for seminarians) to meet bishops."

The six, five of whom were later ordained and three of whom remain priests, arranged separate meetings with the then Catholic Primate, Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich; Cardinal Cahal Daly, then Bishop of Down and Connor; Bishop Colm O'Reilly of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise; Archbishop Joseph Cassidy, then Bishop of Clonfert; Bishop Brendan Comiskey, who became Bishop of Ferns in 1984; Bishop Eamonn Casey of Galway; Bishop Edward Daly of Derry; and the since deceased Bishop James Lennon, an auxiliary bishop in Armagh; and Bishop John Ahern of Cloyne.

They met the bishops in groups of not fewer than two. One bishop advised them to "go back and say your prayers". It was then they approached Father McGinnity.

In a letter to this newspaper last Thursday Cardinal Daly and three bishops disputed the claims that they were approached by the senior seminarians with complaints about the behaviour of Mgr Ledwith towards their junior colleagues. Cardinal Daly, the retired archbishop of Tuam, Dr Joseph Cassidy, the retired bishop of Derry, Dr Edward Daly, and the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Dr Colm O'Reilly, said the complaints were about the former college president's "extravagant" lifestyle.

Members of the group of six have repeated to The Irish Times that they made it explicit to the bishops precisely what they were talking about. There was no confusion in the matter.