Atmosphere at Maynooth ‘poisonous’, says seminarian

‘Culture of fear not compatible with seminary life,’ says St Patrick’s College president

A seminarian at St Patrick's College Maynooth was so fearful of being identified in a radio interview yesterday about the situation that he requested his voice be dubbed by an actor.

The seminarian, voiced by an actor, told RTÉ reporter Brian O'Connell that "one of the elements which is destroying life in the seminary is the existence of a homosexual subculture".

He added that, in his opinion, “the bishops have turned a blind eye to this problem”.

He continued that "to hear the college president Msgr Hugh Connelly say on Drivetime a few days ago that there is a 'healthy and wholesome' atmosphere in the seminary was extremely disappointing and far-removed from the experience of seminarians".

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“Neither I, nor I suspect the majority of seminarians, would describe the atmosphere in the seminary this past year as anything other than poisonous,” he said.

‘Evidence’

Also on the same RTÉ Radio One

Today with Sean O’Rourke

programme, hosted yesterday by Keelin Shanley, former seminarian at the College Francis McLoughlin (31) said that “from my experiences of being an undergraduate and a seminarian I can see, and I have my evidence for it, that there is an attraction for men with a same-sex attraction to the seminary.”

On why he left St Patrick’s College last May, he said “a friend of mine allegedly witnessed two seminarians engaged in inappropriate behaviour. Myself and another seminarian brought that to the attention of the authorities, not revealing the man who allegedly witnessed it, because he was afraid he would be asked to leave if he was known.”

Mr McLoughlin said there was a culture of "keep your head down" in Maynooth seminary, in his experience

Robust procedure

On the same programme the president of St Patrick’s

College Maynooth Msgr Connolly

said the seminary had a robust complaints procedure, but that they are looking at ways of improving procedures.

He said this independent complaints body represents best practice. It contained no clerics and was made up of lay people, who came from law enforcement, from safeguarding and from arbitration and adjudication backgrounds.

Seminarians are informed of the complaints body at the beginning of the year, he said. Msgr Connolly also said he took the step of emailing every seminarian to make them aware of the procedure.

He said he did not believe there was a gay subculture within the seminary. “As soon as something like that comes to our attention we will challenge the individual who is living in a non-celibate way.

“A culture of fear is not compatible with seminary life and we do everything we can to make the culture one that is open and honest and where a person very honestly prepares for a celibate lifestyle.

“Clearly if anyone is not living celibately they shouldn’t be in the seminary, very simply there is no reason for anyone to be in formation preparing for a celibate way of life if they are not being celibate.”

He said that “we did get some very difficult stuff to process this year where names were said in anonymous letters. We actually brought this to every single person named in those anonymous letters. We gave them a very clear and very robust opportunity both to engage with us and to tell the truth, which I’m sure they did.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times