Bullies among clergy contributed most to fall of Catholic Church in Ireland, says priest

A general failure exists to respect individual in Rome and within religious congregations

The bullying of the people by some clergy played a greater role in Catholic church decline in Ireland than clerical child sexual abuse, a leading Dominican priest has said.

"They had little or no respect for individual people – and not just for minors," said Fr Tom Jordan, editor of Spirituality magazine.

Referring in the current issue to a remark by an unnamed “acute observer of the church in Ireland,” he said “the failure of the church in recent times was due not so much to the abysmal behaviour by some clergy in sexually abusing minors but that some clergy were bullies.”

One of the glaring deficiencies of church practice in recent times was the failure of leadership to respect the individual.


“Consider the number of priests silenced or removed from office because of their expressed views, and without being afforded an opportunity of defending themselves.”

This is understood to be a reference to the five Irish priests disciplined over recent years by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.

He said there were also members of religious orders, who professed obedience to a fraternal and democratic way of living, who were ignored and disrespected by those elected to lead.

“Failure to respect the individual undermines the whole organisation and leads to paralysis of mission, and weakens the mandate and witness of the church.”

Respect was “due to all because all are made in the image of God,” he said.

Recent events worldwide focused attention “on the reality and quality of leadership,” he said. In the West one could be forgiven for asking “where has it all gone wrong?” he said.

An exception was Pope Francis, widely recognised as "a good man driven by the basic insights of the gospel of Jesus Christ – mercy, justice, peace, love, reconciliation," he said.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times