Clerics who became fathers had ‘loving’ relationships - Fr Brian D’Arcy

Priest says actor Frank Kelly struggled with conscience over Fr Jack role in Fr Ted show

Censured priest Fr Brian D'Arcy has defended Fr Michael Cleary and Bishop Eamon Casey, who fathered children, as "loving" in their relationships with women.

"The only thing that Mick did wrong was keep it a secret," said Fr D'Arcy, who was censured by the Vatican in 2010 for his perceived liberal views on Catholic Church teachings.

He believes the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which acknowledges the equal right to life of mother and unborn, would be repealed in a referendum.

The priest also disclosed that late actor Frank Kelly had great difficulty in conscience with playing the role of Fr Jack in the Fr Ted comedy series.


In an interview with Hot Press magazine, Fr D'Arcy described his reaction on finding out that his friend Fr Cleary had two children as one of absolute shock.

‘I wasn’t disgusted’

“Not shocked in the sense of disgusted. I wasn’t disgusted: I was disappointed that Michael, who talked to me about almost everything, felt that he couldn’t talk to me about that. As I discovered afterwards, he wanted to – but others had stopped him. And that’s understandable.”

As to whether Fr Cleary was in love, he said: "I often think that what Michael Cleary or Eamon Casey – and others – had done was loving. It was a kind of difficult, but real, relationship that he stood by.

“I wish he had said that and done that in public at the time. The only thing that Mick did wrong was keep it a secret. He was somebody in a loving relationship, who, in as far as they can, carries through the responsibility.”

As to the possible hypocrisy involved, he said: “There are many people who will say to me that Michael said one thing and did another thing. There’s a bit of truth in that. But knowing him as well as I did, he had a very difficult life.

“What we saw was the bubbly personality of Michael. We talked about many things – and I don’t think Michael had many happy days, let’s put it that way.”

Commenting on the Father Ted comedy series, he said: "I knew Frank Kelly, who played Father Jack, exceptionally well."

Kelly had two uncles who were also members of the Passionist congregation, of which Fr D’Arcy is a member.

“Frank himself had great difficulty with doing Fr Jack. Frank was a very loyal, practising, solid Catholic, who went to Mass every day himself. But to me, it was merely a cartoon form of exaggeration. It had a certain truth in it - and that’s what made it funny.”

Fr D’Arcy had “no doubt” but that the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution would be repealed. “But I still feel that we should try to save all lives. If some life is taken in the process of that, as a byproduct of it – that’s honestly fine. There is no moral law against it at all.”

Same-sex marriage

As to the issue of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, where he lives, he said: "It won't happen, strangely enough, as long as you have a unionist majority." But he could not see himself presiding over a same-sex marriage: "In the present circumstances, no."

On women priests in the Church he said: “I have to be very careful to how I answer this. If I answer a straight yes – which is how I feel – then I could get the second yellow card and be silenced forever.”

It was “one of the issues that got me into trouble with the Vatican. I actually do believe that women should become priests.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times