Handling of Maynooth seminary claims could ‘damage’ church

Moving trainees from college amid gay subculture claims not fixing more important issues, Fr Brendan Hoban says

Fr Brendan Hoban, a member of the Association of Catholic Priests, has   said he fears that in the long run St Patrick’s College in  Maynooth could be ‘extremely damaged’ by  Archbishop Diarmaid Martin’s action in removing seminarians in response to allegation of ‘strange goings on’ at the seminary.  File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

Fr Brendan Hoban, a member of the Association of Catholic Priests, has said he fears that in the long run St Patrick’s College in Maynooth could be ‘extremely damaged’ by Archbishop Diarmaid Martin’s action in removing seminarians in response to allegation of ‘strange goings on’ at the seminary. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

 

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin is “moving the deck chairs on the Titanic” rather than addressing the important issues facing the Catholic Church in Ireland, a member of the Association of Catholic Priests has said.

Speaking after the Archbishop’s decision to transfer three seminarians to Rome after concerns emerged about “strange goings on” and a gay subculture at St Patrick’s College in Maynooth, Fr Brendan Hoban said he did not understand Dr Martin’s intentions.

“Behind all of this is the bigger question of vocations to the priesthood,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“Dublin has 99 parishes, over a million Catholics, and only one diocesan priest under the age of 40. So it seems extraordinary that attention is being given to what seems to be moving deck chairs on the Titanic rather than getting to the issues that are important.”

Dr Martin’s move follows anonymous allegations being circulated about seminarian activities in Maynooth, including that some had been using a gay dating app.

Authorities at Maynooth said they had “no concrete or credible evidence of the existence of any alleged ‘active gay subculture’”.

‘Damaged’

Fr Hoban said he feared that in the long run Maynooth could be “extremely damaged” by the Archbishop’s action in this case.

“It’s the only show in town, the only seminary in Ireland.”

He added: “The reality is that the allegations of sexual activity were investigated by Cardinal Dolan back in 2011 when the Rome and Maynooth investigations took place and were seen to have no substance”.

Fr Hoban said the reality was that in a seminary “you are always going to have a mixture of gay and heterosexual candidates, that has always been the case, and there will be - from time to time, incidents that people would prefer didn’t happen. But they do happen, human nature being what it is”.

“Looking at it overall there doesn’t seem to be anything substantially proven. Allegations have been made, particularly by disgruntled students, and the reality is that authorities in seminaries have to make difficult decisions sometimes. Decisions that bishops don’t like particularly that students don’t like and they have to take responsibility for that,” he said.

‘Strange world’

Fr Hoban agreed with Archbishop Martin’s description that seminaries were a “closed strange world”.

“Seminaries always were, there is a hot house atmosphere. People have been arguing for years that it needs to be reformed,” he said.

“We have no problem with seminaries being reformed, we think they should be. But we don’t think making a big song and dance about it and moving students to Rome is any contribution to seminary reformation.

“There is a need to keep feet on the ground and not to be changing things that don’t need to be fixed.”