Martin links Maynooth controversy to handling of child sex abuse

GLEN director encourages gay priests and seminarians to contact LGBT helplines

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin at Maynooth College. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin at Maynooth College. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has linked the issue of gay activity involving seminarians to the treatment of sexual abusers in the Catholic Church, and has challenged authorities to show that Maynooth “has its house in order”.

Dr Martin stood over comments he made last week that a “poisonous” atmosphere had prevailed at the national seminary, and said the decision not to send three seminary students from the Dublin Archdiocese there was taken in June.

Controversy erupted last Monday when allegations of homosexual activity, sexual harassment and the use of gay dating apps among seminarians at Maynooth surfaced.

“I believe when I see something that I am not happy with, that I would be very foolish not to take action about it,” he told RTÉ Radio’s This Week programme.

“One of the things that I constantly recall in the child sexual abuse, which is another matter but it’s linked to this, is on how many occasions something happened and then somebody said ‘well everybody knew there was something wrong there’ and nobody came forward,” he said.

“I think that Maynooth has to come forward and show that is has its house in order and that the procedures there are robust, and that the robust procedures are accessible and that they are being used,” added the archbishop, who questioned the seminary’s internal investigations process.

“Maybe these systems have to be even more independent of the college, they have to have that distance from the college.

“Many of these cases that are coming forward were actually dealt with by the college council rather than by independent investigators. In the past we’ve seen that priests investigating priests, church bodies investigating church bodies is probably not the best way.”

Dr Martin voiced his “surprise” that a meeting of Maynooth’s trustees has not yet been called, and acknowledged that many other bishops do not support his stance on the seminary.

He elaborated further on plans to set up a new priest training system in Dublin that would allow entrants to the vocation to have closer contact with parishes, and indicated that such a model would be more beneficial for their understanding of human sexuality.

Meanwhile, Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) director Brian Sheehan has encouraged any priests or seminarians affected by the controversy to contact the organisation or other LGBT helplines.

He accused the Catholic hierarchy of “ineptness” in dealing with the allegations and said it marked a continuation of the Church’s “demonising” of homosexuality.

“It isn’t a surprise to me that when a furore comes up about this, that the officialdom seems unable to deal with this issue in any human or progressive way,” he told The Irish Times.

“I think you’re creating a very damaging atmosphere for gay and bisexual men who are in the church or who are wanting to join the church. You are creating this poisonous atmosphere not by what seminarians, whether they are gay or straight, do as part of their human experience, but actually how you teach about it.”

Mr Sheehan stated his belief that seminarians accused of homosexual activity would be dealt with more severely than those accused of heterosexual activity, despite the fact that both breach the principle of celibacy prospective priests are expected to adhere to.

“I would suggest that the way the Catholic Church would deal with straight priests who are on straight dating apps would be very different from the way they’re dealing with gay priests on gay dating apps,” he said.

“If you have a deep devotion to God and you want to be a priest, you have to do so in an institution that considers you to be abhorrent and that’s a really difficult thing.”