Social reformer Father Michael Sweetman dies at 82

 

THE DEATH has occurred of the Rev Michael Joseph Sweetman S.J.

Father Sweetman, who was 82, was prominently associated with social reform and the concept of a "just society". He was a member of the Dublin Housing Aid Society and CARE and wrote many articles on social and moral problems. His main ambition, he once said, was to see bad housing conditions eliminated.

He was born in Dublin on March 20th, 1914, and was the seventh child of Roger M. Sweet man, a member of the first Dail, and Katherine Sweetman. He was educated at Mount St. Benedict's, Gorey, Co Wexford, at Clongowes Wood College, Co Kildare, and at University College, Dublin. He studied philosophy and theology at Milltown Park, Dublin.

He joined the Jesuits in 1931 and was ordained a priest in 1945.

Father Sweet man did pastoral and social work up to 1972 and was the prime mover behind the establishment of the Los Angeles Homes, which were set up to house homeless boys. He also gave readily of his time to delinquent boys, often giving them legal advice and helping them with their financial problems.

He lived for a number of years in Dublin's inner city, where he operated an "open house" policy for anybody who needed help, and he also worked in Ballymun's Centre for Faith and Justice.

Father Sweetman was identified with the liberal wing of the Catholic Church and made many pronouncements on controversial issues of the day. He consistently rejected the hierarchical view that the use of contraception was against natural law.

He also argued that many of the problems affecting the disadvantaged were economic as well as religious or moral. He was, on more than one occasion, described as a priest who was "ahead of his time".

The removal takes place to the Church of St Francis Xavier in Gardiner Street, Dublin, this evening, arriving at 5 p.m. Burial will be in Glasnevin Cemetery following Requiem Mass at 11 a.m. tomorrow.