Bishops threw priests to the wolves


Sir, – I am a diocesan Catholic priest, originally from Co. Clare, living in Papua New Guinea since 1963, ordained in 1980 and later becoming a naturalised citizen of that country.

In 2010 I attended Mass at the pro-cathedral in Dublin on the first Sunday of Advent. I was recovering from prostate surgery and was due to fly home to Papua New Guinea the next day. As I came out of the church a young lady stopped me for a chat. As we talked I mentioned that I was a priest. Immediately a man left a group of people, standing nearby with placards criticising the church, and pushed his way between us. He proceeded to shout at me, swearing, calling me a paedophile, cursing and telling me to “f…k off!’”

Other people coming out of the church stood and watched and listened without interfering. No one intervened. I escaped and moved away.

The young English lady I’d been talking with followed, very upset, trying to express her distress and concern at what she had witnessed. Later I found that I was literally trembling with rage.

I was not angry at the poor man who had attacked me – I supposed him to be a victim of clerical sexual abuse – but at the bishops.

It was the bishops who had created the environment that gave protection – and indirect and implied encouragement – to the monsters who preyed so voraciously on the most innocent and vulnerable of our people. In doing this they were attacking and undermining the very notion of a vocation to the religious life. Ultimately, they were throwing us to the wolves – we priests and religious seeking to live out our sense of calling to serve our Saviour through ministry to the community. What a betrayal! It was a betrayal of the institutional church itself.

My heart goes out to Pope Francis. On the one hand he clearly wants to belong to the community; hear how he speaks, see his rejection of pomposity and show, his driving about in a small car, and see his response to the young lady who sought a selfie with him in Croke Park the other evening.

On the other hand he is the head of the institution that in so many ways is still rife with clericalism, self-righteousness, arrogance, and a sense of superiority that relegates the laity to a position of insignificance.

God help Pope Francis – he is between a rock and a hard place, he needs support, not endless criticism. Jesus established his church on his apostles. Francis is Peter. The bishops are the apostles. If the apostles are not as one with Peter then what happens to the church? – Yours, etc,



Papua New Guinea.