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Dr Martin swayed by Maynooth seminary complaints

05 August 2016

ST PATRICK'S COLLEGE, MAYNOOTH

Worship space: St Mary's Oratory, where seminarians and the College community attend the daily eucharist and morning and evening prayer

Worship space: St Mary's Oratory, where seminarians and the College community attend the daily eucharist and morning and evening prayer

THE Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, is to stop sending seminarians from his diocese to St Patrick’s College at Maynooth, Co. Kildare, the national seminary for training priests in Ireland, and seat of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, after allegations of intimidation and gay activity there.

Gardaí are currently investigating complaints from a former seminarian concerning allegations of sexual harassment at the college, which is outside Dublin. The seminarian left the college in 2009. The allegations concern gay and heterosexual activity among a few of the 55 seminarians.

Dr Martin, who last week was in Krakow, Poland, for World Youth Day, said that he was unhappy with the situation at Maynooth, and has been quoted in the Irish Times as saying he was sufficiently disturbed by what he had been told, to stop sending trainee priests there, at least for the moment. “There seems to be an atmosphere of strange goings-on there; it seems like a quarrelsome place, with anonymous letters being sent around. I don’t think this is a good place for students,” he said.

Dr Martin said that he was sending the three Dublin seminarians to Rome to continue their studies there. The Rector of the Irish College in Rome, Mgr Ciarán O’Carroll, has confirmed that they will be transferring there this autumn.

Dr Martin appears isolated from his fellow bishops, including the Archbishop of Armargh and Primate of all Ireland, Dr Eamon Martin. They are continuing to send student priests to Maynooth, and have come out in support of the college.

The President of Maynooth, Msgr Hugh Connolly, said on Monday that, while anonymous correspondence containing allegations had been circulating, it was not true that the general atmosphere was unpleasant. He admitted being worried about allegations that some seminarians were using a gay dating app, but said he had found no firm evidence that this was true.

“The broader atmosphere is, I think, actually quite a wholesome, healthy one, because there is a lot of interplay between students of many, many disciplines, lay students and clerics, male and female, people who are engaged pastorally,” he said. He described allegations of breaches of celibacy as worrying, and, if there was any truth in them, as “simply incompatible with life in a seminary”.

A spokesman for the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland said that the response to such damaging allegations required more than “moving a few students to Rome and offering a few unconvincing reasons for the decision”.

The controversy was damaging for the Irish RC Church, and Irish priests should be trained in their own country, he said.

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