By Carl Bunderson
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has transferred his seminarians away from Ireland’s main seminary, St. Patrick’s College, after anonymous accusation emerged of a gay culture at the institution.
The three seminarians, who are studying for the Archdiocese of Dublin, will instead continue their studies at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome.
“There are allegations on different sides. One is that there is a homosexual, a gay culture, and that students have been using an app called Grindr,” Archbishop Martin told RTE Radio Aug. 2.
This “would be inappropriate for seminarians, and not just because they are training to be celibate priests, but (because) an app like that would be something that would be fostering promiscuous sexuality, which is certainly not in any way the mature vision of sexuality one would expect a priest to understand,” he added.
The archbishop also lamented that the allegations have been made anonymously, saying, “the trouble with anonymous complaints is that it’s almost impossible to carry out due process…a culture of anonymous letters is poisonous. Until that’s cleared up, I would be happier sending my students elsewhere.”
Fr. John Gilligan, the vocations/diaconate director of the Dublin archdiocese, told EWTN News Aug. 4 that Archbishop Martin “has the final say and decides where to send [seminarians] for study. To date that has been to Rome where we had three this year and to Maynooth where we had seven.”
He added that “a number of the seminarians in Maynooth have taken time out,” and that three “are to do the remainder of their studies in Rome from September.”
St. Patrick’s College is located in Maynooth, about 15 miles west of Dublin. Established in 1795 and built for some 500 students, it now hosts fewer than 70 seminarians. It includes a pontifical university which grants undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in theology, philosophy, and canon law to non-seminary students of both sexes.
Archbishop Martin had told RTE he was “somewhat unhappy about an atmosphere which was growing in Maynooth.”
He described how “anonymous letters and blogs” were “accusing people of misconduct or accusing the faculty of Maynooth of not treating allegations correctly.”
“If this is going on a large scale in the seminary and it hasn’t been noticed in the seminary, then there is something wrong,” he said.
The archbishop also noted that “there are people saying that anyone who tries to go to the authorities with an allegation are being dismissed from the seminary.”
He said he “offered to provide a totally independent person” to whom whistleblowers could go with their evidence, but that “the answer was simply more anonymous letters.”
“That’s not a healthy culture. We have to find a way where people will come forward with solid hard evidence which can be used to follow up allegations,” Archbishop Martin stated.
He offered that St. Patrick’s College’s formation staff “have to find a way to let people come forward with solid evidence to substantiate the allegations.”
“There seems to an atmosphere of strange goings-on there; it seems like a quarrelsome place with anonymous letters being sent around…I felt that a quarrelsome attitude of that kind was not the healthiest place to be, so I sent them to the Irish College.”
Archbishop Martin said that “I don’t think this is a good place for students. However, when I informed the president of Maynooth of my decision, I did add ‘at least for the moment.’”
“I think a lot more structural reform will be needed at Maynooth,” the archbishop reflected.
Msgr. Hugh Connolly, president of St. Patrick’s College, has said that with no public complaints, no investigation has been made. He told RTE following Archbishop Martin’s interview that the allegations of a gay culture at the seminary made him “very unhappy,” citing the requirement of priestly celibacy.
He added that “the broader atmosphere is, I think, actually quite a wholesome, healthy one because there are a lot of interplay between students of many, many disciplines, lay students and clerics, male and female, people who are engaged pastorally.”
St. Patrick’s College told The Irish Times that it “has no concrete or credible evidence of the existence of any alleged ‘active gay subculture’,” and that it is “not true that seminarians are prohibited from reporting misbehaviour or concerns.”
The college added that it “will be reviewing current policies and procedures with a view to enhancing structures for reporting concerns or/and misbehavior so as to discourage recourse to anonymous correspondence while taking care to ensure due process and justice.”
St. Patrick’s College has been defended in recent days by the Association of Catholic Priests – which aims at, among other things, “a redesigning of Ministry in the Church, in order to incorporate the gifts … of the entire faith community, male and female.”
An Aug. 2 statement by the ACP said St. Patrick’s College “has become a focus of unfair and unwarranted attention, and charged that “the anti-Maynooth issue is being driven by a number of agendas.”
These agendas, the ACP said, include “conservative commentators”, “former students who were deemed unsuitable for priesthood by the seminary authorities”, “right-wing commentators who are unhappy with the focus on the theology of the Second Vatican Council”, and “writers of blogs”.
Other Irish bishops have said they will continue sending seminarians to St. Patrick’s College.
According to The Irish Times, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh said: “We are extremely grateful to Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, for the spiritual, human, pastoral and academic formation that he received there.”
Archbishop Martin of Dublin has been joined in his decision to remove seminarians from Maynooth, however, by Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore.
An apostolic visitation of the Church in Ireland which concluded in 2012 found that “fairly widespread” dissent from Catholic teaching is hampering its renewal.
The visitation called for, wherever necessary, assurance that formation would be “rooted in authentic priestly identity, offering a more systematic preparation for a life of priestly celibacy by maintaining a proper equilibrium between human, spiritual and ecclesial dimensions” and showing “greater concern for the intellectual formation of seminarians, ensuring that it is in full conformity with the Church’s Magisterium.”
It suggested that the pastoral training of seminarians be re-evaluated to ensure “it is sacramental, priestly and apostolic, and duly concerned with preparing candidates to celebrate the sacraments and to preach.”
It also stated that “the seminary buildings should be exclusively for seminarians of the local Church and those preparing them for the priesthood, to ensure a well-founded priestly identity.”