‘Great deal more’ behind story of Maynooth seminary

A prominent US canon lawyer has said he suspects “there is a great deal more” to the story of what is happening in the Maynooth seminary.

His intervention comes after it emerged earlier this week Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin will not be sending trainee priests to study at the national seminary this autumn.

He spoke of the “closed, strange world of seminaries” and “strange goings on” in Maynooth as well as allegations of a “homosexual culture”.

“Maynooth is 200 years old. It has a long tradition and a proud tradition but I feel that for the situation in Dublin we probably need a different way in the long term,” he said.

Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin

US canon lawyer Fr Tom Doyle, who has worked with survivors of clerical sex abuse for the past three decades, said Archbishop Martin had made an “excellent decision” in removing his priests from Maynooth.

“I have a lot of respect for his judgement and I presume the decision he made would not have been made without serious reflection on the ramifications as well as without having received some solid information and not just a lot of rumours and innuendos. So I suspect there’s a great deal more to the whole story than what was revealed in the news reports,” he said.

Fr Doyle pointed to a “toxic subculture” in US seminaries and said that if a similar subculture existed in Maynooth, it needed to be addressed “It was toxic in the sense that it involved a lot of backbiting and reputation destruction, that kind of thing. If that’s what he discovered going on in Maynooth and those were the steps he took to protect his own seminarians and his own diocese, then I would respect him for that.

If a subculture like that is going on, it has to be addressed effectively and decisively,” he said.

Fr Doyle said one of the main problems with seminaries is that they are closed, insular places which generate their own sets of social values.

He also said many seminaries were producing “ultra-conservative” priests who are “totally out of touch with the real world”.

“There’s a whole crop of bishops that were produced by John Paul II and Benedict that were very doctrinaire, extremely conservative and controlling. There was very little, if any, true pastoral understanding on the part of these men and they attracted these guys, these kids, young boys who wanted to play at being 1950s priests.

“They wanted to go around in the vestments of the pre-Vatican era. They wanted to recreate the heavy clericalist atmosphere of that era where priests were literally put on pedestals and really did believe they were something special and deserved all this deference. That is deadly,” he said.

Fr Doyle said such teaching had “nothing to do with following Christ” and everything to do with creating a “very pathological, controlling environment”.


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