A former senior dean at St Patrick’s College Maynooth said he has a sense of “déjà vu” when reading of the current culture at the college and that he was “shafted” by his superiors when he raised concerns about complaints made against a vice-president there in the 1980s.
In 2005, the Ferns Inquiry found it was “entirely understandable” that Fr Gerard McGinnity felt he was victimised as a result of his raising the concerns of seminarians.
The report detailed how seminarians had expressed concerns over the “allegedly extravagant lifestyle” and “alleged sexual orientation and propensity” of Monsignor Micheal Ledwith, who was vice-president at the college at the time.
Fr McGinnity said reports this week of a culture of secrecy and gay dating at Maynooth had features of what occurred in the college when he raised his complaints.
“It sounds and reads like a déjà vu in many respects, because I can see the features of what occurred 30 years ago repeated in a lot of the narrative about it,” he told RTÉ’s News at One.
Fr McGinnity said six seminarians brought complaints to him when he was senior dean in Maynooth.
“I took them seriously, and I listened and indeed, they were afraid right then, just as we read today about what is happening there, that they might be disciplined if they weren’t taken seriously. So that was why they came to me,” he said.
“I relayed their concerns to a number of the trustees at the time and the situation then unfolded that, to put it in a nutshell, I was shafted and deprived of my position.”
The Ferns report found it was understandable that Fr McGinnity felt victimised as a result of the sabbatical enforced upon him after he raised the seminarians’ concerns.
“Punitive actions of that nature could only deter bone fide complaints to church authorities which should be valued as providing information for the control of those having access to young people,” the report found.
Fr McGinnity said he should have been taken seriously at the time.
“I would say to any would-be whistleblowers: Be prepared for a difficult passage because, and it is very sad that this has had to be said, but unless there is someone there to protect you, and you feel you have recourse to them, then you may well lose everything.
“It was appalling what occurred to me when I came back from the enforced sabbatical that I was sent upon. I found efforts to discredit me and undermine my credibility. This was in clerical circles and I know where it originated.
“Even my subsequent life as a priest was marred by all of that because it didn’t vanish then, and I was put into a soul-destroying appointment which seemed to emphasise my degradation after being removed from Maynooth inexplicably.”
Fr McGinnity said stories emanating from Maynooth have “raised doubts” that anything has changed at the college in terms of mechanisms through which complaints can be made.
“The notion of undermining and threatening people, there was such a culture of that pertaining then,” he said.
Where the bishops stand
Several Dioceses have indicated they will not be following Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s decision not to send seminarians to St Patrick’s College in Maynooth.
A spokesperson for Bishop William Crean in Cloyne said there is currently a student in Maynooth, and there are no plans to desist from sending seminarians there.
A member of staff at the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore said that a spokesperson for Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan would return our call, but no reply was received at time of going to press.
Archbishop Eamon Martin has indicated he will continue to send his seminarians to Maynooth.
Archbishop Michael Neary has told media that he will also continue to send trainee priests to St Patrick’s.
A spokesperson for the diocese of Limerick said Bishop Brendan Leahy was out of the country, and that the diocese has no comment to make.
The Diocese of Ossory said it ‘continues to have confidence in Maynooth’. It is led by Bishop Seamus Freeman.
Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly said that the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly will continue to send seminarians to pursue their studies in Maynooth.
A number of seminarians from the diocese of Down and Connor are studying in Maynooth, and the diocese, headed by Bishop Noel Traynor, has said it will continue to send students there.
Bishop Francis Duffy is the head of the Diocese of Armagh and Clonmacnoise. The diocese has no plans to change training seminarians at Maynooth.
The Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, headed by Bishop Denis Nulty, has students in Maynooth and has no plans to change.
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