A Cork priest has warned of a growing incidence of suicide among the clergy, citing the death of nine of his peers in the last 10 years.
Fr Tim Hazlewood of Killeagh said priests are under the same stress and strain as everyone else and have to battle mental health and addiction problems alongside the rest of the general population.
“In the last 10 years, nine priests have taken their own lives,” said Fr Hazelwood. “There is a perception there that we are not supposed to be weak. Even among ourselves you are supposed to be strong, you are supposed to have ability.
“The reality is that priests represent life. We are the same as everybody else. Some of us have mental health problems, some of us have addiction problems. There is an added stress that is put on to us ourselves and people project that image on to us of perfection. You are supposed to be alright all the time and you are not.”
Fr Hazlewood told The Patricia Messinger Show on C103FM he remembered one Christmas Eve officiating at the funeral of a young girl who took her own life, then having to do the Children’s Mass afterwards. He said days such as that could take their toll on mental health.
“For the last 20 years, priests have had to quietly listen and take on an awful lot of negativity about the profession they love and the life they love and the faith that they love. A lot of priests are very upset over it because that is not what they signed up for or what they represent and yet it is put on them. We have no place to talk about that.”
Fr Hazlewood says some priests fear for their safety. He cites the case of a priest in Cloyne who was verbally attacked at the altar recently by a drunk parishioner.
Fr Hazlewood is a priest in the diocese of Cloyne. A diocesan spokesman said his figures on suicide within the clergy were correct and in line with suicide rates in the general population.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved