Controversy over departure of popular Waterford priest

Richard Geoghegan claimed to have been 'dismissed by Rome' but the diocese says he chose to leave of his own accord
Controversy over departure of popular Waterford priest

Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Alphonsus Cullinan told the 'Irish Examiner' that Mr Geoghegan had sought to leave the priesthood of his own accord.

Controversy has flared in the Diocese of Waterford over the departure of a popular priest.

Richard Geoghegan tweeted on Sunday night that he had been "officially dismissed by Rome" and claimed his "Bishop was happy to dispense" with him.

The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore has pushed back on this, contending that Mr Geoghegan has left the priesthood "of his own accord".

Mr Geoghegan was a longtime priest in south Tipperary, covering Carrick-on-Suir and other parts, and is the brother of former Mayor of Waterford, Fine Gael councillor Damien Geoghegan.

He came under fire in 2017 by an international right-wing Catholic publication following an appearance in an RTÉ programme hosted by hotelier Francis Brennan, where he performed in drag as singer Shirley Bassey.

He tweeted: "I entered seminary in 1987 at the age of 19. I was ordained in 1993 at the age of 25. On 7/1/22 I was officially dismissed by Rome. On Friday 14/01/22 my Bishop was happy to dispense me."

Mr Goeghegan added: "I’m a good man. And he talks about the shortage of vocations."

Church in crisis

The crisis facing the Church due to a lack of priests has been referenced in the past by both Pope Francis and Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Alphonsus Cullinan.

However Bishop Cullinan told the Irish Examiner that Mr Geoghegan had sought to leave the priesthood of his own accord.

"Richard Geoghegan petitioned Pope Francis for laicisation from the priesthood on 31st March 2021," Bishop Cullinan said.

"At the meeting last March, Richard attended the diocesan offices, in the company of a chosen colleague, to sign the request to the Holy Father for laicisation.

"On 15th December 2021, Pope Francis granted Richard Geoghegan’s petition, meaning that he is no longer a priest.

"I wish to acknowledge and thank Richard for his pastoral ministry over the years and wish him well for his future."

Local councillor David Dunne said it was known there have been disagreements between Mr Geoghegan and the Church hierarchy.

"Fr Richard has my one hundred percent support. He's one of the nicest men and is extremely well liked in Carrick," Mr Dunne said. 

It's people like him who will make the Church relevant and who are needed by the Church — not the other way around.

Tributes were paid on social media to Mr Geoghegan for his work as a priest, with two saying he had been "treated abysmally" in recent years.

Some of his 3,400-strong social media following were surprised to learn he was a man of the cloth, and instead knew him for his tweeting on Waterford matters, musicals and events of the day.

Parishioner Nicola Long told him: "You were, and still are, and will continue to be a wonderful person. You are part of practically every family in Carrick, for being an amazing person in good times and in sorrowful times."

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