The Irish Times
We are witnessing the cruel humiliation of a generation of clergy that deserves better
THERE’S A column I would have written a few years ago, but can’t be bothered to write now. It was a reliable old standby about the latest abuse of power by the institutional Catholic Church. It would be fuelled by anger and by expectation – rage at the hierarchy’s latest folly but an implicit hope that the innate decency of Irish Catholicism would some day be allowed to blossom. There was something real at stake in this argument – the church’s hold on Irish public culture was so strong that everything it did mattered.
I thought about writing one of those columns in response to the Vatican’s censuring of five priests – Brian D’Arcy, Tony Flannery, Gerard Moloney, Seán Fagan and Owen O’Sullivan – simply for saying what most Catholics actually think about celibacy, women priests and homosexuality. But I couldn’t find either anger or hope.
All that’s left is a double dose of sadness – for a generation of idealists; for a society in need of moral leadership that is being given just one more, all too familiar dose of the most abject cynicism.
What we’re seeing now is the sadistic humiliation of a generation of clergy that deserves better. At a simple human level, there’s something genuinely tragic in the fate of these priests: not just those who have been silenced but all their like-minded colleagues. These were once young men and women, mostly in rural Ireland, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. They were infused with the energy of reform and renewal. The priesthood still had glamour, and it was still tied up with familial snobbery, social prestige and institutional arrogance.
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