Belfast Telegraph

Censured priest warns over secrecy

A high-profile Irish priest censured by the Vatican for his writings has warned that the creation of a "veil of secrecy" worked against efforts to prevent clerical child abuse.

Father Brian D'Arcy, a broadcaster and newspaper columnist, said he had not challenged church doctrine but was censured for articles on a number of issues, including criticism of the church response to sex abuse scandals.

The priest, from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, who is a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio 2 and Radio Ulster and writes a religious column for the Dublin-based Sunday World newspaper, was censured by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Father D'Arcy, 67, said he was told 14 months ago of the disciplinary action which means he must submit his writings and broadcasts to an official censor. News of the episode only emerged publicly over recent days. He said the sanction was prompted over a complaint about a headline on an article he had written, a letter on homosexuality he had published in his column, plus his fierce criticism of the church's handling of child abuse scandals in Ireland.

He said: "One of them was that I was critical of the Vatican, in particular the Pope, about views on how the sexual abuse of children should be handled, and that I seemed to be pointing that all the blame was going back to Rome," he said. "Now I never said all the blame was going back to Rome, but if we're honest about it, I think some must go back to Rome. And that is a sort of self-obvious fact. How can anybody be criticised for saying a self-obvious fact?

"I must also take responsibility as a man who lived through this - and in some cases lived with men who abused and didn't see it - God you know, that's what keeps me awake at night now I have to say. This is where the secrecy, the non-questioning mind - and therefore anybody that speaks out at all is bound to be silenced or gagged, or whatever word you want to use, censured is the word I prefer - if you go back to that, no matter what other structures you put up around the protection of children, it won't work.

"Any system depends on the integrity of the person carrying out the system. And if the person carrying out the system is afraid to talk about 'that, or that, or question why about that', then the secrecy veil comes in again, and children will not be protected."

He added: "I speak strongly about this and I will make no apologies. I don't mean it to be an offence to anybody when I say this, but if people expect me, who was abused twice in my life, to be silent about issues and about the protection of children, I can't do that."

Father D'Arcy, a member of the Passionist Order, who has also criticised mandatory celibacy for priests, spoke out in an interview on Ireland's RTE radio. Messages sent to the Marian Finucane radio show were mainly in support of the priest, but one member of the public left a message asking if Father D'Arcy had forgotten his duty of obedience to the Catholic Church.

The clergyman recalled what he said was the "greatest sin" of his life, when as a novice he was ordered by a superior to cut down 20 cherry trees because the senior figure did not like them. But the trainee priest was challenged the next day by the gardener who was upset by the destruction, since he had planted the trees 15 years before. Father D'Arcy said: "I was obedient to the letter, and committed a sin. Obedience is not blind."

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