Maynooth row 'chance for Church to reflect on nature of sexuality'
The leader of the inter-denominational Corrymeela Community, Padraig O Tuama, believes that the current Maynooth situation "could provide an opportunity for mature reflection by the Catholic Church about the whole nature of sexuality".
His remarks come after the announcement by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, to send his seminarians to the Irish College in Rome because of his concerns about "an atmosphere of strange goings on at Maynooth".
Dr Martin said: "It seems like a quarrelsome place with anonymous letters being sent around.
"I don't think that this is a good place for students."
There have been allegations of bullying and of a "gay subculture" in Maynooth, though this has been strenuously denied by the college.
Mr O Tuama, who is gay, believes that the idea of sending young seminarians to the Irish College in Rome "will not solve the problem if there is anything to solve".
In an exclusive interview, he told the Belfast Telegraph: "This is an opportunity for practical and theological reflection about the dignity of human relations, including intimacy between people, as well as sexual relationships."
Mr O Tuama said: "It cannot be taken for granted at present that those entering a life in the priesthood have been able to come to terms with what it will mean for them in personal and sexual terms.
"The pressure is put on them to adapt.
"Perhaps the pressure should be put on the Church to welcome married clergy across all its expressions and not only the few."
He added: "There is a rich gift that celibate clergy can give to their communities.
"I also believe there is a rich gift that married couples can give as well.
"I don't think that the situation in Maynooth is a crisis between gay or straight clergy or students.
"It really is an opportunity for further mature reflection by the Church for those who are going to be priests and religious."
Padraig O Tuama said that at one point he wanted to become a priest.
Mr O Tuama added: "I was put off from doing so by a ruling from Pope Benedict that it was not possible for a man to enter the priesthood if he had 'the homosexual tendency' for over two years.
"I was prepared to be celibate as a priest.
"However, I would not live in a state of secrecy pretending that I was not gay."
Local Catholic sources and individual clergy, former clergy and laity have remained tight-lipped about the Maynooth controversy.
The Press Office of the Diocese of Down and Connor has issued a one-line statement indicating that it will continue to send its seminarians to Maynooth.
A similar line has also been taken by the other diocesan authorities in Ireland, apart from Dr Diarmuid Martin's Diocese of Dublin.