Belfast Telegraph

Catholic bishop Donal McKeown: I would love to have been a dad

By Sarah Mac Donald

The new Catholic Bishop of Derry has spoken of how he would have loved to have been a father.

Bishop Donal McKeown, who is due to be installed in St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry on April 6, added that he loved female company but of marriage he said "it was not my vocation".

The Co Antrim-born bishop also warned the pro-life movement that it needs to stop "screaming" at people over abortion, warning them: "You can't hate people into loving life."

On the issue of clerical celibacy, Bishop McKeown said that he "would have loved to have been a daddy".

Admitting he finds celibacy "difficult," he added: "Single life isn't that easy, neither is married life. Any notion that there is the hard way of life and an easy way of life is a false dichotomy."

He grew up in Randalstown, and because his father was one of 13 and his mother was one of eight, he was surrounded by a large extended family, a network which he describes as "a very healthy environment" in which he was comfortable with women.

"I need female company in my life," he said and explained that thanks to this network of sisters, cousins and married friends, he was able to tune into women's views and perspectives.

When he told his mother in 2001 that he was going to be made an auxiliary bishop, she asked: "Could they not get somebody else?"

The 63-year-old also called on the pro-life movement to "find a way of loving people into loving life", he added: "Screaming in their faces will not do anything in that respect."

He said "screaming at one another is not acceptable from people who are pro-life."

The bishop, who has been an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Down and Connor since 2001, was appointed on February 27 as the new leader of the cross-border diocese of Derry.

He called on Irish society to foster "courteous dialogue between people on the basis that we are all trying to create a better society."

The bishop signalled a realisation by the hierarchy that the Church cannot dictate to the state on the issues such as gay marriage.

He acknowledged that "the state has to make up its own mind about what in the civic sphere is appropriate legislation and good for social cohesion and what helps to create the sort of society they want to build".

But he added: "On the other hand, I think it is important to talk about the dignity of human life and it is important to talk about intimate relations and help people grow from where they are. We have to find ways of speaking the truth in love."


The Most Reverend Dr Donal McKeown was born in April 1950 and raised in Randalstown, Co Antrim. He was the first child of watchmaker James McKeown and Rose (neé McMeel), a primary school teacher. He has three younger siblings; James, Mary and Teresa. His father died in 1998 at the age of 83 and his 92-year-old mother died in 2008. He was educated at Mount St Michael's Primary School and St MacNissi's College, Garron Tower where he was a boarder from 1961-1968. After that he attended Queen's University Belfast until 1973.

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