Belfast Telegraph

Fr Brian D'Arcy 'fell in love with a woman but I didn't break his vows'

Controversial Enniskillen cleric Fr Brian D'Arcy reveals all in candid television interview

By Laura Abernethy

One of Northern Ireland's best-known clerics has revealed how he fell in love with a woman and questioned whether he should leave the priesthood.

Speaking to journalist Eamonn Mallie in an interview for Irish TV, Fr Brian D'Arcy said: "I did fall in love with a woman but I didn't break any of my vows. It did come down to a should you or should you not leave the priesthood."

The controversial cleric from Enniskillen revealed that the relationship happened after he joined the priesthood in 1962 and although he decided to stay, it has had a lasting impact on him.

"It was the most lovely thing that ever happened to me. It made a man of me," he said, "Everyone that's normal should fall in love and everyone should understand that's an opening out of your spirit. What's the sacrifice of being a priest and being celibate if you don't know what the sacrifice is in the beginning and you don't know what you are giving up."

Fr D'Arcy has been spoken out throughout his career about his beliefs that priests should be allowed to marry if they want to.

He explained: "I definitely regret that I couldn't get married. I would have loved to have got married. I would love to be at a stage now where I'm talking continuously about my grandchildren, like most of my contemporaries. I think I would have left something to the world after that. As I go now, I'll drop out of it and maybe not have left all that much but if that's what God wants, that's what God wants."

He revealed that this was one of several moments where he questioned his life in the priesthood. He said: "I've had to look at my vocation at least five or six times in a 50-year period."

But he added: "I still go to Knock and I still pray and I still am convinced that God wants me to be a priest."

As he was growing up his parents tried to stop him from joining the Church. He grew up in the village of Bellanaleck in Co Fermanagh. His father worked at the nearby railway station and was a well known GAA player.

"My father and mother convinced me for at least a year that I couldn't be a priest. They said 'One: you aren't good enough, two: We don't have the money and three: there's no priests in our family.'"

He added: "My father said I was too interested in music and football to be a priest."

Despite his parents' objections, he went on to became a novice at the Passionist monastery in Enniskillen aged 17.

Throughout his teenage years, he enjoyed attending dances with his older brother because he was "a music nut". Even after joining the priesthood, Fr D'Arcy continued to go to dances up to seven nights a week in Dublin.

He said he would leave the monastery and go to the dance with a collar on every night and would leave people home if they didn't have a lift. He also heard hundreds of confessions in the back rooms of dance halls.

Described as the "unofficial chaplain to the show business community", he went on to make friends with some of the biggest names in Irish broadcasting, including the late Terry Wogan and has had a distinguished broadcasting career of his own.

In the mid-1990s, an appearance on RTE's Late, Late Show provoked controversy after a famous exchange with Cardinal Cahal Daly about abuse within the Catholic Church.

D'Arcy was abused at the age of 10 at school in Omagh and later when he entered the priesthood, a priest tried to involve him in abuse - but never blamed God for what happened.

He said: "One never ever gets over the fact that one was abused. The older one gets, the worse it gets. That's what abuse does to somebody, it destroys your inner soul. God didn't do that. Nothing could be more against what God did than two religious people doing that to what is obviously a vulnerable, idealistic young guy. I never blamed God for that."

  • Eamonn Mallie Meets programme airs on Irish TV tonight at 8pm

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