Belfast Telegraph

Fr Brian D'Arcy reveals how he conducted funeral Mass for the priest who sexually abused him

Father Brian D’Arcy in a television interview with Eamonn Mallie (left)
Father Brian D’Arcy in a television interview with Eamonn Mallie (left)
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Outspoken Co Fermanagh cleric Fr Brian D'Arcy has opened up about why he conducted the funeral Mass of a priest who had sexually abused him.

In a new interview with veteran broadcaster Eamonn Mallie, he also spoke of the often extreme conditions he faced in his early training and why he chose to stay celibate after falling in love with a woman.

Born in 1945, Fr D'Arcy grew up in the countryside area of Bellanaleck near Enniskillen.

He attended the Christian Brothers school in Omagh before starting his training to become a Passioni st priest in 1962 and later transferred to Mount Argus in Dublin.

Speaking on the first episode of the new series of Eamonn Mallie: Face to Face with..., which is broadcast on UTV tomorrow, Fr D'Arcy said he was first abused by one of the religious brothers who taught him at the Omagh school.

He was singled out as a shy country boy miles from home.

"He spotted that in a yard full of kids and he put his arm around me and brought me to his room and I became his recreation for a number of months at that stage," he said.

He was targeted by another priest when he was older during his time in Mount Argus.

"The same thing happened again, it didn't happen to the same extent but it was an attempted rape on me by a priest that I was sent to look after," he said. "He also had spotted that I was a nervous young guy and asked me to look after him when he was sick, allegedly.

"It was in the context of his room that he engaged me in abuse. I suppose I was old enough to spot it at that stage and did do something about it."

Fr D'Arcy said the priest had "manipulated" him with threats of being sent home from the priesthood if he ever spoke out.

"Abusers use holy sin, power, control magnificently to destroy people and that's what he did and that's what he tried to do."

He said he was inspired to forgive his abuser by the "wonderful" peace campaigner Gordon Wilson, who gave a famous interview after his daughter Marie was killed by the IRA in the 1987 Enniskillen bomb.

In later years, the Mount Argus priest who abused him was a member of the community where Fr D'Arcy was the rector.

"He died and it was up to the superior to officiate at his funeral... I would hope I talked to him before he died, helped him to die as well as he could," he said.

"I had hoped that he might say sorry; he didn't but that was his own thing.

"I commended him to God and I hope that God has forgiven him. Yes, I preached at it and said the Mass and I hope I was reasonably just to the good things he had done in his life."

Of his strict early training, Fr D'Arcy recalled whipping himself and only learning his mother was dying one day before she passed. The thinking of the time, he explained, was to make the early stages of training so hard that only those serious about taking their vows would stay.

He said one of the things you had to do was make a scourge for yourself out of very hard twine.

"At night prayer you went up and stripped off and beat yourself," he said. "It was a scourge with five elements on it which was very sore. Your enthusiasm as to how hard you beat yourself was an indication of how serious you were."

Cut off from the outside world, he was in "complete shock" when he was only told his mother was ill the night before her death.

On falling in love with a woman, he said he "almost certainly would have married" if he had not been a priest.

"I couldn't do that because I had committed myself to celibacy. But I'm always convinced that married priests should be the most normal thing in the world," he said.

Eamonn Mallie: Face to Face with... is on UTV tomorrow at 10.45pm

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