Belfast Telegraph

Priest's daughter hits out at Catholic Church's 'cruel' celibacy rule

Father Arty McAnerney
Father Arty McAnerney

By Staff Reporter

A woman whose father was a priest has spoken for the first time about their relationship and how growing up she said she "didn't know any different".

Father Arty McAnerney admitted to parishioners at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Beragh, Co Tyrone he had a daughter in November 1998.

He told how he had a daughter following a relationship with a women when he worked as a curate in Drogheda.

His parishioners greeted the statement with applause and for the next two decades he continued his work. Fr McAnerney, who served in parishes across Armagh, passed away last month in hospital.

Speaking for the first time to the Irish News, his daughter Dearbhla Clark said: "I've always been proud of my dad and he's always been proud of me. I've never had a problem with any of this stuff.

"Sure my dad was great - he was the only one who stood on the altar and said Mass. My dad was absolutely brilliant, nobody else's dad did that."

Growing up, Dearbhla said she always knew her father was a priest.

"I remember there was a girl on the school bus, I think I was about six to eight, and we had this fight because she could not comprehend that my dad was a Catholic priest," she said.

"I was adamant about it, I was like, 'He is, he is, he says Mass and everything'. You know the way kids go on and she was like, 'No, no, no'.

"It was only in later years that I started realising that it wasn't the social norm and that's when the problems started where things would have been kept quiet."

When it emerged in the news that Fr McAnerney had a child, Dearbhla said she did not know the details of what was going on.

"When the last media coverage happened, I think I was 15 or 16 and it was requested by my mother's solicitor that my dad stopped seeing me, which he did out of respect."

But she reconnected with him after she found his telephone number.

When her father passed away Dearbhla said she was overwhelmed by the support she received as she addressed the congregation.

She said she believes her experience is an example of why priests should be allowed to have children - and Dearbhla believes there may be others out there in a similar situation.

She said: "Quite honestly I think the rules in the Church at the moment are extremely archaic - you cannot expect a man to spend 60/70 years on their own, total celibacy, it is extremely cruel."

Belfast Telegraph


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