29Apr Jimmy McPhillips defends Brian D’Arcy.

Good Shepherd Sunday has Jesus show us a leader’s true character, for a true leader is concerned for those in their care, and not in their own self-interest.

Sadly, for the second time in a few short weeks, I find it necessary to pen these words in support of a fellow priest, who finds himself censored for expressing his views on Church discipline.

Fr. Brian D’Arcy is a fellow Fermanagh man, a colleague and member of our Diocesan Branch of the ACP. Brian is a much loved and respected priest, who always comes across as warm, caring, honest, and courageous. Brian’s unique ministry has touched many Catholics and priests down the years, meaningfully and successfully evangelising where very few others has ventured.

Many Catholics comment on what a different Church we could have in Ireland, if priests, freed from fears and jealousies, would strive to emulate Fr. Brian. Then the Gospel would take precedence over the institution, and compassion would come before regulations and man made rules.

There is without doubt a great crisis within our Irish Catholic Church today. Many priests are struggling to remain faithful to a Church that they genuinely desire to bat for every day of their ministry. Alas! this cherished Church is now experienced as disconnected from pastoral relevancy and many of the faithful. Many of our people now speak of remaining faithful to Jesus, not Church leadership, as they seek to live out what it means to be a Catholic in Ireland today and so amongst the faithful, a redefinition of what it means to be Catholic is happening before our very eyes. Regretfully many in leadership roles are simply not listening, not heeding what is actually going on before their eyes.

Our Church at times comes across as hostile and cold towards those in second relationships, distant from many of the unemployed, the working class, from women, and those whose sexual orientation differs from the accepted sexual mores. The majority of our young people now seem to feel disconnected from our Church. They feel we don’t know them, and we are not interested. When they join us, they experience a yawning gulf between what we celebrate in Church, and what they experience in their lives.

Many of our lay faithful also experience this crisis, as they see separate groupings seek influence, vying for power and control. It appears conservative Traditionalists, driven by fear, the opposite of faith, now hold sway. They seem more interested in conformity and control than in Gospel values and humanity. Their main target seems to be anyone or anything that promotes the vision, aim, and processes of the Second Vatican Council. Anything that empowers people threatens their clericalism. The saddest truth is that these attitudes and practices are not confined to the Vatican.

Fr. Brian D’Arcy and other censored or silenced priests are not calling for a discussion on creedal statements, articles of faith, or dogmas. They seek respectful and mature debate on issues of Church discipline and practice that are now perceived as counterproductive to faith. These issues have largely developed for historical, rather than religious or spiritual reasons.

Our Irish Catholic Church urgently needs greater leadership from our Bishops. Many of them have invaluable experience, academic ability, pastoral awareness, and could offer much needed inspiration and direction at this time of crisis. It is said that the weakest members in our Catholic Church are those in positions of authority. They are kept isolated, have more to lose, and are more vulnerable to Vatican control. Whatever happened to Vatican Two Collegiality, and the authority of the local bishop? Silence is the safest option and course, but not the defender of truth and victims. It does little to promote Gospel values. We need not a silent leadership, but a more listening and respectful Church, willing and able to discuss differing views, with less judgement, censoring, or silencing.

Instead of digging into the trenches and erecting defence barriers, we need to work together out of the Manual Jesus gave us, and accept the challenges of evangelisation in our times. The reality of a clerical Church that now seems so out of touch, out of ideas, and as some would suggest almost out of time, being the best channel for the Holy Spirit to lead us in modern times, is the subject of another urgently needed debate in our Church.

14 Responses

  1. Mary O Vallely

    “They seem more interested in conformity and control than in Gospel values and humanity.”
    I would ask bishops and high-powered clergymen to think back. Before you were a priest you were a man.You experienced joy, love, compassion.Think of the reason you became a priest, think of the love you felt towards suffering humanity, think of how you felt as you tried to walk in the footsteps of the Galilean who had a special love for the poor, the marginalised, women, the outcasts in society. Reach out with your hands and ears and hearts. Listen. Listen to the voices of the people, priests and laity, in your parishes. Answer with your heart. We are in a state of crisis and there is such a danger of polarisation in our Irish Church. For God’s sake, waken up, listen and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart.
    Just want to make one other point.I felt privileged today to be part of the Silent Protest outside the Nunciature in Dublin, to meet up with wonderful, good humoured Spirit-filled people of real faith and compassion.There was such a sense of solidarity and I thank all those I met for their warmth and companionship. God love all those who are suffering. We will keep you close in prayer. God bless.
    Mary V (Armagh city)

  2. Julie Moran

    I happened to be a Eucharistic minister in my parish this morning and as, I knew, it was Vocation Sunday I was surprised when our priest made no reference to the day.
    Afterwards, in the sacristy, I gently mentioned it, and his response to me was “well after what the church had done to good men who have given their lives to working in the Vineyard, in conscience, I couldn’t ask anyone to consider joining now”.
    His words stunned me. They have stayed with me all day and as I pray for him and those men who have been treated so badly by our church, I just wonder does it explain why God has stopped calling labourers to work in his Vineyard.
    Oh God send forth your spirit and renew the face of your church.

  3. Jane Murphy

    Might I say, I would not regard this piece as a ‘strong’ article, but rather a very honest, truthful and Christian insight into what has happened to Brian Darcy and other priests.
    It is incredible, the extent to which the vast majority of Irish Catholics both understand and appreciate the enormous contribution that debate, discussion and dialogue can bring to every area of one’s life, including one’s spiritual life.
    And to think that our church leaders are now telling us- through the action they have taken against men like Brian Darcy – not to do this, is simply incredible.
    It makes no sense at all and I can only pray our Bishops hear clearly how much we reject and abhor this kind of action. It has no place in church, in faith or in any modern society.
    As a regular mass goer, what the church authorities in Rome have done, they have not done in my name, or I believe, in the name of the vast majority of us Irish Catholics.
    I agree that ‘it appears conservative traditionalists, driven by fear, the opposite of faith, now hold sway’ in Rome but they are a very small group. So let’s not lose sight of the vast majority.
    Perhaps we have not been vocal enough in the past.
    Perhaps it will take the exposure of this abuse of ‘silencing and censoring’ priests to get us to speak out.
    Listening to Brian Darcy with Marian Finucane yesterday on RTE was a wake up call and one we shouldn’t easily forget.

  4. Soline Humbert

    There is an interesting article entitled “The place of Silencing in the Teaching of the Church” by Sr. Jeannine Gramick SSND, who has first hand knowledge of the issue:
    http://www.womenpriests.org/teaching/gramick.asp
    Like Mary V I had the privilege to be part of the Silent Vigil outside the nunciature. To paraphrase St Teresa of Avila: “God has no voice but ours”. Love urges us to speak out.
    May those who are unjustly silenced and censured know they are not alone in their suffering, but remembered especially in our Eucharistic celebrations.

  5. John Moley

    What a pity we each could only speak to a dozen or so at the gates of the Nunciature today. Alas there were so few young people to share our concern. Have we failed them? A victim of abuse rather harshly blamed us all. Jimmy McPhillips, please God we have not yet run out of time. Beirigi bua.

  6. Susan Morgan

    I was really saddened when I heard of the Vatican’s action against Fr Brian D’Arcy. As a native of Fermanagh, now living in Co Down, I have had the great privilege of listening to Fr Brian speak on numerous occasions and have found him to be inspiring and honest. He is the reason I have not abandoned the Church before now! If the hierarchy continue to go down this route of persecution of good and honest priests, I will sadly have to re-consider again my membership!

  7. Jim Stack

    In reply to Julie Moran: In many other sacristies around the country, the question did not arise, because the priest did what he was supposed to do i.e. he preached on vocations. He might have done so with an equally heavy heart, because he felt betrayed by his fellow-priests who, not content with dismissing their own vows of obedience, accuse faithful priests like him of being “driven by fear, the opposite of faith”. But he did it, nevertheless, because that was the job he signed up to.

  8. Clare McMahon

    I don’t know Tony Flannery, but have reason to believe that he is a very compassionate and caring priest. I have read and been inspired by some of Owen O’Sullivan’s past articles in ‘The Furrow’ and only recently discovered that he too has been censured and silenced. Yesterday I listened to Fr Brian D’Arcy on RTE Playback and learned that he was censured over a year ago, but continues to work within the constraints imposed. I am told that there are other Irish priests too who have been silenced or censured over the past couple of years, usually connected with their responses to live pastoral issues.

    I find something deeply shocking in the way the CDF operates – echoes of the ancient Inquisition or even of the STASI in their secretive investigations and judgements. Communications to ‘offenders’ appear to be made indirectly through religious superiors with very little room for appeal. Complainants can remain anonymous. I simply cannot comprehend the apparent lack of Christian compassion or respect for the individual, let alone the basic human justice that our church frequently calls for in addressing secular governments. I find myself asking – Can this be of Christ?

    That said I found Fr Brian’s interview with Marian Finucane both moving and strangely encouraging. He spoke with humility – pained and bewildered perhaps, but totally faithful to his calling. I heard no anger and no recriminations, and – despite the implications of censure – not a hint of disobedience.

    And so I ask, can somebody please explain to me how a church leadership that we are to accept as representing the love and compassion of Christ can act in this way. It is so difficult at times to see a connection between the structures of governance as we experience them and the clarity of the gospel message regarding the kind of leadership Jesus advocated e.g. Mt.20:25ff. As a mature, active and committed Irish Catholic I find it difficult sometimes to just hang in there. These actions of the CDF make it harder and harder.

    Although I have difficulties with how the Church operates at the centre: the workings of its ‘civil service’ and its distance from people struggling on the margins, at parish level it is a different experience. I thank God for Fr Jimmy and the many committed, hardworking priests throught our land who are in touch with the real issues and respectful of people as they are. I feel deeply for those who have worked tirelessly and selflessly and been censured or silenced. My message to you: Remember when you are feeling a bit down-hearted that we care and we really appreciate you!

  9. Jane Reilly

    What a wonderful article by Fintan O’Toole in today’s Irish Times under the heading ‘Vatican loud on liberals but silent on abuse’. Clearly written by someone not aligned to either side of this present debate,(i.e The Irish Catholic newspaper or the ACP association), I found his comment to be credible, insightful and revealing.
    I would suggest that it should be considered for your website.
    Many of us – post Vatican 11 church people- could understand a lot from it, I believe.

  10. Mary Donlon

    I am appalled at the recent silencing of Fr Brian D’Arcy, Fr Tony Flannery and the other Priests. Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus just preach to his disciples. He preaches, and teaches all he comes in contact with including sinners, Pharisees, prostitutes, his betrayer Judas and Pilot the Roman Governor. How can the Vatican and the Pope silence someone. It seems a cowardly act to silence someone using an intermediary. By what authority is this done? If it is possible by some Law of the Church – it is a bad law. The Pope seeks dialogue with other churches and faiths, but for some reason he cannot speak with his own priests. It is time for us the laity to support these men who have given their lives to the church and the people they serve. I wish every success to the Assembly (I am unable to attend)and am available to help or support in any way I can.

  11. Pól Ó Duibhir

    Listened to Brian D’Arcy on the Marian Finucane Show
    [available here: http://www.rte.ie/podcasts/2012/pc/pod-v-28041243m16smfsbriandarcy-pid0-2596368_audio.mp3 20MB]
    .
    Made me cry
    Made me angry
    Made me afraid
    .

  12. Clare McGoldrick

    @Mary ‘ By what authority is this done? ‘

    Perhaps they were medidtating on Jesus clearing out the temple?

  13. Rev. Brenda Bennett

    Father Brian D’Arcy brought the love of God to thousands of men & women through his “Sunday Half Hour” BBC broadcasts.
    In particular, his message reached the elderly, the disabled & the home bound – those who are the most marginalized in today’s world.

    Ministry to the marginalized was the very vocation Jesus claimed as his own. (Luke 4:18-21).

    Blessings,
    Brenda Bennett (Rev.)

  14. Frank McManus

    I too wish to join with the many voices defending Brian Darcy and others who have recently been censored or silenced by the CDF.

    Over the past four decades Brian Darcy has been for many the compassionate face of the Catholic Church in Ireland. He has helped many people to shoulder their burdens through his unique ministry and through the traditional ministry that his congregation offers. He has also ruffled the feathers of many who were trapped in the anti-gospel attitudes of moralism and self-righeousness.

    In the gospels there is a conflict between moral and theological purity on one hand and compassion on the other hand. It is obvious that Jesus is on the side of compassion. I do not suggest for a moment that he favoured moral or theological immpurity but that for him compassion was the priority. Compassion is more that just being nice and kind to people. It is the ability to share the burden of others. In the Gospels and the New Testament it is the very definition of God.

    Also in the New Testament among the ministries of the early Church mentioned was prophecy. For some reason its recognition did not last long in the Church. Prophets are neither liberals or conservatives. Their function is to keep us honest and true to what we are about. Thats why they ask the awkward questions and can be quite a nusuince. In the Old Testament they were often accused of undermining morale.

    Brian and Tony Flannery have been known for both over the years. They have said and written controversal things. Although I do agree with all they have written and said, they had the courage to say many things that I and others agreed with but did not have the courage to say.

    These affairs and others have drawn attention to the vow of obedience that deacons, priests, bishops and religious take. Over the past few days I have been trawling through my memory to try and remember what was said about obedience in the seminary. The real truth was it was not fleshed out in a mature way. Does it mean military style obedience in which an inferior carries out the order of a superior without question? Does it mean we leave our God given personal consciences behind when we are ordained or professed?

    It was only many years later when on sabbatical, I listened to Fr Jim McManus speak of the latin root of obedience- to listen deeply.

    If we could only do that to each other in the Church, listen deeply and respectfully to one another then we could be the compassionate and prophetic face of Christ in a broken and divided world.