A group of Catholic laity, priests and nuns held a silent protest outside the Vatican nunciature in Dublin on April 29. More than 200 protesters, some of whom wore gags over their mouths in the Vatican’s colors of gold and white were at the gates of the papal nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, during the Sunday vigil. They presented a letter at the gates of the nuncio’s residence demanding the revocation of the censure of five Irish priests, whose writings and statements have been called into question.
Among the clerics in question is the popular Fr. Brian D’Arcy, a well-known radio host and columnist who has been critical of the Catholic Church’s handling of cases of sexual abuse of minors. The others are Redemptorist priests Fr. Tony Flannery and Fr. Gerard Moloney, Marist priest Fr. Seán Fagan and Capuchin priest Fr. Owen O’Sullivan. Father D’Arcy has said that he was censured by church authorities because of 4 articles he wrote for the Sunday World newspaper in 2010.
Father D’Arcy has been a firebrand in the contentious debate in Ireland over what has been seen as the failure by Church authorities to adequately safeguard victims of sexual and other abuse, or address discipline for the offenders. A report released last year showed that some Irish bishops were complicit in hiding some offenses. Church authorities from the Vatican have been investigating the response of Irish Catholic officials. The fiery priest told RTÉ radio that he could not be silent about the abuse of children. “Any system depends on the integrity of the person carrying out the system. And if the person carrying out the system is afraid to talk about this, or that, or question why about that, then the secrecy veil comes in again, and children will not be protected,” he said on RTÉ Radio’s Marian Finucane show. He also said, “I speak strongly about this and I will make no apologies. I don’t mean it to be an offence to anybody when I say this, but if people expect me, who was abused twice in my life, to be silent about issues and about the protection of children, I can’t do that.” Fr. D’Arcy must now submit his writings in advance to his superiors in the Passionist order for approval.
According to the Irish Times, Dominican Sister Siobhán Ní Mhaoilmhichil, a member of the order for almost 50 years, said she is angry over the treatment meted out to priests by their church. “These are all good theologians who have worked for the Church for many years and we are here to show our solidarity with them.” For his part, Brendan Butler, a spokesman for We Are Church Ireland, which organized the event, said the Vatican had been heavy-handed. “The treatment of these priests goes against the teachings of Jesus Christ and the church founded by Jesus. These are outstanding priests and people are outraged by the disrespect that has been shown to them.”