A very interesting documentary on Father Brian D’Arcy tonight.
Father Brian is a 67 year old priest……attached to the Passionist Order in County Fermanagh. Thru appearances on TV, his radio show and his weekly column in “The Sunday World” (a tabloid), he has attracted a lot of support from ordinary Catholics and a lot of criticism……from the Vatican.
The documentary followed him as he wrestled with his conscience over a period of months. The Vatican has moved to silence him. At one level the documentary was unconvincing……fly on the wall docs never work for me…….the unseen cameras and lights, the off-camera director’s voice and a certain lack of reality. It was always likely that aftersixty minutes of very public angst, Father Brian would announce that he had decided to stay in the priesthood.
I declare a small interest in the priesthood. My cousin much loved but irritatingly “conservative” celebrated fifty years as a priest recently. He has no siblings and frankly our wider family circle has maybe deserted him to some extent……we………..his cousins have or had wives, husbands……children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. We have had to learn to live with fewer certainties than we had in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Seemingly my priest-cousin’s life has stayed the same while ours have moved on.
His fiftieth anniversary of ordination was actually an eye opener. None of his relatives realised that in his own way he has made a major contribution to make peoples lives better. I cannot be specific, except to say his is a story worth telling………..and indeed his religious superiors have advised him (in retirement) to tell the story.
So have I.
I have even offered to spend as long as it takes to write it all down. But my priest-cousin will have none of it. He is……he says a Marian priest ….he has devoted his life to the Virgin Mary and models his life on her discretion or invisibility.
To a non-Catholic……….and to those who have in some way been hurt by the catholic Church, this maybe seems risible…….stupid. I urge anyone thinking of making a comment here to be extremely temperate.
My priest-cousin does not really like priests like Brian D’Arcy or specifically the Association of Irish Priests, a body of priests generally perceived to be “liberal”.
Yet……allowing for the fact that there were unconvincing aspects to the programme, Brian D’Arcy was himself entirely convincing, not least when he spoke about the sexual abuse he suffered as young noviciate at the hands of a confrere ………..and how he later conducted the funeral of his own abuser.
So essentially the programme was a journey……..interesting in itself……as Brian D’Arcy talked thru his dilemna with a “conservative” priest, old friends like actor, Frank Kelly (Father Jack Hackett), an Austrian “liberal” priest and a man (now married) who had been a confrere for ten years (ordained on the same day). He also agonised about marriage……”who would want me……I am 67 years old”. He never broke his vows of celibacy but yes he had been in love. Celibacy it is claimed…….allows the space to love everyone……but this has not been his experience.
But perhaps…….most movingly, he does not have a home. And here is the thing. I have a home. I take it for granted. Of course many people whether or not in the religious life CHOOSE celibacy and enjoy their lives……but Brian D’Arcy shares the loneliness of people who are not happy in their celibacy.
Almost thirty years ago……two nightts before we got married………..I got a phone call (about 11.30pm) from a priest at Clonard (a Redemptorist) who said he would meet me at my aunt and uncles small terraced house in Beechmount and he walked over to see me and (the soon to be) Mrs FitzjamesHorse.
My Uncle Charlie, a very religious man………asked the Redemptorist a question. Referencing the 1930s and parish missions where bull-necked Redemptorists reduced entire churches to tears with fire and brimstone sermons……….and noting how Clonard 1982 was about LOVE……..my Uncle Charlie said “Father which way is right?” and our Redemptorist friend simply replied “its like this Boss…take all the honey you can get”.
So tonights documentary ended as expected with Father Brian D’Arcy getting authority from his superiors to serve another four years as rector of his monastery in County Fermanagh. His goal is to be an authentic voice in a dysfunctional institution…………which strangely is exactly what Life asks of us all.
He is a decent man…….a liberal priest. My cousin also is a decent man…….a conservative priest.
All thru the documentary, I was trying to find a snappy phrase which would serve as a headline for this blog. And I couldnt think of one………until the very last words Brian D’Arcy spoke to camera……
“Feck it!……Enjoy it!”