By Sarah Mac Donald - 31 December, 2019
"I made the decision to be a priest and to stay a priest. I can look back on life and say that anything I have done, I have done for the right reasons – the decision may be right or wrong, but I did the best I could to make a right decision.”
Popular BBC broadcaster and Sunday World columnist, Fr Brian D’Arcy, marked 50 years of priesthood last week by celebrating a wedding in his home parish of Arney in Co Fermanagh.
Fr D’Arcy was ordained on 20 December 1969.
Speaking ahead of his golden jubilee celebrations, the 74-year-old told CatholicIreland.net, “I was a student in Kilooney in Co Sligo when I was ordained and my home parish is the parish of Arney in Co Fermanagh. By complete accident or providence, the young woman decided to get married in the church in Arney, not knowing that I was from there … so the marriage is in my parish church of Arney and the reception is in Killooney. I am going back to Killooney 50 years ordained from the same church that I served Mass as a boy.”
Asked if he would do it all over again, the Passionist priest said, “Yes, I would. I made the decision to be a priest and to stay a priest. I can look back on life and say that anything I have done, I have done for the right reasons – the decision may be right or wrong, but I did the best I could to make a right decision.”
He also revealed that “After 50 years of priesthood, I am working a lot harder than I did when I was 25 years ordained.” His motivation is, “I want to use the freedom I have at this time and try to communicate a vision of the Church.”
Fr D’Arcy who was awarded an OBE in 2019 by the Queen and also published new memoirs titled ‘It Has to be Said’, was censured by the Vatican in 2011 for his frank criticisms of the Church.
He believes it is time for the Church to invite back those priests who left to marry but he also suspects that the Church needs to be even more radical if it is to tackle the “evils of clericalism”.
“I think we are going to have to question that whole view of a Church built on clericalism, conflating the ideas of ministerial service of priesthood with celibacy or formal or hierarchical priesthood. It is not working for us and it is not working in other Churches.”
Asked if his articles are still being vetted by the Vatican and whether he believes something has shifted in recent years, he explained that “nothing has changed” in relation to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s censure.
“I don’t think much has shifted; I can’t see how anything has shifted – they have just shifted the target and Francis is the target now. That is why I am writing books now, because I have to use the freedom that I have taken for myself because in the future that freedom could be taken back.”
If the next papacy were to swing back towards a more conservative traditionalism, Fr D’Arcy believes it would “create its own death-knell.”
The popular broadcaster and columnist also said that though there was a great value to celibate witness, he believes “compulsory celibacy is damaging”.
Quoting from the Bible, “Male and female He made them”, the Passionist priest said companionship and having somebody else in your life is “a very maturing thing”.
Describing the Church’s theology of sexuality as “well past its sell by date”, he said he based his views on compulsory celibacy on the experiences of his many friends who are former priests.
“I saw how hard life was for them before they left the priesthood and I’ve seen what fantastic people they are now, both spiritually and socially and within their families, and I just ask why did we lose those gifts over celibacy.”