By Sarah Mac Donald - 09 June, 2019
“Thank God I had the opportunity to do something to help community relations in Northern Ireland.”
BBC broadcaster and Sunday World columnist Fr Brian D’Arcy has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list.
The popular priest will receive the Order of the British Empire for his services to cross-community relations.
Fr D’Arcy, who celebrates the 50th anniversary of his ordination this year, said the news had come as a surprise.
“It’s nice that somebody noticed,” he joked.
Formerly of the Graan Monastery in Enniskillen, the Passionist priest is now based at Tobar Mhuire retreat centre in Crossgar, Co Down.
“Thank God I had the opportunity to do something to help community relations in Northern Ireland,” Fr D’Arcy said.
In his early years as a priest, Fr Brian became an unofficial chaplain to the show business community in Ireland, hearing confessions from musicians and fans alike at dancehalls throughout the country.
He became good friends with a number of high profile celebrities including the late Terry Wogan.
An outspoken critic of mandatory clerical celibacy and the Church’s mishandling of cases of clerical child abuse, in 2012 he was censured by the Vatican and was told to submit his writings to an official Church censor ahead of publication.
Last September, Fr D’Arcy said the Church urgently needs to consider making clerical celibacy optional, as well as ordaining married men and women.
Speaking to The Tablet, he made his comments in the context of falling Mass attendances and the lack of vocations to the priesthood.
Referring to the drop in Mass attendance from over 90 per cent when Pope John Paul II visited Ireland in 1979, to 19 per cent in some urban areas today, he said that figure could even be as low as 9 per cent if the older age group is excluded.
“We have prayed for years, particularly in the western world, for an increase in vocations. We cannot say that God isn’t listening because we absolutely believe he is. But the vocations are not there, so maybe we are asking God for the wrong gift,” the 73-year-old said.
“If we can keep on doing the same thing then we are likely to get the same result; the fact that the result is neither helpful to the Church or priesthood is telling us that we better change our way of doing it.”
Asked about his criticism of compulsory celibacy at the National Ploughing Championship in Tullamore, he said he has always believed clergy should be allowed to get married.
“I think compulsorily tying the gift of celibacy with the gift of priesthood is more codology than theology. They are two separate gifts – they are not the same gift.”
Father d’Arcy suggested that compulsory celibacy can lead to an unhealthy emotional life and an unhealthy spirituality. It was based on “an utterly inadequate theology of sexuality,” he said.
He also highlighted how the Orthodox Church and members of the Ordinariate are allowed to be both priests and married.