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‘Treating adults like children is no preparation for priesthood’

By Sarah Mac Donald - 11 September, 2016

Fr. Brendan Hoban, PP., Ballina. Picture: Henry Wills, Western People.

Fr. Brendan Hoban, PP., Ballina. Picture: Henry Wills, Western People.

A co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland has criticised the recent provisions announced by the trustees of the national seminary in Maynooth in response to the recent crisis over inappropriate behaviour.

Writing in his weekly column for the Western People, Fr Brendan Hoban warned that, “Treating adults like children is no preparation for living priesthood. It’s a failed policy, as experience and common sense remind us.”

Citing a “tendency towards over-parenting – parents solving every possible problem that arises” Fr Hoban suggests that this is “seeping into seminaries and it would seem that some seminarians now seem to be incapable of dealing with the day-to-day problems of modern life: divisions, resentments, teasing, (good natured and malicious), squabbles, etc.”

He writes, “While no one would want anyone to be bullied, seminarians need to learn how to stand up for themselves as we all had to do.”

In an article questioning what lessons have learned from the Maynooth fiasco, Fr Hoban is highly critical of Irish bishops who accept unsuitable candidates for the priesthood.

Some bishops, he warns, seem to accept “almost anyone who applies” and he claims that bishops are going abroad to find candidates, “as if filching vocations from other countries to camouflage the problem in Ireland is any solution to anything”.

He appears to blame bishops’ willingness to accept unsuitable candidates as due to their concern with “pleasing Rome and impressing the Papal Nuncio” but warns this is “a recipe for future problems” and “irresponsibility”.

Discussing the belief that the present seminary model is not fit for purpose, he calls on Archbishop [Diarmuid] Martin to set up a different model and new seminary in Dublin for his 12 students, which would combine direct experience of parish life with study in one of the many theological institutes in Dublin.

Referring to the difficulty the ACP leadership has had in securing a meeting and a response to the ACP’s resolutions from the Irish bishops, Fr Hoban, who is a parish priest in Co Mayo, comments, “the structures around the way the bishops function have to be dragged into the 21st century when it’s clear to everyone they’re not fit for purpose”.

In his highly critical piece, Fr Hoban says the Irish Church needs to examine the high price it has paid in recent years for “indulging the obsessions of ultra-conservative bishops”.

Ireland today, he suggests, in the pontificate of Pope Francis is still seeing the appointment of bishops “who have the mark of Benedict on them rather than the vision of Francis”.

And it is not just ultra-conservative bishops which are the focus of the ACP co-founder’s ire.

He also lashes out at “ultra-conservative Catholics” and journalists and the “often ludicrous and sometimes dangerous campaigns of ‘Catholic’ papers, including the recent campaign to de-stabilise Maynooth”.

He warns them that “When doctoral theses are being written in future years on the Maynooth problem of 2016, a gallery of ultra-Catholics – some overly-pious, others disgruntled and others homophobic – will be listed among the architects of the decline of Catholicism. They know not what they do.”

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