“The clerical church is dying and it’s not such a tragedy”, a prominent Irish priest has said.

Driving the news

“A gift of the Holy Spirit is the clerical church is dying so that out of it can come the seeds of a new life”, Fr. Brian D’Arcy told the Sunday Independent on the occasion of the launch of his new book, It Has To Be Said.

“For as long as I live – and I am in the departure lounge – my job is to plant seeds and let future generations harvest them”, D’Arcy, 74, told the paper.

The big picture

The priest, who is well-known in Ireland as a writer, newspaper columnist, broadcaster, and preacher, lamented the conservative profile of the few young men who are still attracted to the priesthood.

“The younger priests are coming because they are disillusioned with the world and so they are looking for certainty somewhere else”, D’Arcy explained.

“The point is we need people who will bring about change, not people who run from change.

“We are not attracting the people who have enthusiasm – those people who give their lives for a couple of years to work for Trocaire or Concern”, the priest decried, in reference to two of Ireland’s largest aid organisations.

Go deeper

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, D’Arcy expressed his hope that Catholic women might take over soon from celibate men in real leadership tasks in the Church.

In that sense, he expressed his support for former Irish president Mary McAleese, who has been under fire for recent comments on ingrained Catholic structures of misogyny.

“I think Mary McAleese is putting words on what the vast majority of semi-disillusioned believers, and especially semi-disillusioned women believers, are trying to articulate”, D’Arcy said, referring to McAleese’s identification of anti-women bias in the writings of late Pope John Paul II.

McAleese “is saying we simply can’t hang around forever waiting on a male-dominated clerical club to decide to allow women [to] have a place in God’s house and in God’s church”, the priest explained.

D’Arcy said the only way to get the Church out of that “clerical club” mentality is to promote the co-responsibility of laypeople.

“I mourn for the good people who needlessly walk away from the spiritual support which is rightly theirs through baptism, when all they need to leave behind is dysfunctional clericalism”, the priest writes in his new book.

Why it matters

In It Has To Be Said, D’Arcy – a clerical sex abuse survivor – also says he is grateful to Pope Francis for referring to sex abuse “crimes”, rather than “sins”, in his 2018 visit to Dublin for the World Meeting of Families.

But the priest also reflects in his volume on repeated Pope Benedict-era Vatican attempts to silence him, because his statements in favour of both married and women priests.

“I couldn’t sleep at night… I walked around wondering if life itself was worth living”, D’Arcy said of the Church censorship he suffered.

But he said it eventually dawned on him “that here I was being abused again by the church authorities”.

One type of abuse – sexual – “was a reflection of the other” – intimidation, D’Arcy denounced.

But the priest said that through counselling he came to steel his resolve.

He said he came “to the conclusion that I had to claim my own life and suffer the consequences and if I was thrown out of the priesthood then that is what had to be. I hoped it wouldn’t happen”.

“If I had kept silent it would have been cowardice”, D’Arcy explained.

“Luckily enough, Benedict retired and even more luckily, Francis came in and nothing has been done to anybody since Francis came in”, the priest celebrated.

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