Archbishop Withdraws Students Over “Gay Culture” at Irish Seminary


St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth

A leading Irish archbishop has withdrawn his diocese’s students from an embattled seminary, citing allegations of a “gay culture” there which led to sexual activity.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin removed the three archdiocesan seminarians from St. Patrick’s College Maynooth, the country’s national seminary, reported Crux. Martin, initially quiet about his reasons, has now explained:

“There are allegations on different sides. One is that there is a homosexual, a gay culture, and that students have been using an app called Grindr [which] would be inappropriate for seminarians, and not just because they are training to be celibate priests, but (because) an app like that would be something that would be fostering promiscuous sexuality, which is certainly not in any way the mature vision of sexuality one would expect a priest to understand.”

The archbishop will instead send seminarians to the Pontifical Irish College in Rome, at least until the matter at Maynooth is resolved and structural reforms have been implemented.

Martin also criticized the anonymous nature by which complaints had been filed, saying it eliminated due process and created a “poisonous” culture.

Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore withdrew his diocese’s seminarians from St. Patrick’s, too, but other Irish bishops are publicly supporting the seminary. College President Monsignor Hugh Connolly said since no complaints had been publicly filed, there could be no investigation. He defended the seminary environment as “a wholesome, healthy one.”

Rumors about sexual relationships and administrative problems are not new for Maynooth, which hosts about 55 students currently, reported America:

“One former seminarian last week testified to its so-called gay culture, one that was widely known about but not addressed. Another former seminarian claims he was expelled from the college after he failed to report two colleagues for engaging in sexual activity. The reports revealed a deep disconnect between church authorities and the experience of some seminarians, along with the challenges the Irish church is struggling to address: homosexuality as a reality in the church, celibacy, accusations and secrecy and a formation process that is quickly becoming antiquated.”

But America’s coverage also noted further reasons why Archbishop Martin is removing his seminarians, stemming from the Apostolic Visitation to Ireland initiated by Pope Benedict and overseen by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. That Visitation, which Martin has criticized, “resulted in greater separation between the seminarians and lay students in Maynooth, with barriers erected and separate eating quarters introduced.” The article continued:

“It created a more isolated formation process for seminarians, one that has been criticized for being at odds with Pope Francis’ vision for a more inclusive, open and integrated church. . .Indeed, it was claimed that six seminarians were held back from ordination and told to take time out last year because they were ‘too theologically rigid.’ “


Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Though reported as a scandal about homosexuality, Archbishop Martin seems less concerned with whom seminarians may potentially be in sexual relationships, and more focused on the idea that seminarians would be in any sexually compromising situation at all. He used the words “gay culture,” but nothing he mentioned about the seminary’s culture is uniquely gay. There may, perhaps, be an unintegrated or immature culture around sexuality in the seminary, but there would seem to be no difference whether seminarians were using the gay dating app Grindr or its heterosexual counterpart, Tinder.

Martin seems equally concerned that this incident revealed an unhealthy atmosphere of secrecy and anonymous accusations at Maynooth. He questioned if seminarians would be better educated beyond the “closed, strange world of seminaries” in new programs of formation more grounded in the real world.

In short, I do not believe Martin’s evaluation of Maynooth as not being “a good place for students” hinges upon seminarians being gay or in same-gender relationships. In general, he has evidenced a more positive approach to LGBT issues than most bishops. His positive approach is particularly distinctive, given the ugly history after the clergy sexual abuse crisis emerged in Ireland in the early 2000s, and gay priests and seminarians were frequently scapegoated.

Archbishop Martin’s decision to withdraw Dublin’s seminarians has provoked good conversations throughout Ireland about the priesthood, celibacy, and indeed homosexuality. His is a credible voice for an Irish public skeptical of the church, and he was described as a “maverick” among other clergy in a recent Irish Times profile. He cooperated fully with civil authorities in clergy sexual abuse investigations, and he has been pastoral in his treatment of LGBT issues. The conversations which Martin has initiated are important and ongoing, and they are applicable not only for Ireland but for the church universal. Tomorrow, Bondings 2.0 will cover more of those Irish conversations.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

12 replies
  1. Father Anthony Borka
    Father Anthony Borka says:

    Surprise! Sex in the Seminary! Put a group of men together in a closed place and things happen. Although not involved I found out that things were going on in the 60s and got more so later on. What really surprised me was to learn that things were going on in a Trapping Monastery I would go for a Retreat. The Church needs to come up with a more realistic approach to sex. For example, marriages are down, but not sex.

  2. Bishop Carlos A Florido, osf
    Bishop Carlos A Florido, osf says:

    Response to the Irish Archbishop: Gay culture in seminaries is nothing new! We should search for a solution, which would begin with the acceptance of gay seminarians and a, non directly related, imposition of celibacy. The latter, as has been stated before, is a gift of the Spirit not of Church prelates.

  3. bjmonda
    bjmonda says:

    Hard to get upset about two men having sex in light of those priests raping children! And say what about all the straight priest and their ‘WIVES” ????

  4. Friends
    Friends says:

    Re: celibacy: authorizing a non-celibate married clergy in the Roman Catholic Church would resolve a whole lot of these pointless problems, as I think all of us understand by now. And in fact, heterosexually married Anglican and Episcopal priests who desire to “upgrade” (?) to the Roman Catholic priesthood are allowed to remain married. However, this marital privilege applies ONLY to male priests — since female ordained Anglican and Episcopal priests are still regarded as categorically unqualified to serve within the Roman Catholic Church, solely by virtue of their chromosomal gender. And, of course, legally married Anglican and Episcopal priests in a valid same-sex marriage are completely VERBOTEN within the Roman Catholic Church. Key question: how much arbitrary social constriction and exclusion can the Roman Catholic hierarchy continue to impose, without becoming something like a weird vestigial cult within global Christianity?

    • P.B.
      P.B. says:

      There seem to be two camps. One that wishes for a smaller, more “faithful” Church. The other that wishes for a larger and more inclusive Church, albeit at the expense of teachings they feel to be antiquated. We all know people of the former group who would be perfectly happy being a “weird vestigial cult within global Christianity”. Unfortunately, most of our newer priests come from this crowd. It is to the detriment of we who believe in a Church that discerns the signs of the times based on the Holy Spirit acting in the minds and hearts of the faithful, the overwhelming evidence from the scientific community, and common human decency.

      However, I don’t think that the luxury-steeped hierarchy will be too content living in a “smaller” Church when that means they have to cut back on their extravagances. By that point, however, the die will already be cast. The Church may be growing in the global south, but it is shrinking in the global north as it’s seen as antiquated on women and gays. If its withering finances only affected the hierarchy, I wouldn’t be too concerned. But working in a Catholic hospital, I see firsthand the good that this money goes to. Hence, I would implore the bishops to keep the Church healthy in the global north.

  5. P.B.
    P.B. says:

    How is this a surprise? There are only two contingents of the Catholic population that are required to be celibate their entire lives: Priests/religious and gay people. It’s not an accident that there is, therefore, a great overlap between these two groups. If you’re a gay man and the Church already forbids you from a healthy monogamous sexual life, why the heck not become a priest? After all, it is one of the few options that guarantees you some level of support when you eventually age. Furthermore, for many it offers a safe and convincing closet.

    Attempts to crack down on such a large number of gay seminarians and priests will exacerbate the shortage the Church already faces. Yet embracing the legitimacy of committed same-sex relationships would likely end the gravy train of self-conflicted young men that fill a large part (if not the majority) of seats in seminaries. It’s a lose-lose. So, the Church hierarchy attempts to be duplicitous, by purporting to crackdown on homosexuality in seminaries whilst in reality intentionally doing nothing.

    If you’re going to stand on principle then stand on it; otherwise figure out what principles you’re ARE willing to actually stand on. In the meantime, one thing is certain: As long as the Church continues to oppose the legitimacy of two gay people being in an open, committed, loving relationship, it will continue to have abundant numbers of secretly-gay clergy. Logic forbids you from having it both ways.

  6. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    As noted earlier, this is no surprise. By definition an all male seminary is homosexual and in many places a refuge to those who are sexually in that state. Whether or not those individuals act upon their orientation is up to them, but has historically been a common practice.

    I favor a situation where priests are male, female, married or single, straight, LGBT etc. and that they be educated in regular universities and mixed among the general student body. The idea of separating any like group from others when that group is to later minister to the wider population is no way to train them to be aware of the world they are trying to assist. Would we want physicians to only be educated among a perfect healthy population? In the manner of the Dutch worker priest movement of a half century ago, our presiders should come from the community, not be some foreign stranger who is imposed from above and who does not know the smell of the sheep as Francis has said.

    • Father Anthony Borka
      Father Anthony Borka says:

      The Seminary I attended has moved in that direction. IMMACULATE Conception in Newark New Jersey. Your thoughts are sound imho.


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