An Irish seminarian of Rome’s Pontifical Irish College intends to bring a defamation suit against Irish media outlets that claimed he was found in bed with another seminarian.
Crux recently reported that the seminarian’s attorney has served legal letters on both the Irish Times and the Irish Independent:
“Late last week, several Irish media outlets, including the Times and Independent, carried stories claiming that two unidentified seminarians at Rome’s Pontifical Irish College had been sent home after having been found in bed with one another, following a Vatican Mass marking the 50th anniversary of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s landmark 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.
“According to the report in the Irish Catholic, however, while the two seminarians had been disciplined over concerns related to excessive alcohol consumption, at no time were charges of sexual misconduct put to either man by authorities of the Irish College, which is Ireland’s national seminary in Rome.
“The report also suggests that neither man has been dismissed from the Irish College, though both are temporarily away of their own accord, and neither man was ‘sent’ back to Ireland.”
While the secular Irish news sources insisted that the two seminarians were found in bed together and were sent away by college authorities, the Irish Catholic maintained that the rector of the college, Monsignor Ciaran O’Carroll, did not include any accounts of sexual misconduct in his report about the situation. Furthermore O’Carroll’s report mentioned nothing about a Vatican Mass that celebrated the anniversary of Humanae Vitae that supposedly took place right before the incident.
While only one seminarian is suing, both are reported to remain concerned about their reputations. Although they both still remain anonymous, they worry that their names will be released to the public since the Irish College is a small school. The seminarians have appealed to both Monsignor O’Carroll and to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin to clear their names, but the two clerics remain silent.
Underlying this case are various media portrayals of who stands as the “bad guy.” On the one hand, sources like the Times and the Independent portray the seminarians as victims of Church authorities, having been “sent home” by officials at the Irish College after the discovery of apparently homosexual behavior. On the other hand, the Irish Catholic holds that these media sources are getting the story all wrong and that the seminarians are actually victims of false allegations by the media. Who is wrong? Church officials or the media?
Regardless of which version of the story is right, a broader question about homophobia in the Church looms in the background of this case. Whereas the secular news sources attempt to expose the alleged homophobic actions of Church leaders at the Irish College, the Catholic side of the debate has made efforts to shut down any suggestion of a homosexual relationship between the seminarians in order to preserve the reputation of the seminarians and the seminary. The disagreement between the reports is indeed suspicious, leading to a problematic he-said-he-said situation. However, even more problematically, the seminarians seek to clear their “good names,” suggesting that a sexual relationship with another man is a fall from grace.
In the end, the rhetoric used from the Catholic side demonstrates undertones of homophobia, as if a gay relationship between the two men needs to be excluded from consideration in order for the seminarians to regain their good reputations.
Lizzie Sextro, New Ways Ministry, June 3, 2018