Trustees agree to protect whistleblowers at Irish national seminary

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Michael Kelly

DUBLIN (CNS) — The trustees of Ireland’s national seminary
have agreed to bring in a specific policy to protect whistleblowers after
serious allegations were made about life in the college.

The Aug. 23 announcement also followed a decision by Dublin Archbishop
Diarmuid Martin to pull his students from St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth,
after publicly raising misgivings about the life and governance of the 221-year
old institution.

The archbishop referred to claims of what he described as a “gay
culture” in the seminary and further allegations that some seminarians
have been using a gay dating app. Archbishop Martin said some of the
allegations had been shown to be true.

The seminary trustees — 13 senior Irish bishops, including
Archbishop Martin — said in a statement that “there is no place in a seminary
community for any sort of behavior or attitude which contradicts the teaching
and example of Jesus Christ.”

The statement said the trustees “share the concerns
about the unhealthy atmosphere created by anonymous accusations, together with
some social media comments which can be speculative or even malicious.”

The trustees agreed to “review current policies and
procedures for reporting complaints with a view to adopting best practice
procedures for ‘protected disclosures’ (whistle-blowing).”

They said they would ask the Irish bishops’ conference to
conduct an independent audit and report of governance and statutes in the three
Irish seminaries: Maynooth, the Pontifical Irish College in Rome and St.
Malachy’s College in Belfast, Northern Ireland. They also agreed to reassess
future personnel and resource needs for the seminary.

The statement said “the trustees accept their
responsibility for ensuring that the national seminary adheres to best practice
in all areas of training for priesthood and that college staff are trained to
the highest level in accordance with requisite professional standards and the
requirements of the Holy See.”

Archbishop Martin first raised concerns publicly in early
August when he said “there seems to an atmosphere of strange goings-on
there (Maynooth); it seems like a quarrelsome place with anonymous letters
being sent around.

“There are people saying that anyone who tries to go to
the authorities with an allegation are being dismissed from the seminary,”
the archbishop said.

“I don’t think this is a good place for students,”
he added.

There was no immediate reaction from Archbishop Martin to
the trustees’ meeting and no indication as to whether he would change his mind
as a result of the trustees’ intervention.

In early August, he said he had offered to provide an
independent person for whistleblowers to approach, but the response to this
offer was the publication of more anonymous letters. At the time, the
archbishop said authorities in Maynooth “have to find a way to let people
come forward with solid evidence to substantiate the allegations.”

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