Fr Brian D’Arcy: A Little Bit of Healing in the Irish Catholic Church?

image I didn’t watch RTE’s Late, Late Show this week, so the first I heard about Fr Brian D’Arcy’s latest interview on the programme was when people started commenting about it on my blog. On Monday two people referred to this new interview when leaving comments on a post I had written about D’Arcy back in March.

Both commentators came down hard on D’Arcy, which compelled me to tune in to the programme online (interview starts around 1 hr 28). After watching the interview, I think the commentators, Ed and Eric Conway, are so harsh because they disagree fundamentally with D’Arcy about the sort of changes that should be happening in the Irish Catholic Church.

Ed and Eric Conway say that he tells the media what it wants to hear and doesn’t represent the views of real Catholics. They suggest that if he doesn’t like the Catholic Church, he should just leave. I disagree.

D’Arcy was on the programme in part to promote his new book, A Little Bit of Healing (Veritas, 2010). The proceeds from the sale of the book go to charity.

D’Arcy explains that he was inspired to write the book in response to the feedback he received after his Late, Late appearance in March. In that interview, which I analysed at the time, D’Arcy spoke passionately about the grief that the Irish Catholic Church has inflicted on its people through the abuse scandals, the failures of the institutional church, excessive clericalism, and the need to get Jesus back into our consciousness and the public conversation.

D’Arcy told presenter Ryan Tubridy that he received more than 1,000 hand-written letters after that interview – a veritable miracle in the days of email. He said that people told him that he was able to articulate what they were feeling: a mixture of faith in God but disappointment and anger with the church hierarchy.

Some people even told D’Arcy that they had begun going to mass again after watching his interview.

D’Arcy strikes a chord with people because he is himself a survivor of clerical abuse. What that says to me, at least, is that D’Arcy loves the Catholic Church. If he didn’t, he would have succumbed to the pain and left long ago.

D’Arcy also suggested that the Irish church would be better off today if it listened to its people in the pews at least as much as decrees from the Vatican.

His misgivings about Rome were clear when he remarked that Ireland was a good Christian country before it became more involved with Rome. I understood that comment to refer to the ancient, pre-Reformation Celtic Church, which had a surprising amount of independence from the centralised Christian authority in Rome.

I’m not Catholic, so I of course speak from a different – but still Christian – perspective than either Ed or Eric. I also haven’t read D’Arcy’s new book yet.

But one important and often overlooked aspect of the healing process is the need for acknowledgement of wrongs done. I think this is true especially when people have been abused or hurt by people they trusted and who held power over them. They need to hear those responsible for allowing the abuse to continue to say sorry, to sound like they really mean it, and demonstrate that they won’t let it happen again.

I think that many Irish Catholics feel that their pain hasn’t been sincerely or adequately acknowledged by the most powerful figures in their church. In D’Arcy, they see someone who acknowledges them. This gives them hope.

Another important but often overlooked aspect of the healing process is that people become empowered again in their own lives. D’Arcy calls on ‘ordinary’ Irish Catholics – both laypeople and the priests working ‘on the ground’ – to shape the future of their own church.

It seems to me that he thinks they can do this with or without Rome, maybe even in spite of Rome. This perspective also gives some Irish Catholics hope.

18 Responses to Fr Brian D’Arcy: A Little Bit of Healing in the Irish Catholic Church?

  1. shane October 6, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    The Catholic Church in Ireland is certainly in need of radical reform but in an entirely different direction to that suggested by Fr D’Arcy. The Church he pines for already exists. I don’t know why he doesn’t just decamp. He’s more than welcome to take most of the Irish priesthood and episcopacy with him.

  2. Eric Conway October 6, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

    Fair enough, the Catholic Church in Ireland & elsewhere was negligent in dealing with abuse. However lets stick to facts, As revealed by the John Jay College Survey, 80%+ of the abuse in the Church was predatory homosexual in nature. The dean of Maynooth, Michael Ledwith, was notoriously homosexual. If Brian D’arcy & co. admit this aspect of the abuse, I will believe their sincerity. In addition, why has D’arcy ( & indeed the great & good of D.4 ) been relatively silent in relation to the infanticide at Bethany House. This is much more serious than so-called Catholic abuse, yet the Church of Ireland is let totally off the hook. It’s called hypocritical double standards. Regarding Rome, Pope Benedict has been exemplary in confronting the abuse problem ( despite the false reportage of the New York Times & co. ), forcing the local Church’s to confront the matter head on. Most reasonable commentators accept the Popes sincerity in this regard, However for many, it’s simply an excuse to indulge in an anti-Catholic witch-hunt.

  3. Ed October 7, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    Gladys, you should read D’Arcy’s autobiography. Then you would really wonder WHY he stays in a church that he so obviously hates. He only likes one pope ever. One pope?? That means that he didn’t like all the others at all. He also implies that the late, great Pope John Paul II gave him a dirty look for bursting into his dining room in Galway. He tells us that Bono and the guys in U2 asked him why he was still a priest. If U2 were really that ignorant then they’ve gone down in my estimation. In his autobiography, he really displays his need to be seen as a ‘diamond geezer’ working amongst horrible people, under horrible bosses and in a company with horrible rules. The church he seeks is already there – Anglicanism. Why not leave this horrible company he works in if he could join a ‘perfect’ church that’s already there. Incidentally hundreds of thousands of people are leaving Anglicanism annually because when a church tries to become everything to everyone (if you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything) then there is no church left. Fr D’Arcy stands for nothing but knocking the church. Does anyone EVER remember him campaigning against the evil that is abortion for instance of the benefits of celibacy before marriage? No. That would not make him popular. Nor would campaigning against the evil that is euthanasia. In fact, Fr D’Arcy DOES tell the part-time catholics EXACTLY what they want to hear.
    Gladys, because you are not a catholic, you can’t see that Fr D’Arcy is no good for the church and in ‘the church’ I mean the people. He doesn’t stand up for any of the teachings of the church but like a leaf he blows along with every secular agenda that comes along. At the least, you’d expect a priest to be strong, clear, precise, and to guide people and help them in this increasingly horrible, godless country.
    Fr D’Arcy’s books are for charity but he’s all about the fame and the publicity. Sister Stan has written many books as have many religious, but we hardly know what they look like. Fr D’Arcy has never had a book where his image wasn’t beaming form the cover like a politician or celebrity promoting himself.
    He stays a priest because, if he quit tomorrow, he knows that nobody would want to know him anymore. BBC radio or RTE or The Late Late Show or The Sunday World or the publishing world wouldn’t want to know that anti-catholic rantings of a non-priest. Being a priest is his hook.
    He’s not very Jesus-like. Jesus was humble and had no need for fame and celebrity. He protected his flock. Jesus took the unpopular stand at the time and was hated in his own lifetime. D’Arcy takes the easy, crowd-pleasing, rabble-rousing, liberal stand on everything. He is predictable in his stand on everthing and it’s working well for him. It’s not much good for the people though in the long term.

  4. Ed October 20, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

    Just a few more things that need to be said. 1. Fr D’Arcy is great at promoting himself. He’ll mention the 1000 letters of support but won’t mention the 2000 letters from decent catholics who don’t support him.
    2. Don’t worry about those who came back to mass because of Fr Brian D’Arcy. Those same people will hav eleft it again the following week when they realised they’d have to get out of bed early on a Sunday or maybe it clashes with football practice.
    3. Fr Brian is at Eddie Rowleys new Joe Dolan book launch in Mullingar today 20th October 2010. No. It’s not for charity. It’s about promoting brand ‘Fr Brian D’Arcy’. If you hurry you’ll catch him there.

  5. Tanya Jones October 21, 2010 at 5:04 pm #

    A couple of thoughts:

    Child abuse isn’t about being gay or straight but principally about the exercise of power. If the majoriry of sexual abuse by priests and religious brothers was of boys, that was because they had access to boys. Similarly I would imagine that the majority of physical and mental abuse by female religious was of girls.

    I know Brian D’Arcy slightly and often attend Mass at the Graan (I am a Catholic). I don’t always agree with everything he says and does but he is undoubtedly a brave and sincere man. If you were to hear his sermons you would know that he certainly does not say what his listeners want to hear. Similarly, if you’ve watched the discussed Late Late Show you will have heard him speaking of the current Pope with warmth and appreciation – precisely at the time when, if he had really been a ‘rabble-rouser’ he could have hitched his star to Richard Dawkins’ wagon.

    I have read and much appreciated the work of Sister Stan, but these are very different genres of writing. Brian’s books are about his experiences and encounters and so it is entirely appropriate that his image should appear on the cover. In the case of a devotional work, the character and biography of the writer are often irrelelvant, even distracting, and for this reason anonymity is chosen. Many gifts, and all that. The Church is big enough for all of us…

  6. Eric Conway October 22, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

    Tanya, I’m glad you get some comfort from Brian D’arcy. However, I cant let you away with the first paragraph. Sexual abuse is abominable, & the Church’s enemies are using it as a weapon to attack the Church on other fronts. Fair enough, but if that’s the case I’m not going to let them away with ignoring the source of the vast majority of the abuse. Which is primarily homosexual in nature. They cant have it both ways. What’s so brave about attacking the Church on RTE. On the contrary, its cowardly & ignoble. He had an opportunity to take on the anti-Pope Benedict brigade in RTE, & he just rolled over. There is a time & place for internal analysis/criticism, but when you venture into the ” belly of the best “, as a Catholic you are honour bound to defend the Church. It is easier of course to tell them what they want to hear & play to the mob.

  7. Chris Manning October 23, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

    Father Brian is being used. His confused dissent is a shame and poor souls are misled. A friend of mine thinks sodomy is ok, as a result of listening and reading Fr. Brian’s output. He influences many people.

  8. Chris October 23, 2010 at 9:13 pm #

    Yes, the Church, all of us – needs to do public penance. But, where Fr Darcy goes wrong is when he uses the abuse scandal to peddle other agendas, such as gay sex and divorce etc… If you want gay sex and divorce, you become an Episcopalian. In the Catholic Church we go on the teaching of Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church. That’s why there will be no miraculous change in the Church doctrines on gay sex or any other perversions that people engage in.

    The Catholic Church is built on the rock of St Peter and his successors. The Church no no more do without Peter than She can do without Christ.

    Yes, people must make a choice – are you with Christ and His Church, or or you not? Free will means there are two stark choices.

    The prophet Isaiah sets it out beautifully:

    Come now, let us set things right, says the LORD: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; Though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool.

    If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land;

    But if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken!

    Isaiah 1:18-20

  9. Ed October 28, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    Brian D’Arcy also agreed with Jennifer Sleeman on that show. He agreed with the dissident priests organisation on that show. He agreed with anything and everything Tubridy accused the church of. He is a hypocrite pure and simple. He stays in a church that he so obviously hates for himself and his ‘career’. He would be fired from another other organisation in the world for what he does to the church as would the other dissident priests.

  10. Eric Conway October 29, 2010 at 3:18 pm #

    Firstly a correction. When referring to RTE, of course I meant ” the belly of the beast “. By no objective standards could RTE News/Current Affairs be described as best. Quite the contrary. In those depts. half-baked liberal/feminist dogma take precedence over balanced/objective journalism. They would’nt recognise the latter if it jumped up & bit them in the posterior. It’s still of note that virtually all of the Irish media ( with the exception of the Daily Mail ), & Brian D’arcy, are absolutely silent with regard to Bethany House. Vincent Browne & Patsy McGarry ae still flogging the Murphy report to death, but both remain silent on Bethany. Hypocritical bigots !. There is’nt any populist/popular/mob-driven agenda ( especially with an anti-Catholic bias ) that Brian D’arcy wont lend his support to. Why does he support Jennifer Sleeman & not the majority of women who disregarded her highly offensive Mass boycott. Are these women not good enough for him ?. It’s called misogyny !. He should be supporting the Catholic community against RTE, & not siding with the ill-informed anti-Catholic bullies.

  11. Tanya Jones October 30, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    What happened at Bethany House was tragic and heartbreaking, and was covered by RTE (http://www.rte.ie/news/2010/0910/bethany.html), the Irish Times, the Irish Independent, BBC Northern Ireland and no doubt many more news organizations. We all diminish ourselves by playing sectarian politics with the suffering and death of children. One of the things that unites us as Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, liberal or traditional, is surely our knowledge of the depths of sin of which human beings are capable, of the extent to which vulnerable children are especially loved and precious to God and of His mercy and justice.

    None of us has a monopoly on the truth. If we are given the grace to look back from the standpoint of eternity, I think that we will see that on some issues the traditionalists have been right, on others the liberals, but on most we will all have fallen short of the full revelation that God is longing to give to us. That is why, as Newman showed, the church’s doctrine develops over time and why it develops so slowly. It needs all of us: some to urge speedy changes; some to sound a note of caution. But wouldn’t it be a much greater witness to the world if we could play our parts with charity and courtesy? ‘Look how these Christians love one another’ even when they disagree so deeply that it hurts.

  12. Eric Conway November 1, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

    Tanya, you write that we all diminish ourselves by playing sectarian politics with the suffering of children. Agreed. I presume you mean RTE, which has been playing this game with a vengeance !. The Bethany House story only came to prominence because a brave independent researcher from a journalism school in Dublin investigated it. If he had’nt done so, RTE & the rest of the media would almost certainly have tried to bury it. As many of them are now trying to do. The plot thickens, in that Bethany is only down the road from RTE. So that if they were doing their job properly it would have been relatively easy to unearth the details. Given that Bethany is much, much worse ( industrial scale infanticide ) than any Catholic related scandal, one does’nt have to be a conspiracy theorist to realise that an agenda is definitely at play here. I absolutely agree with your comments regarding the need for charity & courtesy. Virtues so wonderfully displayed by our Holy Father during his recent U.K. visit. Unfortunately both are in very short supply in RTE ( particularly ) with regard to the Catholic community. Many are hurting deeply as a result of the continuing onslaught on our Church. Hence the need for the likes of Fr. D’arcy to defend the Church & Holy Father ; not join in the mob attack !.

  13. Ed January 10, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Isn’t it amazing that if you google ‘Fr Brian D’Arcy’ that this here is the only page in hundreds of thousands that has anything coming close to a fair debate about the man?? I implore you all to seek out yesterday’s ‘Sunday World’ rag. Brian really outdoes himself this time. He prints out a letter (supposedly) from a woman from Wicklow. This woman accuses Pope John Paul II of coming to Ireland and walking all over women. What???? She says that women are all very badly treated by the church but apart from hysterical cliches and generalisms she doesn’t give us any examples of what on earth she means or even a scrap of proof. Obviously she hasn’t heard of female altar servers, women reading at mass, female ministers of the eucharist, female members of chruch and school committees, etc. To cap it all off she ridicules the clothes priests wear (skirts, dresses) and tells us that it a long way from Jesus ‘who went around with no clothes and had no food in his belly’. I know it’s very unchristian to actually hate anyone but I have written to Brian with my full name and address and he has never printed any of my letters to him like he printed this sectarian and false, anonymous letter yesterday in that rag. (9/1/11). I’d go so far as to say that Brian actually wrote it himself.

  14. Eric Conway January 10, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Ed, sadly very, very, true. He was on with Marian Finucane before Christmas & it was the same old self-pitying, poor me ( oh & of course you & RTE Marian – Brian knows to grovel to the hand that feeds him ! ) against the world ( well against all those nasty conservative Catholics ). He also trotted out the yarn about the piles of anonymous hate mail he receives ( a favoured tactic of pseudo-persecuted liberals ). Like you I know people who have written to him ( with full name & address ) with reasoned defences of Pope Benedict & the Church. You’ve guessed it – no reply !. But he never mentions these letters – only the anonymous ones. If you don’t conform to Brians distorted/intolerant world view you don’t count. All very sad really. However, while absolutely & totally disagreeing with everything he stands for, as Catholics we must pray for him. Scott Hahn the great Catholic convert/apologist was at one stage as equally anti-Catholic as Brian – so there’s hopr for everyone.

  15. Martin January 10, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    I wrote to Fr Brian too, but I only gave my first name. SO he never replied to any of my emails.

    I even wrote to him prior to condom-gate, and he was given the info he needed to get the story right, but instead he presents it as the Pope Benedict completely changing Church teaching on condoms. Will he correct himself based on the CDF clarification issued recently? I think not. He is not interested in truth, but only in sensationalism.

    Get the CDF clarification on Light of the World her:
    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20101221_luce-del-mondo_en.html

  16. Ed January 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    [This comment has been removed because it contained an unsubstantiated personal insult that had nothing to do with the substance of the blog post or the subsequent debate.]

  17. Ed January 20, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    [This post has been removed because it breaks house rules]

  18. Angela campbell January 31, 2016 at 10:57 pm #

    I think Brian Darcy should have left the church a long time ago,it’s not too late he can still go !!

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