Diarmuid Martin has been isolated from his 25 episcopal colleagues in alleging the existence of a gay culture in Maynooth, but he has the backing of the most powerful leader in Christendom – none other than the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis.
In very publicly withdrawing his three students at St Patrick’s College and sending them instead to the Pontifical Irish College in Rome, the Archbishop of Dublin has affirmed solidarity with the Pope. Francis has been attempting to promote open discussion among world bishops about contentious issues of sexual morality, a debate closed down by his predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
The frenzied running of this summer’s silly season story in the Irish media has seen conservative commentators such as David Quinn of the Iona Institute and the even more reactionary Anthony Murphy of the Irish Voice applauding Ironically, this saw them applauding Diarmuid of Dublin and urging him to clean out Maynooth of unorthodox theology teaching.
Undoubtedly, Maynooth’s problems are many and lie for the greater part in the ineptitude of the good Bishops, the products of a narrow background which has left them out of their depth in matters theological and pastoral, Yet as trustees they wield absolute power over the seminary, a power they are ill equipped to use.
Sadly the vast majority of students simply don't have the cultural depth to attempt a course in contemporary theology . Down the years this has included several ill educated zealots, few of whom would be accepted by any of the major religious orders. Indeed, one order in a recent year rejected a whole tranche of would be postulants!
However, in the new fangled “social media”, bishops can’t stop basic human curiosity from igniting among this generation of millenials. Young fellows at Maynooth have a mobile phone and that means they are all tempted by social media - especially if an "app" culture is already up and running when they arrive at the seminary. So, in the quiet hours they hop onto these sites and connect with the real world. where sins are waiting to be committed!
However, sending off young fellas to Rome is not necessarily the way of salvation. Rather, it might tempt them even more to do as the Romans do. Scusi, padre. How do you say "Tinder" or "Grindre" in Italian? Indeed, in his attempts to implement Vatican Two Pope Francis has come up against the opposition of a gay and very conservative cabal embedded in the Vatican bureaucracy.
As a former experienced Vatican diplomat, Diarmuid knows that he has a common cause with the reformist Francis, and that he needs to drag the Irish church into the 21st century before the August 2018 visit to Ireland of Pope Francis .More to the point, he needs to make a splash about the issue in Ireland., thus drawing the public aattention to his alignment with the new ,liberal outlook that Francis is trying to introduce. If handled adroitly, this current crisis could be Martin’s pathway to the coveted Red Hat.
So Diarmuid has two years to get the other 25 bishops into line behind his real game plan of working out a new community style training programme based on an amalgamation of Maynooth, Milltown Park and the Loyola Institute at Trinity College.
*John Cooney is a Irish journalist