Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The suffering of Scotland's Catholics; "Priesthood in Crisis" by Fr. Matthew Daspard

Priesthood In Crisis

I read this book in less than two days. I skipped some of it, but the main facts are nothing less than horrendous. Of course, some people are asking if Fr. Daspard is really telling the truth as it was and is. With our human frailties the sincere desire to tell the truth may still involve overly subjective and distorted views. With the best will in the world, it is still easy for us to "colour" our accounts because of pain, misunderstanding and distorted memories. Allowing for all of these things, there are "facts" in this book which common sense insists are either  basically true or are simple lies. As they are presented, some things, even with all that is said about human frailties, cannot be complete distortions or fabrications. There are reports here of altercations with priests and bishops and examples of gross injustice that are either substantially true or not; in some cases at least, there is no middle ground; you either believe him or you don't. Having read the book, with the reservations noted (and which I would apply to similar exposes) I believe him.
The fact that the Vatican is refusing, at this time, to fill in the episcopal gaps in Scotland until a proper investigation has been carried out suggests that the basic information in Fr. Daspard's book is not without real substance. When the book arrived on the Kindle site, there was a clear intention, on the part of his bishop, to press for Fr. Daspard's canonical suspension. We are told that an announcement was made through the Ad Clerum in the Diocese of Motherwell  (normally a confidential document, but in this case, clearly not regarded as such by some people!)  that no action is to be taken  against Fr. Daspard. When a reporter asked someone close to the curia why this is so, the answer was, "He holds all the aces!"

Apart from Fr. Daspard's account there are other books and articles dealing with the main subject of this book. (That is homosexuality and related corruption in the Church). A book was published in Italy by a priest suggesting there was (or is) a strong homosexual lobby at work in the Vatican. A report commissioned by the Polish hierarchy was published recently revealing that the same situation exists in Poland.

Fr. Daspard. more than once, refers to homosexual priests (that is with a homosexual orientation) who are good priests and remain faithful celibates. He praises such men for their devotion. I will also do the same. As we know the Vatican advises, strongly, that homosexuals should no longer be admitted to the priesthood. Given the seriousness of the recent scandals (and there seem to be more to be discovered in the pipeline) this cannot be judged as overreaction. Besides, there are theological questions to be asked about the quality of the "maleness" of candidates for the priesthood. At the same time, there are always exceptions to the rule. We must allow for the action of the Holy Spirit. It is entirely possible that someone with a homosexual leaning could become not only a very good priest, but a saint. However, a very high quality of discernment seems to be required on the part of seminary professors and bishops to avoid serious mistakes.

In my time as a seminarian and a priest I can name many who were and are known to be homosexuals. (I am not going to name names here). A few of them have become very good priests and the sad thing is that a scandal such as we are seeing now in Scotland can damage all such men by association. On the other hand, like Fr. Daspard I witnessed very worrying scenes of conflict and jealousies in the seminary that I realised, even then, were based on homosexual relationships. Some of those who became priests were subsequently involved in sexual abuse scandals (either with children or young men). We can argue that the statistics show that such men are in a minority, but in my experience it is a big minority. It is true that in some dioceses homosexual priests form a kind of support group. Whether this just happens because they get on well together or whether something else is happening is for others with more knowledge to judge.

Because of the nature of homosexuality, which sometimes is linked to emotional instability, homo-eroticism and narcissism, there is a danger that relationships between priests will, at least, encourage bitter resentments, jealousy, obsession and mutual condemnation. Such emotional disturbances are bad for the priests involved and are also bad for the people they are appointed to serve. Where such emotional "rages" and such  episodes of resentment lead to bullying, intimidation and gross injustice, we have a recipe for disaster in the parishes and wider church. The Holy Father and his council must act to purge the Church of this poison. Fr. Daspard's book has helped to shine a spotlight onto some very disagreeable aspects of the Church of the last 40 years and into the present. The time has come for some real house cleaning. 


  1. Saint Peter Damian dealt with a similar situation in the Church in the eleventh century in his treatise 'Gomorrah' .
    Although his suggestions for disciplinary action (public whipping, six months solitary on bread and water and to be accompanied everywhere, indefinitely by two priests) may be considered impractical today, very severe penalties might discourage all or most incontinent homosexuals from seeking admission to a seminary or order.

  2. The late Fr. Thwaites opined at a retreat for priests that most priests go to hell. Since Fr. Thwaites showed remarkable judgment and serenity throughout his life, I'm inclined to believe him. I assume his judgment was coloured by what he witnessed in his own troubled era, and so perhaps more priests have enjoyed eternal beatitude in other eras.
    Scott W

  3. Strangely this book is no longer available on Kindle! Any theories?

  4. Anonymous....I spoke with someone this morning who said he had bought it. Maybe it was removed suddenly when it became known that the Bishop of Motherwell was to "stand down". It does seem to have achieved the purpose of informing the Vatican about some things. perhaps they asked for its removal (?)

  5. I found Fr. Desparde's book in the Kindle lending library.

  6. Father John...why would the Vatican do that? Another cover up of a cover up?

  7. No, anonymous (?), but where there is an official investigation of any kind from any place, evidence is taken but further correspondence and judgments are suspended for a time so as not to prejudice the investigation. It was merely a casual guess on my part, but it seems the real reason for removing it from its former page is the personal decision of Fr. Daspard (for whatever reason he has)

  8. It has been removed as their is impending court cases relating to allegations made by Despard in his book.