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Gay-sex scandal hits Irish seminary

View of St. Patrick's from St Joseph's Square in Maynooth, Ireland. Public Domain

DUBLIN: The head of Ireland's biggest Catholic diocese said Tuesday he had moved trainee priests from the country's leading seminary over allegations of homosexual activity among students and staff, including the use of the Grindr dating app.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said the "poisonous" atmosphere caused by the claims at St. Patrick's College, Maynooth – also known as the National Seminary for Ireland – had led him to transfer students to the Irish College in Rome.

An anonymous letter emerged in May, alleging homosexual activity among some students and teachers. Authorities issued a statement promising to "thoroughly deal" with such behavior.

"A culture of anonymous letters is poisonous and until that is cleared up I would be happier to send my students elsewhere," the archbishop told RTE, Ireland's national broadcaster.

The archbishop said the use of Grindr would be inappropriate for seminarians "not just because they are training to be celibate priests but because an app like that is something that would be fostering promiscuous sexuality which is certainly not in any way the mature vision of sexuality that one would expect priests to understand."

Thanks to GPS technology, users of the Grindr app, generally gay men seeking sex, are able to locate and view photos and brief profiles of other users in their immediate vicinity and arrange to meet them.

The archbishop said he had tried to communicate with the author or authors of the anonymous online letters and blogs, offering to appoint a confidential expert to help verify the claims.

However, his initiative has been met only by more anonymous letters.

It is believed whistleblowers are reluctant to come forward because others have been expelled for making such allegations.

"The authorities at Maynooth feel we have to find ways in which people will come forward with solid, hard evidence which can be used to follow up allegations," Archbishop Martin said.

Hugh Connolly, the President of St. Patrick's College, told RTE he was aware of the allegations and was "very worried" about the alleged use of Grindr in particular.

But "natural justice" demanded the production of strong evidence before any action could be taken, he added.

Archbishop Martin also appeared to question if Maynooth was still fit to train modern-day clergy, suggesting it could be better done outside the "closed, strange world of seminaries."

St. Patrick's College, situated at Maynooth, Co Kildare, is a university town 24 kilometers (15 miles) from Dublin.

The seminary was formed in 1795 and at the height of Catholic Church power in Ireland trained around 500 young men for the priesthood.

This number has dwindled to around 55 and there are now concerns that it could face closure if bishops believe priest could be trained better elsewhere.

 

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