January 22, 2006

Scandal? For an Irish Parish, It's Just a Priest With a Child

The New York Times

Published: January 22, 2006
DUBLIN, Jan. 21 - The affair had all the makings of a first-class scandal: in a quiet corner of rural Ireland, a 73-year-old Roman Catholic priest admitted to fathering a child last year with a local schoolteacher. Smelling a good story, television crews rolled into the village of Woodford, 30 miles southeast of Galway, and tabloid newspapers gleefully denounced "Father Romeo."

On radio call-in shows and television current affairs programs, the affair has kick-started a national debate about the celibacy requirement for Catholic clergy. Local residents, however, refused to get worked up about it. The priest, the Rev. Maurice Dillane, has remained in hiding, and his parishioners have closed ranks in his defense.

"People are just letting it go," said Declan Walsh, the only one of six pub owners in Woodford to entertain a reporter's questions on the topic. "People are understanding. It's 2006. Everybody twists the rules a bit on their way through life." ...

The seeming lack of outrage is a reflection of how much Ireland has changed since 1992. In that year, the charismatic and powerful bishop of Galway, Eamonn Casey, was discovered to have fathered a son 17 years before with a divorced American woman and to have used church funds to pay for the boy's education.

The revelations ended Father Casey's career as a bishop and shook the faith of thousands of Irish Catholics. And the incident was just the beginning of what was to be a decade of scandals, most notably a wave of sex abuse cases, that effectively ended the church's central role in Irish society.

Posted by kshaw at January 22, 2006 01:38 PM