"BISHOP" BUCKLEY AND ARCHBISHOP McQUAID
The Irish Times - Monday, November 22, 1999
Sir, - May I be permitted to use your columns to add a footnote to John Cooney's fine biography of John Charles McQuaid? It was inevitable that Mr Cooney's claims about Dr McQuaid's sexuality would be a cause of controversy, especially, it seems, his recital of Noel Browne's posthumous contribution to the debate.
As the person who first brought Dr Browne's anecdote to John Cooney's attention I think it might be helpful to put my own impressions on the record. Unlike Mr Cooney, I had an opportunity to speak to Noel Browne about this matter shortly before his death.
Towards the end of a long conversation at his Rossaveel home at Easter 1996, Dr Browne told me how he had been approached at the funeral of Sean MacBride by a retired Irish-language school inspector who claimed to have important information about Archbishop McQuaid. The ex-inspector visited Dr Browne at home the next day and told him the story of Archbishop McQuaid's encounter with the teenage son of a Drumcondra publican.
When Dr Browne told me this story he stated clearly that the former inspector was alleging a sexual assault on the boy. Dr Browne's written memoir, which he didn't show me at the time but which is cited by John Cooney, seems less explicit in this regard.
When I asked Noel Browne why he hadn't made the allegation public, he gave two reasons. First, he had no way of knowing if it was true (although equally, he said, he had no reason to disbelieve his informant, whom he judged to be a man of honesty and integrity). Second, he said, coming from him the story would never be taken seriously. He was telling it to me, he said, in the hope that I might be able to discover what, if anything, lay behind it.
However, my efforts to contact the inspector proved fruitless.
I told the story to John Cooney while he was researching his biography of Dr McQuaid, without revealing Noel Browne as my source. John Cooney discovered the Browne connection only after Dr Browne's death.
At no time during my conversation with Dr Browne was he gloating, spiteful or triumphant in relation to this matter. I do not believe he revealed this allegation in order to achieve revenge. Quite the opposite: he was saddened by it and told it in a way that suggested compassion, not just for those who might have suffered at Dr McQuaid's hands, but also for the Archbishop himself.
I believe Dr Browne also told this story to Bishop Pat Buckley who has incorporated it into his doctoral thesis. Bishop Buckley's reaction to the story and his impressions of Browne's motives will make interesting reading. - #
RTE Current Affairs,
The Irish Times - Wednesday, November 10, 1999
Sir, - I can understand Father Fitzpatrick's sadness (November 6th) as his former Archbishop, John Charles McQuaid stands accused of being a homosexual paedophile. "John Charles", as we all knew him, was one of the most powerful figures in the Ireland of 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. As Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland he had a stranglehold over our Catholic lives. He also had immense power over our social and political existences. No one did more to create and maintain a Catholic Ireland for a Catholic people than he did.
Looking back, we can see all the harm that was done. We were forced to live in a confessional Catholic state in which the right to religious dissent and freedom of conscience was virtually denied. We were also forced to live in a very repressed milieu in which morality was reduced to more sexual morality as we all went around burdened by a religious sense of being lost, sinful and dirty.
John Charles McQuaid cannot be blamed for inventing this moral affliction. But he can be blamed for being its fanatical representative and advocate in the young Ireland. As we wrestle with moving into a newer and healthier Ireland, we must examine and analyse the forces and the people that made us what we were in the past. In that context everything that John Charles McQuaid was and did is more than pertinent.
Dr McQuaid confirmed me in 1964. From 1970 until 1972, when I was a student in Clonliffe seminary, I visited the Archbishop in his Drumcondra palace. During 1972 and early 1973 he was my confessor and spiritual director and I had long and regular sessions with him at his home in Killiney. I can categorically state the following:
1. When I was 18 and beginning my Clonliffe studies, Dr McQuaid interviewed me for two hours. The time was spent talking almost exclusively about sex and "the facts of life". He drew diagrams for me of the male and female genitalia and used his hands and fingers to show me what happened in intercourse. He also presented me with a pocket crucifix to be used to ward of any temptation to masturbate.
2. For the whole of those two hours Dr McQuaid had me at the corner of his desk with his knees touching and nudging my knees and with his feet on top of my feet. When he made sensitive points he pressed his feet hard enough down on mine for it to be painful.
3. During my visits to Killiney for confession and spiritual direction he often sat with me in a similar fashion and when I was leaving he used to squeeze my arm so tightly as to cause me very sharp pain. Often, when I looked back down the driveway, he would be standing at the door watching me and looking so desperately lonely. Those Killiney meetings were always dominated by the sexual topic.
4. During my visits to Killiney I had access to his upstairs study and bathroom and a full view of his open bedroom. But on no occasion did Dr McQuaid ever attempt to take physical contact with me any further than I have described above.
Over the years I have heard many rumours and much talk about John Charles. Dr Noel Browne personally told me of the alleged Drumcondra pub incident. Others have told me about allegations being made to the Garda and about Garda files disappearing. Homosexual incidents were not unknown in the Clonliffe in which I lived from 1970 until 1973. John Charles was very close to the young men who formed his Archbishop's corps and loved to visit boys' homes of an evening.
On the basis of my 30 years' knowledge and experience as a seminarian, priest and bishop and from my personal knowledge of John Charles, I believe the following to be true:
1. John Charles McQuaid had a huge hang-up about sex; he was greatly and painfully sexually repressed and infected the rest of us with that repression.
2. John Charles McQuaid was homosexual by orientation and was sexually and emotionally attracted to younger males.
3. John Charles McQuaid may or may not have acted on his sexual desires. It is hard to believe that someone with his Herculean desires and attractions and his unequalled access to young men could have contained himself for over 60 years. However, to date, there is no incontrovertible evidence of him having engaged in genital sex. On this question the jury must surely still be out.
John Cooney's book is subtitled: Saint or Sinner. In my view John Charles was more like the rest of us than he pretended and perhaps the book should have been called "Saint and Sinner!" –
(Most Rev) Patrick Buckley,
The Oratory Society,
Larne, Co Antrim.