Email Us My Blog

Irish Priests Excommunicated [Pat Buckley and Michael Cox]

National Catholic Reporter July 17, 1998

Two Irish priests were excommunicated when one, claiming to be a bishop, attempted to ordain the other a bishop as well.

Jim Cantwell, director of the Catholic Press and Information Office in Dublin, said Fr. Michael Cox, who claims to have been ordained a bishop in Spain, and Fr. Pat Buckley, whom he attempted to ordain in a secret ceremony in May, excommunicated themselves by acting without permission from Rome.

Pauline Fr. Antonio Manna, an official at the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said Cox was formally excommunicated shortly after his ordination as a bishop. In the late 1980s, Cox formally requested to be reconciled with the church, "which the Holy See, in its mercy, conceded in 1992," Manna said. However, four years later the Irish bishops declared publicly that Cox was "not in harmony with the Catholic church" after it was discovered that he was granting sacramental absolution to penitents over the telephone, Manna said.

Manna said that the Holy See had taken no further action against the priest, but because he attempted to ordain Buckley a bishop, he is automatically excommunicated under the terms of the Code of Canon Law.

Buckley, a priest of the Down and Connor diocese in Northern Ireland, came into conflict with his superiors more than 10 years ago, when he started to celebrate marriages of divorced Catholics and to bless homosexual unions. This led the then-bishop of. Down and Connor, Cardinal Cahal Daly, to remove Bucklers faculties and request that he leave the parochial house in Larne. Buckley refused to leave and still lives there. He installed a chapel in his home and then opened a new church in Omeath. He continues to conduct layoff marriages, because he retains his license to do so from the civil authorities in Belfast.

Negotiations between Buckley and the diocese continued when Bishop Patrick Walsh succeeded Daly as bishop of Down and Connor, but no solution has been reached.

Buckley recently wrote to the primate of all Ireland, Archbishop Scan Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, telling him he had been ordained bishop by Cox and that "in view of the happy events of May 19 there would appear to be no point in continuing that particular dialogue [with Walsh]."

After the Catholic Press Office announced that Buckley and Cox had excommunicated themselves, Buckley said, "I don't accept it. I don't believe in leprechauns, and I don't believe in excommunications. I don't think anyone can throw anyone out of the family of God." Cox was unavailable for comment.