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Ban on Fr Pat Buckley
The Irish Times - Thursday, October 9, 1997

Sir, - The last paragraph of Fr Kevin Doran's letter (October 2nd) read: "In our concern to be compassionate we overlook that other Christian virtue, truth." My immediate reaction is to stand up and shout: "And now there remains Faith, Hope and Charity, these three: but the greatest of these is Charity."
- Yours, etc.,

Elizabeth Maguire,
Co Dublin.


Ban on Fr Pat Buckley
The Irish Times - Thursday, October 2, 1997 from Fr Kevin Doran

Sir, - I am a priest of the Dublin diocese who at one time studied at Clonliffe College with Pat Buckley. Pat tends to present himself as a prophet and, of course, it fits in with the image of a prophet that he sees himself as someone who is persecuted by the establishment. The opposition of an authentic prophet is, ultimately, constructive. Pat has many good qualities, not least of which are a good sense of humour and a facility with language. I think, however, that he backed himself into a corner a good many years ago, and is now trapped in a cycle of destructive sniping.

If Pat Buckley wants to argue with the authorities of the Church, there is nothing to stop him. He has been doing it for years. But the death of a young man is already a very difficult time for his family.

I think it is important to establish a few facts:

1. Pat Buckley's nephew was not denied a funeral Mass in his parish church. Nor was he denied a Christian burial. (In 20 years as a priest, I have personally never known a case in which a person was denied a Christian burial, if it was requested.)

2. Pat Buckley himself would have been welcome in the congregation, as a member of the family.

3. The problem is that Pat wants to present himself as a Catholic priest, whereas the ministry he exercises is not related to any appointment from any bishop. In some respects at least, his ministry is not compatible with the core teaching of the Gospel as understood and proclaimed by the Catholic Church.

By requesting permission to celebrate the funeral Mass, he put Archbishop Connell in an impossible situation. Of course compassion is a virtue. Of course Pat Buckley's family are entitled to the same pastoral care as any other family in the diocese. Too often, however, in our concern to be compassionate, we overlook that other essential Christian virtue, the truth. As Jesus himself said on one occasion, it is the truth that sets us free. –

Yours, etc.,

Foxrock, Dublin 18.


Ban on Father Pat Buckley
Sir, - As the founder of Candlemas, a Catholic spiritual initiative for families and friends bereaved by suicide, may I say how saddened I was by the decision of Archbishop Connell not to allow Father Pat Buckley, uncle of the late Mr Christopher Geoghegan, to celebrate this young man's funeral liturgy in a Catholic church in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

Given the tragic circumstances of this young person's death, a magnanimous gesture by Archbishop Connell would have been a compassionate pastoral response in the face of this terrible trauma for the young man's parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends. It is a pity the Archbishop chose this sad occasion to raise other matters not relevant to Mr Geoghegan's family.

Since the Church allows under Canon 976 "any priest" (i.e. excommunicated, laicised, suspended) to absolve a penitent in danger of death, it is difficult to perceive the denial of the use of a church to a priest for an hour to celebrate Mass for a suicide victim as being anything other than vindictive and indeed callous. It can only add to the inexpressible pain and grief of the family.

One of the themes of the Jubilee of the Year 2000 is, according to Pope John Paul II, "an increased sensitivity to all that the Spirit is saying to the Church and to the Churches". It seems that this sensitivity to the Spirit of comfort and consolation was singularly lacking in recent days towards the Geoghegan family from Archbishop's House. Dr Connell's words are most impressive, but from my own pastoral experience significant and caring gestures, not words, are far more meaningful and long remembered by families tragically bereaved.

The Russian writer Nicolai Lyeskov, in his story The Enchanted Wanderer, tells how an Orthodox priest in disfavour with his metropolitan and about to be removed from his parish "bettered the affairs of suicides in the other world" as he always prayed for them at "holy offertory". Providence, in the person of St Sergius, protected the priest from the bishop's wrath and allowed him continue his ministry.When pity seems to be replaced by power it is all too easy to forget that a crozier was once a shepherd's crook. –

Yours, etc.,

From Rev Peter O'Callaghan
Co Cork.


An Uncle Leads Mourners In Grief for Christopher
The Irish Times - Saturday, September 27, 1997  by PATSY MCGARRY

The plaque outside the Unitarian Church on St Stephen's Green, Dublin, states that this church "wishes to welcome all who wish to worship in a spirit of freedom, reason and tolerance". A woman and her adult son stood beneath it as the remains of Christopher Geoghegan (23) were carried inside yesterday morning. Mr Geoghegan was found dead at his Dublin home early on Tuesday.

The woman nudged her son. "Come on, we can go in now. The cameras have gone."

Mr Geoghegan's uncle, the dissident Catholic priest, Father Pat Buckley, who earlier this week was refused permission by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Desmond Connell, to say Mass in a Catholic church for Mr Geoghegan, welcomed everyone to "this beautiful old church". The Unitarians offered the use of their church following Dr Connell's refusal.

Father Buckley led the congregation of family, neighbours and friends in Amazing Grace, one of his nephew's favourite hymns.

The eight Beatitudes are inscribed in marble beside the lectern from which he spoke. "Blessed are those who mourn. . ." reads one. "Blessed are the merciful. . ." is another.

Christopher's sister, Patricia, read from the prayer of St Francis of Assisi, her voice aching, and all sang The Lord is my Shepherd. Christopher's aunt, Linda Graham, read the poem, Death on the Wind. She was followed by Father Michael Keane, who quoted from Paul to the Romans ". . . where God acquits can anyone condemn?. . . no angel or prince, not any power of height or depth can come between us and the love of God".

In his homily, Father Buckley spoke of Saint Christopher, who used to be represented as carrying the world on his shoulders. He imagined the burden must have prompted the saint, in the words of a 1960s song, to want to "make the world go away. Take it off of my shoulders".

Saint Christopher had been "decanonised" following Vatican Two, said Father Buckley, and referred to "another Christopher who was no saint either" but who had the world on his shoulders too.

This Christopher, "our son, our brother, our nephew, our friend", had struggled with a darker side "which always seemed to catch up". Once he said that if he died he would like his ashes to be spread in the Dargle Valley, where he had often hiked. Then and only then would his spirit be free, he had said. And now "he had made the world go away in the most tragic of circumstances".

Johnny and Susan Ward sang All I ask of You, from Phantom of the Opera, after which Father Buckley asked for prayers for "all who suffer in any way, particularly those who struggle with addiction and depression". He also asked for prayers "for those who have hurt us".

At the end, Father Buckley thanked all who had rallied round Christopher's family, "especially the Unitarians and their stunning act of charity and compassion in not just opening their building to us, but their hearts and arms also. We will never forget the kindness of their action". He hoped "God and goodness will reward you all". The congregation responded with loud applause.

A spokesman for the Archbishop of Dublin, responding to a claim by Father Buckley that his mother was refused an assurance by the Archbishop that her son would be allowed to officiate at her funeral, has said that "to give a definitive answer for a hypothetical situation in the future is difficult. Circumstances change and reconciliation is possible. It is those changes which determine the kind of decision that would be made".


Father Buckley's Mother Refused Funeral Assurance
The Irish Times - Friday, September 26, 1997 by PATSY MCGARRY

Mrs Josephine Buckley (69), mother of the dissident priest Father Pat Buckley, has been refused an assurance by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Desmond Connell, that her son will be allowed officiate at her funeral. Mrs Buckley, who will undergo a triple bypass operation in November, had sought the assurance some time ago but, according to a spokesman for Dr Connell, the Archbishop "could not in conscience accede to her request".

Father Buckley said last night his mother was "obviously concerned" about the matter. He said Dr Connell had offered to meet her, but then refused to do so when she requested that her son accompany her to the meeting. Father Buckley said he was prepared to meet Dr Connell to discuss the situation, as he had never been in dispute with the Dublin archdiocese.

He was, he said, "always willing to talk about reconciliation" provided it was on "a level playing pitch and people were genuine". But it would not, he said, be a case of "kneeling in the snow at Canossa" (an Italian city where Emperor Henry IV begged the forgiveness of Pope Gregory VII in 1077).

A spokesman for Dr Connell said Father Buckley's agreement to a meeting was being conveyed to the Archbishop last night, and a response would be available presently.

Earlier this week Dr Connell refused Father Buckley permission to officiate at a funeral Mass for his nephew Mr Christopher Geoghegan (23), who was found dead on Tuesday morning. Father Buckley, who is originally from Dublin, was removed from parochial work at Larne, Co Antrim, in 1986 by the then bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Cahal Daly, where he continues to remarry divorced Catholics.

Dr Connell said yesterday he was in "a no-win situation" where Father Buckley was concerned, and that no matter what he did in the circumstances he would be criticised.

He said the priest "is offering a ministry to people that in my view involves a profanation of the sacrament of marriage".

He asked: "how can I reconcile admitting him to celebrate the sacraments in one of the churches of the diocese when that is his settled way of life? That is my difficulty," he said.

Father Buckley said last night that he had met the chancellor of the Down and Connor diocese, the late Canon Fitzpatrick, six times following an attempt at reconciliation by the current Bishop there, Dr Patrick Walsh, "three to four years ago," but that nothing further had happened after he submitted "an entirely generous" 15-page document.

Meanwhile, a prayer service for Mr Geogehgan, conducted by Father Buckley and another dissident priest, Father Michael Keane, will take place at the Unitarian Church on St Stephen's Green in Dublin at 9.30 a.m. today. "It will be the sort of service Christopher would have wanted," Father Buckley said last night.

Mr Geoghegan was the eldest of four children, and was close to Father Buckley, who stayed with the family when in Dublin. There had been no indication that Mr Geoghegan was likely to die. He had had a drugs problem some years ago, Father Buckley said, but had recovered from that. He had a job as a printer and was living in his own place.


Unitarians Offer Dissident Priest Funeral Venue
The Irish Times - Thursday, September 25, 1997 by CHRIS DOOLEY

Dissident Catholic priest Father Pat Buckley said last night he was "totally bowled over" by the Christian compassion of the Unitarian Church in St Stephen's Green, after it agreed to allow him to conduct a funeral service for his nephew, who committed suicide.

Father Buckley had been barred from conducting the service in any church in Dublin, by the Archbishop, Dr Desmond Connell.

He was overwhelmed last night after a decision was taken by the committee of the Unitarian Church to offer their building.

"I think it is very sad that I was not able to find compassion and charity within the church to which I have belonged for 45 years and that I should now find it in a church with whom I have had little or no contact with," said Father Buckley.

He continued: "It is almost gospel in that the prophet was never accepted in his own country, but people outside of his tradition reached out their hands."
Dr Connell, yesterday defended his decision to refuse permission for Father Buckley to celebrate the funeral liturgy in the family's local Catholic church in Blakestown, west Dublin.

The Larne, Co Antrim-based priest's nephew, Mr Christopher Geoghegan (23), was found shot dead early on Tuesday in his flat on the Navan Road in Dublin. A sawn-off shotgun was by his side.

His mother, Ms Margaret Geoghegan, from Whitestown Drive, Mulhuddart, said she thought Dr Connell would have allowed Father Buckley to carry out the service. Father Buckley, who was removed from his parochial functions in Larne by the then Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Cahal Daly, in 1986, had requested permission to conduct the service.

In a statement, Dr Connell said it was with great regret that he had refused Father Buckley permission to celebrate the funeral Mass.

"Father Buckley's work in Larne, and in particular the marriage ceremonies he celebrates, mean his rights to minister to the Catholic faithful have had to be restricted. I considered whether this restriction could be lifted, but in the end I decided that, owing to the gravely unlawful nature of the type of work being done by Father Buckley and its direct conflict with Catholic teaching, even in this circumstance I couldn't allow Father Buckley the use of the facilities of the archdiocese."


Priest Issues New Funeral Challenge
The Irish Times - Saturday, September 6, 1997

The dissident priest, Father Pat Buckley, has threatened to hold his mother's funeral service at the gates of the residence of the Archbishop of Dublin.

In a letter to Dr Desmond Connell yesterday, Father Buckley said the archbishop's decision last week to refuse him permission to conduct his nephew's funeral service in a Dublin Catholic church had caused "grave scandal". "You have held the church up to ridicule and shown that in its Hierarchy at least it practises the opposite of what it preaches. Do you even realise the harm you've done?", the letter asked.

It also referred to Dr Connell's refusal last week to assure Father Buckley's "elderly and sick" mother that he would allow the priest to celebrate her funeral Mass in the event of her death.

"I must tell you that she is upset and hurt by your stance and has instructed me, in those circumstances, to conduct her funeral service at the gate of your palace in Drumcondra. I hope the day is many years away but should the current circumstances prevail her wishes will be fulfilled."

He "totally" rejected the explanations put forward by the archbishop for his refusal to allow the use of a church for last week's funeral of his nephew, Christopher Geoghegan. "I do not believe you were motivated by compassion. You certainly had no compassion for me and my family even though your words said that you did."