I hardly know what to say about the latest controversy surrounding Maynooth, Ireland's national seminary.
I've been there twice in my life. Once in my teens, visiting my mother who was doing a course. And once, a few years ago, to deliver a talk to the John Paul II Theological Society.
The second time was in the evening and the college seemed mostly to be closed. But the first time I went, it had quite an effect on me. I remember a long corridor decked with oil paintings of former bishops, resplendent in their robes. In another corridor there were group photographs of each year's cohort of seminarians. Even as a teenager with little interest in religion, I was amazed at the size of the classes.
Since then, various scandals have rocked Maynooth-- the above story doesn't mention the allegations from Mark Dooley, Ireland's only conservative philosopher (who lectured in Maynooth) that orthodox seminarians were being pressured away from the priesthood. And now we have stories about gay dating apps being used by some seminarians.
Of course, these are only allegations. I hope and pray they are not true!
But perhaps the saddest thing about this story is reading a statement from an Irish diocese that reads: "We are hopeful to have a candidate for the priesthood for the coming academic year." One candidate! Another priest quoted in the piece points out that Dublin now has only one priest under the age of forty.
Oh Holy Spirit, give young men in this country the courage and grace to follow the priestly vocation! May we, the laity, treat the priesthood with more reverence and respect, so young men will not be discouraged from it! St. Patrick, St. Oliver Plunkett, St. Laurence O'Toole, all the saints of Ireland, intercede for our national seminary so that it becomes once again a beacon of holiness, purity and devotion! Amen.