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The Father, the Son and the Housekeeper

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William Crawley | 19:06 UK time, Wednesday, 18 June 2008

If you missed it when it was screened on BBC NI earlier this year, you still have a chance to watch Alison Miller's fascinating documentary about the late Father Michael Cleary, the well-known Irish priest who had his own TV chat show. After his death, it emerged that the priest's housekeeper was actually his common-law wife, and her son was Michael Cleary's child. Watch the documentary here.


  • Comment number 1.

    i was watching it this morning. fantastic documentary, though i did feel slightly sorry for the son at being made to go through it all again

  • Comment number 2.

    And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.

    The Puritan

  • Comment number 3.

    I always feel that these stories are reminiscent of some Father Ted episodes especially those involving Bishop Brennan !!!

    Still, I cant understand why, in this day and age, the Catholic Church still insists on a life of celibacy for priests and nuns. Surely this is a far harder thing to do nowadays than it was several centuries ago ? I strongly feel that if the celibacy laws for priests were relaxed there would be no child abuse (or at least very little) of the type that has plagued the denomination over the last few decades.

    Also, surely with the falling numbers of those entering the priesthood these outdated requrements for priests and nuns are going to have to be done away with in order to make the it a more atractive vocation ?

  • Comment number 4.

    Peter - why would celibacy be harder today than in previous times?

    I really don't think child abuse has anything to do with celibacy - the great majority of child abusers aren't celibate - many of them are married. And of course the bulk of the problems the church has had weren't paedophilia but homosexual abuse of teenagers which is equally wrong but different. Of course it will never be addressed so long as we keep talking about paedophilia.

    As regards changing the rules to attract more candidates - the rules have been around for over a thousand years - I don't think we can link the collapse of vocations in the west in the last fifteen years with celibacy.

    As regards nuns - how would you possibly have married nuns - makes no sense.

    Saw the programme last year - while I thought it was very good, I did feel that the son was being exploited a bit by the media.

  • Comment number 5.

    And of course the bulk of the problems the church has had weren't paedophilia but homosexual abuse of teenagers which is equally wrong but different.

    I disagree strongly with that statement. Certainly in the eyes of the law it's paedophilia. I mean, surely teenagers e.g. 13/14 year olds are really still just young children ? I don't think the abuse of children by 30, 40, and 50 year old men can be regarded as anything but paedophillia (even if they are teenagers).

    There are of course some grey areas. For example, a 17 year old youth dating a 15 year old girl (or vice versa) but that's completely different to the examples I've mentioned above.

    What I'm trying to say is that the levels of abuse in the Catholic church seems to be abnormally high compared to the population at large. In my opinion, this is due to the celibacy laws for priests. I base this on the fact that even though the Protestant denominations (pastors and ministers are of course allowed to marry) aren't imune from this, the level of this type of thing is much more akin to the general population. Having large numbers of the same sex (particularly male) together is not a healthy environment, in my view.

    As for celibacy being more difficult now than several hundred years ago, I feel that there is far more exposure to sexual temptation nowadays than when the celibacy laws were first introduced. We have magazines, television, DVD's and before that videos, and more laterally the internet, all of which have played a major part in many of the sex scandals of recent years. Even newspapers portray sex on a daily basis now.

    I still feel that relaxation of the celibacy rules would solve a lot of problems in the Catholic church. Not being a Catholic I'm not sure if there's a large movement pushing for this change in the denomination.

  • Comment number 6.

    Surprise, surprise. What other transgressions did he commit? Is he in hell? If he isn't, why should the rest of us worry?

  • Comment number 7.

    Peter - don't get me wrong, I think the abuse of teenage boys was and is abhorent. All I was saying was that from a psychological point of view it isn't paedophilia. Paedophiles want to have sex with children as children and the younger the better almost - older men having sex with teenage boys is a different problem. I'm not saying its a lesser problem, just a different problem. My point is that it suits people to say the problem is paedophilia rather than homosexuality.

    Perhaps you're right that it is harder to be celibate in a world so sexually driven -- but surely all the more important to strive to change that and that's why celibacy has its valued place in the same way that in an age of consumerism you need people who embrace celibacy.

  • Comment number 8.


    I think Peter is largely correct about the levels of abuse being high in the Catholic Church and that it is largely related to the celibacy rules.

    You are missing the point: whether or not celibacy has a valued place, as you put it, the important thing is that men (and women) should have a choice whether they wish to be celibate or not.

    Now, far be it for me to tell the Catholic Church what it ought to do, but surely its rule is too strict and inflexible. Its ruling presumably contributes greatly to the scarcity of new recruits to the priesthood. There is not much point in preaching the virtues of celibacy if there is no one available to deliver the message.

    But then maybe, as a secularist, I should be thrilled to bits. As Gambetta put it: "Clericalism  – that is the enemy". So, go on, be as traditional and reactionary as you want. But leave children and teenagers alone.


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