Republic of Ireland news

St Patrick's College Maynooth trustees order review of social media use amid 'gay dating app' claims

St Patrick's College in Maynooth is Ireland's main seminary for trainee Catholic priests
Brian Hutton, Press Association

CATHOLIC Church officials at Ireland's main seminary have confirmed they will be carrying out a review of internet and social media use amid claims trainee priests are accessing the gay dating app, Grindr.

Trustees at St Patrick's College in Maynooth, Co Kildare, have met for crisis talks and ordered an overhaul of its approach to whistleblowers.

The meeting of the four Archbishops and 13 senior bishops comes after the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin confirmed he was boycotting the centuries-old seminary.

Dr Diarmuid Martin, the most senior Catholic in the Republic of Ireland, said earlier this month he is sending student priests to Rome rather than Maynooth.

The church leader said he made the decision some months ago because he was "somewhat unhappy" about "an atmosphere that was growing in Maynooth", exposed through anonymous accusations in letters and online blogs.

Dr Martin said allegations included "a homosexual, a gay culture, that students have been using an app called Grindr" which he said "would be fostering promiscuous sexuality".

The archbishop said there were further allegations that whistleblowers trying to bring claimed wrongdoing to the attention of authorities were being dismissed from the seminary.

After the crisis meeting in Maynooth, the college trustees said they acknowledged the controversy and the disquiet it has caused in the Church in Ireland.

"The trustees share the concerns about the unhealthy atmosphere created by anonymous accusations together with some social media comments which can be speculative or even malicious," they said in a statement.

"Persons with specific concerns are encouraged to report them appropriately as soon as possible."

As well as reviews into internet and social media use, and the college whistleblowing policy,the trustees will also call on the Church to set up an independent audit into the running of both remaining Irish seminaries, Maynooth and St Malachy's in Belfast.

Founded in 1795, Maynooth College was once the largest seminary in the world.

It was built to train 500 Catholic priests every year, but numbers have nosedived to just over 40 for the coming year with a fall-off in vocations.

Speaking earlier this month, Dr Martin also criticised the "comfortable" regime at the seminary.

"The people have their breakfast, dinner and tea served up to them," he said.

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