'The Turbulent Priest' follows Fr. Brian's emotional journey
Behind the scenes footage of how Father Brian D'Arcy coped with the news that he had been censored by the Vatican after challenging the some of the Catholic Church's core teachings is to be screened in a major television documentary next week.
In "The Turbulent Priest" the cameras are given access as the news of the censure is revealed to the world's press and films as he confronts his dilemma. He asks: "Is the price of being a priest that you stay quiet, that you don't be a whistle blower, and that the price of dying a priest is that you don't speak the truth?"
In a frank and personal documentary, filmmaker Natalie Maynes follows Father Brian on a journey across Europe as he confronts the biggest dilemma of his life -- can he continue as a priest?
The documentary follows the Rector of the Graan as he reveals his struggle with the core teachings of the church including celibacy. "I would have been a much better priest had I married. I think it would have been the whole thing of sharing your life with somebody else and the whole thing of making sacrifices for somebody else and also that idea of a companion, a closeness, a friend, someone to call home," he said.
"Ask any single person who doesn't want to be single what it's like. You're a nobody in the world for a start. You have no place really you can call your own. You have no friendship you can call your own. You have given your life to everybody else and find that you have no life at all at the end of it. Where is home? At the end of my life I don't have a home. Ideally religious life is supposed to be a type of home. It isn't, not now anyway."
He also speaks openly about his own personal experience of sexual abuse in the church and the feelings that were left with him afterwards. He said: "You're afraid the secret will destroy you until you realise, hey, I've nothing to be afraid of. I've nothing to be ashamed of and I can say that clearly now, and it's the same thing when the Vatican came after me, I could say; I've nothing to be ashamed of. I didn't do anything wrong."
As he goes on a journey of discovery, he seeks out people and places which may help him find answers. One of those people, Helmut Schuller, an Austrian priest is actively lobbying for reform of some of the church's core teachings. Schuller who has been demoted from a senior post in the church to a parish priest outside Vienna remains defiant that he would never leave the church. He said: "At no moment I thought to leave church, because it is my church. I want this church to move to change, to find renewal, to find reform, and I have a lot of friends in this church. I don't want to leave it".
Father Brian also speaks to Father Brian McKevitt, editor of a conservative Catholic newspaper who has a much more traditional viewpoint. He says to Brian: "A lot of what you write is a kind of a candy floss spirituality. It looks attractive but when you actually bite into it there's kind of an absence of substance, an absence of nourishment."
As well as speaking to these key individuals, Father Brian writes a letter to Cardinal Sean Brady, Head of the Irish Catholic Church questioning him about the future of the church in Ireland. In Cardinal Brady's letter he sets out a list roles for the church including being there to "serve the poor", "celebrating rites of passage", being a "voice within ethical discourse" and being the "bearer of a beautiful heritage."
He also asks about his own role in the church to which Cardinal Brady responds: "I know that with your excellent access to media and superb communication skills are well placed to share the fruits of such reflection with others. I wish you well as you continue to do so."
Throughout the documentary Fr. Brian also speaks with Sarah McDonald, from International Catholic newspaper, The Tablet and his good friend, and probably one of the most famous priests in Ireland, actor Frank Kelly who played the infamous Father Jack from the popular comedy series Father Ted.
He also travels to Weston Super Mare to meet with Michael Carroll who was ordained with Brian but after 10 years left the priesthood. Fr.Brian seeks to find out what it was that finally convinced Michael to walk out on the Church.
Towards the end of the documentary Brian reveals to his congregation if he is going to be able to stay on as a priest in the Graan and if he feels that he is able to remain a priest and still be true to himself.
Narrator and Producer, Natalie Maynes said: "Making this film has been a unique opportunity to document an insider's take on the Irish Catholic Church, particularly at a time when it is under particular scrutiny. Father Brian D'Arcy has been in religious life for 50 years and that half century of experience has convinced him the Church should be taking its lead from the ordinary 'grass roots' Catholics he helps on a daily basis. But Fr. Brian worries the Vatican is returning to the conservative church of his youth which he believes will alienate Catholics struggling with core teachings like clerical celibacy, second relationships, homosexuality, and contraception. The worst case scenario, says Fr. Brian, is that 'we allow them to impose this legalistic church again. Look what happened - that's what led to the abuse of children, abuse of power, the abuse of the church itself'".
The Turbulent Priest is being screened on Monday, October 29 on BBC One NI at 10.35pm.
This article appeared in Impartial Reporter 25 Oct 12