Ireland’s Catholic Church hierarchy has admitted concerns about an “unhealthy atmosphere” at the country’s main seminary amid claims trainee priests there are using the gay dating app Grindr.
Church leaders have ordered a review on the “appropriate use of the internet and social media” at the centuries-old St Patrick’s College in Maynooth, Co Kildare, as well as an overhaul of its approach to whistleblowers.
The college trustees - four Archbishops and 13 senior Bishops - met for crisis talks after the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin confirmed he was boycotting the seminary.
Dr Diarmuid Martin, the most senior Catholic in the Irish Republic, said earlier this month he is sending student priests to Rome rather than Maynooth - just 26 km (16 miles) from the capital.
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 a meeting in Maynooth, the four Archbishops and 13 Bishops that oversee the seminary 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.”
The trustees have vowed to carry out a review of whistle-blowing policies and procedures and will demand college authorities review the use of the internet and social media.
They 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 trainee 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.