One of two Irish seminarians at the center of widespread national media reports that they’d been sent home after the two had been discovered in bed together has served notice of plans to sue for defamation, insisting the allegations are false, according to a report in the Irish Catholic newspaper.
Among other outlets, legal letters from the seminarian’s attorney reportedly have been served on both the Irish Times and Irish Independent, two of the country’s most widely read and influential daily newspapers.
Late last week, several Irish media outlets, including the Times and Independent, carried stories claiming that two unidentified seminarians at Rome’s Pontifical Irish College had been sent home after having been found in bed with one another, following a Vatican Mass marking the 50th anniversary of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s landmark 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.
According to the report in the Irish Catholic, however, while the two seminarians had been disciplined over concerns related to excessive alcohol consumption, at no time were charges of sexual misconduct put to either man by authorities of the Irish College, which is Ireland’s national seminary in Rome.
The report also suggests that neither man has been dismissed from the Irish College, though both are temporarily away of their own accord, and neither man was “sent” back to Ireland.
According to the Irish Catholic, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has received a report on the situation from Monsignor Ciaran O’Carroll, rector of the Irish College, in which there is no mention of sexual impropriety. The newspaper cites sources to the effect that Martin has confirmed that point directly to one of the seminarians involved.
According to the report, there also was no Vatican Mass to mark the Humanae Vitae anniversary around the time the incident is supposed to have occurred.
A senior source in Archbishop’s House in Dublin, according to the Irish Catholic, described the original media reports as “fabrications.”
The Irish Catholic also reports that the two seminarians have appealed to both Martin and O’Carroll to make a public statement to clear their names, but so far neither man has spoken about the case.
Though neither of the seminarians involved has been identified publicly, both are said to be concerned that given the relatively small enrollment at the Irish College, especially from the Archdiocese of Dublin, it would be a fairly simple matter to learn their names.
According to the Irish Catholic, lawyers for the seminarian intend to argue that it was irresponsible for media outlets to publish these charges without verifying them or attempting to make contact with the seminarians involved.
Two years ago, Martin said he would no longer send trainee priests from the diocese to the national seminary at St Patrick’s College in Maynooth because of a worrying “atmosphere,” including allegations that some seminarians had been discovered using a gay dating app called Grindr.
Martin said in 2016 he intended instead to send trainees from Dublin to the Irish College in Rome, arguing it offered “a good grounding” in the Catholic faith.
The story about the seminarians is unfolding in Ireland just months ahead of the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families, scheduled to take place in Dublin August 21-26, and which will be capped off by a visit from Pope Francis.