The miracle of Monto?

A chequered history, from prostitution to pilgrimages


Knock, Lourdes, Medjugorje, Monto – it’s like one of those sequences in which the objective is to ‘guess the odd one out’. But there isn’t one. Monto – nestled in the heart of Ireland’s heathenish capital, the place James Joyce called “the centre of paralysis”, is alive with mysteries and now also promises salvation.
Local historian Terry Fagan is our unlikely prophet – his gospel, a tale of prostitution, dilapidation and a purportedly miraculous statue that locals are hailing as the “Sacred Heart of Monto”.


An area of less than one square mile in Dublin’s North Inner City, Monto has a rich local history. It got its nickname from Montgomery Street, now Foley Street. It was a place that, at the beginning of the last century, was notorious for prostitution and poverty, boozers and its despotic ‘madams’. It is immortalised in the ballad ‘Take Me Up to Monto’, a Luke Kelly favourite. Although still an area of acute social disadvantage, it may now also become a beacon for the religiously devoted.

This summer (2002) alone there have been several heroin-related suicides in the North Inner City, adding to the over 150 deaths caused by heroin there during the last 20 years. It is an area that typifies the nature of ‘The Celtic Tiger’, new luxurious apartment blocks and business complexes juxtaposed against downtrodden corporation flats, excessive new-spun wealth cheek to jowl with the effects of generations of poverty.

Terry sees local history as a key facet in the regeneration of a community that, demonstrably, has lost a great deal of its identity and sense of worth. He got involved in compiling local history in the 1970s, while working delivering meals for the elderly.

“I always found when dropping in meals to them – they were lonely people, their families had moved on and they were left behind in the inner city – they always had a story to tell. And I found there wasn’t anybody recording the local history, as such. From then on, I began to gather a lot of information and when the North Inner City Folklore Project was set up I got involved in it.

“Over the years I recorded history from one of the most important parts of the city – Monto – which was classed as one of the biggest red light districts in Europe.”

Monto was in operation from the late 1860s up to 1925, and the area was run by successive ‘madams’ – women who housed, fed and generally exploited prostitutes and the population of the surrounding area with impunity. “It was estimated that 1,200 women operated [prostituted themselves] in the area,” Terry says.

It was 1911 when the first Catholic Commissioner of Police, Sir John Ross, orchestrated raids on the madams, and he did succeed, albeit temporarily, in shutting down Monto’s prostitution rackets. “But the madams basically said to the women, listen: ‘we’ve no more business for you now, out you go’,” Terry explains. “So the women made their way up to O’Connell Street, what was then Sackville Street, and were touting for business. And that shocked the mainstream; word spread to the likes of John Ross. People said that ‘you can’t have them operating in the middle of the city’. So basically what happened then is that the green light was given to them to go back again to Monto and they returned accordingly.”

The second set of madams to take over the running of the area became infamous. Madams like Betty Cooper, whose brother was executed on the orders of Michael Collins for the betrayal of Volunteers Dick McKee and Peadar Clancy, and May Oblong, who is mentioned in Roddy Doyle’s book ‘A Star Called Henry’ and in James Joyce’s ‘Finnegan’s Wake’.

“Some of the clients were the cream of Engish and Irish society. King Edward VII accessed the place through secret tunnels dotted all over Monto, and was a frequent visitor there over a period of time. There’s a few little King Edwards running around here, I’d say,” says Terry. The aforementioned Joyce was also a regular.

Over that period of time, the madams made the bulk of their money from the British Army. “It was said that the girls in Monto done more damage to the British Army than the Republican Movement,” Terry jokes. “Had there been an uprising in Dublin in the latter part of the 1800s, well, half the Dublin garrison were out sick with venereal diseases.”


“When the Treaty came,” Terry continues, “one man who was working for the British Administration at that time was Frank Duff. He worked mainly on statistics, and then, on the foundation of the Free State, for a brief time, he was actually a secretary to Michael Collins.”

Duff had also joined the St Vincent de Paul (SVP), which was mainly set up to cater for the South Dublin Union, visiting men in workhouses. But Duff was also concerned for the welfare of Dublin’s women.

“Originally he wasn’t interested in joing the SVP, but what turned things around for Duff was his exposure to the conditions of women in the Monto area,” says Terry. “As he was going down Chancery Street, he saw this group of women and, his suspicions aroused, he happened to go into their house and discover that they were prostitutes. He was so shocked that he pleaded with the women to give up prostitution, but they wouldn’t do that. He then got the local priest – as if he was going to change them – to come down, and he appealed to the women’s religious nature, beseeching them to give up their profession.

‘If we give up prostitution,’ they asked, ‘who’s going to feed us? Where will we get jobs? How are we going to live?’

“Duff then decided to try to find a convent that would accept the women for a retreat and give the SVP time to deter them from prostitution. After a great deal of difficulty, Duff managed to secure a convent in which to hold the retreat, but now he needed somewhere to keep the women so they would not lapse back to prostitution.

“So he went to see the head of the Irish Free State at the time, William T. Cosgrave. He agreed to give them a house – it was actually a house from which Michael Collins had escaped from the Black and Tans on many an occasion – 76 Harcourt Street. He gave them the house and got them a cheque for £50, which got furniture and which allowed them to set up a hostel called the ‘Sancta Maria’.

“Everything went OK until 1923, when two of the girls left and went down to Monto – and Duff decided to go and get them back.”

Duff had founded the Legion of Mary in 1921. “Its founding meeting was in an old store on Francis Street,” recalls Terry. “He said to the three or four women attending, ‘we’re going to call ourselves The Legion of Mary and this will be great’, he said. ‘There’ll be millions in this’. And the women looked around at each other and started laughing. But history would have it that 12 or 13 million people would join the Legion of Mary, in Ireland and across the world.”

In his attempts to retrieve the two women from Monto, Duff was directed to May Oblong of 14 Corporation Street, who professed to have given up her business as a madam. Initially Oblong was helpful, and presented herself as a good-living Catholic, but when it was suggested that she could help the Legion remove the women from Monto, she angrily ejected Duff and an associate from her home. Duff saw racks of coats and hats on his way out “and knew there was too much there for one woman”.

“May Oblong hadn’t given up prostitution – but was a costumer to the women in Monto. The women in Monto used to rent out their clothes off the madams, and they had to pay that, plus their keep – so they never really made anything.”

Duff eventually found one of the girls, sick in her bed in Monto, and he got her to a hospital in Townsend Street. She eventually died. Her’s was one of the biggest funerals ever held in the Monto area.


“So, Duff started to take on the madams. It so happened to be that there was a retreat to be held in Marlborough Street Pro-Cathederal, by the Jesuits, at that time. Duff went up to see them and told them that not a stone’s throw away from the church was one of the biggest red light districts in Europe. He asked a priest to condemn it from the pulpit, and he agreed.

“The Legion of Mary, together with the SVP, began to canvass the area, letting people know they were embarking on a mission against prostitution and inviting them to the retreat in Marlborough Street. And many people responded.” Several thousand, in fact.

“The priest condemned what was going on from the pulpit and the retreat went on solidly for three weeks. In the meantime, the madams were getting worried: the writing was on the wall. The British Army had gone – their main source of funding – and the new Free State was becoming increasingly aware of Monto. So Duff, along with the Jesuit priests, set up a base in the Belvedere Hotel and from there they went down and knocked on the doors of the madams and summonsed them, one by one, to meetings with the priests.”

The madams eventually agreed to the sum of £40 as recompense for them having to close their businesses, with even May Oblong acceding – only after having threatened to open a brothel beside the parish priest’s presbytry, though.

Monto’s closure was set for 12 March 1925 and, despite some Store Street gardaí who enjoyed the ‘benefits’ of Monto being reluctant to close the brothels, a threat of dismissal from the Garda Commissioner to the local superintendent ensured Monto did indeed close on this date. Gardaí rolled into the area, arresting 120 people, including a TD and other well-known dignitaries. Two madams were arrested, one, Polly Butler, spending six weeks in prison – the only jail term ever given to a madam in the area’s history.


The following Sunday, hundreds marched behind a large crucifix through the streets of Monto, nailing pictures of the Sacred Heart to the walls. Frank Duff dedicated the closing of the prostitution rackets to the Sacred Heart. Some time after this, a statue of the Sacred Heart was erected above a building in Mabbot Lane, where it remained until an eerie series of events was set in train on 12 May last year.

It was a sunny afternoon when two workmen were sent up to take the statue down. One was on the roof holding its head, the other on a ladder, chiseling at its feet. Both claim, along with eyewitnesses, that when the statue shattered a dark cloud appeared, blocking out the sun. As they, somewhat unsettled, removed the statue to a skip below, gusts of wind circled the lane, lifting a picture frame from the skip and hitting the workman holding the statue in the neck. He dropped the statue and they ran inside.

Terry says that he was sceptical on hearing this story, but this was not the last of the strange occurrences. He did, however, contact the building developer responsible for the project and remonstrated with him for taking the statue down. “It’s part of our history, and should remain in place,” he said. The developer, unsettled by the incident, agreed to have the statue repaired

Local handyman Gerry Pickett, along with Terry, then spent six weeks putting it back together. One day Pickett contacted Terry, claiming that the statue was effusing water and a strange aroma. The aroma was the scent of roses. Terry couldn’t sense this smell, but soon had a similarly weird experience. When he returned with photographs of the statue being fixed from the developers, one photo (pictured) added to the unfolding ‘miracle’.

“There it is,” Terry points, the revelation in hand. He points to what looks like the image of Christ’s face, which can be seen clearly in the left hand side of the photo (circled). He compares it to another picture, one of the Turin shroud. The resemblance is remarkable.

Terry immediately consulted with four separate professional photographers, all of whom agreed that the image was inexplicable and could not be put down to double exposure. RTé followed the story up, and then TV3 – studio staff for the latter station even claimed that they also noticed the scent of roses from the statue.

Terry claims he’s not a “deeply religious” person. “I don’t go to Mass, but I do believe in God,” he says. “I am a sceptic.”

Temporarily housed in Pickett’s workplace at Fairview Fire Station, the statue’s alleged scent was also sensed by a cleaner. “It got so popular that people were going mad to get into the Fire Station to see the statue. And Tony Sheehan, the director of the Fire Station, was afraid that there’d be chip vans and pilgrimages outside the station. We had to get it rehoused.”

Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Seán MacDermott Street now hosts the increasingly famous Sacred Heart of Monto; a story of relics from the statue curing a sick local has already emerged.


All the while the priests were condemning the women and girls of Monto they themselves were having sex with adults and abusing little boys and girls.

Basically their attitude towards these sex workers was “Do not do what I do but do what I tell you to do”.

I’m sure most of the women working in Monto were doing it as it was their only inc9ome and to feed themselves and their children.

Of course no one should be forced into prostitution by poverty or indeed by force.

There is a famous story of Archbishop McQuaid hearing of a prostitute working in the Drumcondra area. He got the local PP to talk to the woman and ask her to stop being on the game in return for a week’s wages every week – which was to be provided by McQuaid himself – with the woman not knowing who her patron was.


This worked well for a while but eventually the woman instead on knowing the name of her patron. She was told by the PP and invited, with her children, to tea at Archbishop’s House.

McQuaid’s housekeeper served the woman and her children a nice big fry and McQuaid sat and ate with them.

Eventually one of the woman’s son cried out: “Ma, there’s a rind on my fucking rasher”.

2568-600x600 (2)

McQuaid rang the bell for the housekeeper and said to her “Would you mind removing the rind from his fucking rasher” 🙂 



Pat, you’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel now. Apart from your assertions there is not a scintilla of evidence that any cleric frequented Monto. Would you grow up!


Don’t know what to make of all this, though I love the anecdote about McQuaid, and the prostitute. It does sound apocryphal, I have to say.😕 Did McQuaid really repeat the little boy’s exclamatory protest about the rasher rind, replete with his commonplace expletive? If he did (though I very much doubt it), fair play to him for a heretical pastoral approach.👍
Duff’s seeming obsession with ending prostitution in Monto, without contextualising its presence (and moral mitagation) in corrosive poverty, was a microcosm, at least in Ireland, of Roman Catholicism’s joint horror and hatred of personal sex. There are much worse ‘sins’ (if, really, we must talk here in a casuitical way), such as that pressing degree of poverty itself, and the socio-economic reasons behind it. But the twin social evils of human exploitation and poverty weren’t on the minds of the Genesis authors, just the hint of self-conscious, illicit sexual stirring that rose in Adam and Eve on becoming aware, in the Garden of Eden, of their nakedness before God (who, incidentally, had set up both for an inevitable fall by planting forbidden fruit right within their hearts’ desire, and their arms reach). Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, and the first to place sex as the overarching human vice. And Christians seem never to have gone beyond this moral base.
As for the so-called ‘eerie events’ around the removal of the Sacred Heart statue at Monto in 2001(especially the implied attempt by God to clobber one of the workmen on the scene with an airborne picture frame from a skip), I’m afraid this is where Roman Catholicism meets human superstition: the result is often the suspension of reason, and the ascendency of ever-broadening imagination.
But hey! It’s all good for business, isn’t it? The Church’s? 😕


Patsy at 9:23am

Patsy, this is MC at her best! your partiality to this creature is appalling also the story about Dr. McQuade about the rashers is definitely apocryphal. There is no way His Grace would use that language to his housekeeper Sr. Dennis absolutely not.
Evviva Maria!


Magna: I much agree with Pat’s comment: an excellent piece and much enjoyed reading, especially the second paragraph. Your comment on how the RCC was more concerned about sex than the grinding poverty behind it reminds me of research evidence of the strong positive correlation between adherence to religion and poverty: eg 2010 Gallup poll in 100 countries. (This theme is easily followed up via Google for anyone interested)
Maybe, as you say, it was good for business.


MMM at 9.32: The sexual.mires if Archbishop McQuaid’s time disturbed many and while poverty andvdedtitutiin forced women into this trade, there were and care dark sides to this business. It’s not all sweetness and light. To say that Archbishop McQuaid had no concern forb those in need or in poverty is wrong: he founded the S8cial Caring Agency, CROSSCARE, as it’s called today and I refer you to search their website and you’ll discover this caring charity is a wonderful legacy to McQuaid’s care for those in poverty. We shouldn’t always attribute negativity to all that McQuaid did. So look at CROSSCARE’s website. You may surprised. Just another viewpoint and which deserves some positive acknowledgment.


Rubbish again from the one eho knows nothing about biblical scholarship.
Genesis was no such thing! Genesis was not the first of the OT books neither was it the first to “place sex as the overarching vice” nor does it do this ever. Wikipedia thrash at it worst.
You are a charlatan.


And you, sir, are an intemperate, jealousness- laden, pride-filled, intellectually dumbed-down, vengeance-driven, insecure…child of God, with not insignificant psychological and spiritual issues that are compelling you to post comments that are, well, bizarre.😞

God help you.


The last part of this blog is revoltin however it had the potential to set Brendan free to come back to seminary this September to finish what he started.


No mention of priests having sex with the ladies in this article, but rather the priests played a role in shutting down “Nighttown”.


8.22: There is no mention at all 8f priests in the article apart from their taking action to help the women, including Archbishop McQuaid. A good insight into the concern the clerics had for the vulnerablecwimen. But as usual the Pat Say crap will always weave a nuance, speculation and lie about priests into any story about sexuality. The man – Pat – could learn many a good moral lesson from Frank Duff and the Legion of Mary. I suggest when Pat regurgitates articles in future that he should let them stand alone without the need to add his own final chapter piece which is always twisted, nuanced and a lie about priests.


I knew Frank Duff in the late 1970s. He attended my morning Masses in the legion hostel for homeless men in Dublin. He was pious and sincere.


Monto (Take her Up to Monto)
written by George Desmond ‘Hoddy’ Hodnett
sung by The Dubliners
{Luke Kelly}
Well, if you’ve got a wing-o
Take her up to Ring-o
Where the waxies sing-o all the day;
If you’ve had your fill of porter
And you can’t go any further
Give your man the order: “Back to the Quay!”
[Chorus: The Dubliners]
And take her up to Monto, Monto, Monto
Take her up to Monto, lan-ge- roo
To you!
[Verse 2: Luke Kelly]
Well you’ve heard of ‘Buckshot Forster’
The dirty old impostor
Took his mot and lost her, up the Furry Glen
He first put on his bowler
And he buttoned up his trousers
And he whistled for a growler and he says, “My man!”
[Chorus: The Dubliners]
And take me up to Monto, Monto, Monto
Take me up to Monto, lan-ge- roo
To you!
[Verse 3: Luke Kelly]
You see the Dublin Fusiliers
The dirty old bamboozlers
De Wet’ll get the childer, one, two, three
Marching from the Linen Hall
There’s one for every cannonball
And Vicky’s going to send yis all, o’er the sea
[Chorus: The Dubliners]
But first go up to Monto, Monto, Monto
Take her up to Monto, lan-ge- roo
To you!
[Verse 4: Luke Kelly]
When Carey told on Skin-the-goat
O’Donnell caught him on the boat
He wished he’d never been afloat, the dirty skite
It wasn’t very sensible
To tell on the Invincibles
They stood up for their principles, day and night
[Chorus: The Dubliners]
Be Goin’ up to Monto, Monto, Monto
Goin’ up to Monto, lan-ge- roo
To you!
[Verse 5: Luke Kelly]
Now when the Tsar of Russia
And the King of Prussia
Landed in the Phoenix, in a big balloon
They asked the police band
To play “The Wearin’ of the Green”
But the buggers in the depot didn’t know the tune
[Chorus: The Dubliners]
And he took her up Monto, Monto, Monto
Took her up to Monto, lan-ge- roo
To you!
[Verse 6: Luke Kelly]
The Queen she came to call on us
She wanted to see all of us
I’m glad she didn’t fall on us, she’s eighteen stone
“Mister Me Lord Mayor,” says she
“Is this all you’ve got to show me?”
“Why, no ma’am there’s some more to see, Pog mo thoin!”
So they both went up to Monto, Monto, Monto
Both went up to Monto, lan-ge- roo
To you!


Bp Pat, I think I prefer the modern-day tales of Gaynooth to all the hardship and grinding poverty people had to endure back then. It must have been awful.


Today’s post is an outrage! You have the dirt to take him down!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


+Pat: Like you, I too was well acquainted with the Legion of Mary Morning Star and Regina Coeli hostels Dublin, and the old Star hostel at bottom end of Divis St Belfast. I spent several weeks each summer in the mid 60’s working in the Stars. The work was preparing and serving up breakfast and evening meals to the homeless men overnighting in those long bedrooms of 20/30+ beds with no privacy, for men, many with mental and physical ill health and a high proportion alcohol dependent “just to get through it all.” The men were obliged to vacate each morning and we seminarians spent the days cleaning up, bed making and generally preparing for their evening return.


I remember a dean in ‘The Wing’ saying something like ‘working in one of those places tested a priestly vocation’. (Such experience must once have once been considered fitting pastoral activity for seminarians.)

The man had done stints in such a hostel and, being the pompous, prissy person that he naturally was (though not a bad egg…for a priest), the experience must have taken an inordinate toll.


MMM, As well as celebrating the morning Mass in the hostel I too, as a priest, made meals and did cleaning duties. It was one of the most meaningful times in my ministry.


9.57: MMM, I’m sure that work influenced for the good in some way and that you.must at least give credit for the Christian, gospel compassion that inspired this work of Frank Duff and his helpers. As a student my pastoral work brought me to The Simon Community, doing similar work as you did. What an eye opener!! Later I worked with The Legion of Mary for 2 years visiting those who lived alone. That too influenced my conscience. Then for all of my Christmas holidays over 7 years I worked with Sr. Consilio’s Cuan Mhuire in Athy. Again, an experience that was to change my approach to all in need, poverty and brokenness of any kind. If I had spare time I would give more of my energy to working with such people.


Well done@ 12.37. Indeed I commend all those religiously minded individuals giving effort to helping the less fortunate.
But there’s a big proviso here. (And in referring to it 12.37 believe me I cast no aspersions on your own altruistic integrity)
In 2009 Pope Benedict’s “Caritas in Veritate” reminded catholic charities that their “prime purpose is to facilitate evangelists to gain access to potential converts.” (!!!….my exclamation: not his)
I decry blatant proselytizing of the dependent poor under the guise of charitable relief , and find Pope Benedict ‘s following words utterly reprehensible: “The most tragic hunger and the most terrible anguish is not lack of food. It’s more about the absence of God…..”


Extracts from;

‘Occassions of Sin’ (sex & society in modern Ireland) Prof. Diarmaid Ferriter.

There was a tendency to assume that one of the reasons prostitution needed to be tackled was because women working as prostitutes were the chief spreaders of venereal disease. Indeed, the incidence of VD became a serious preoccupation in the 1920s and 1930s, prompting a government inquiry on the issue in 1924. (Page 148)

In 1922 Duff opened the Santa Maria hostel at 76 Harcourt Street as a refuge for prostitutes in premises given to him by the politician W.T.Cosgrave. The hostel remained open until the 1970s. (Page 149)

Significantly, Frank Duff faced difficulties in trying to obtain official endorsement for his work from the Hierarchy, including the operation of his three hostels-the Santa Maria, the Regina Coeli (opened in 1930) and the Morning Star for down-and-out men. The latter was opened in 1927, but Duff had to wait until 1940 before he obtained an interview with the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Byrne, regarding episcopal sanction for the work of the Legion.
Duff was an ecumenist before his time, which did not always endear him to the Catholic Hierarchy. He was also adamant unmarried mothers be encouraged to keep their babies, in which respect, in the words of Finola Kennedy, his work was.. ‘so far ahead of his time…he wrote to the Archbishop complaining about a particular social worker and the phrase he used was… ‘she is shovelling children into these orphanages’…and he was trying to provide an alternative. (Page 150)

Towards the end of the twentieth century, former residents of the Dublin tenements recalled the activities of prostitutes in the early decades of the Free State in ‘seven or eight kip houses’ and bouncers or pimps who were labelled ‘whore bullies’. There were female pimps, or ‘madams’, who ran the ‘kip’ houses…The madams gave the girls a terrible scourging life…There were myths about what happened to them (the girls) behind closed doors, particularly those who contracted syphilis and were treated at the Lock Hospital on Townsend Street. It was believed by some that when they had incurable syphilis…’They used to smoother them.They couldn’t cure them; smoother them to take them out of their pain, or give them some kind of needle. They were that far gone and at that time there was no cure.They wouldn’t do them all. Just an odd one. They’d be nearly gone dead before they’d do it.’ (Page 150-151)



Thanks for the information.

The root of prostitution here was extreme poverty, not lust or avarice. Sadly, men like Duff (good and well-intentioned though they undoubtedly were), saw this prostitution, in predictably Roman Catholic terms, as sin, and the need for repentance, rather than as the inevitable (and, perhaps, morally neutral) symptom (especially in pre-social welfare times) of a much greater social evil: the uneven distribution of wealth. But this, long a criticism by social reformers, would not have been recognised by the Church as a causal factor in prostitution, since it smacked of the very ideology, Socialism, it had long condemned.

When looking at human behaviour (however one wishes to regard morally), it is, from at least the perspective of Christian evangelisation, essential to try to find its root: its underlying cause. But Christians, traditionally, have been taught to look only skin deep in moral terms, and have passed scathing and unjust judgement because of it. Paul the Apostle made this fundamental error when he decided to draw up a hit-list of the damned elect (at 1 Cor 6: 10), and included among them ‘drunkards’, unfortunates we today would classify with the pathology, alcoholism.

Sometimes what appears to be sinful behaviour isn’t actually so.


Frank Duff was doing something practical for marginalised women and men in the political,social and economic milieu/circumstances/ context of the time. ‘What you DO to the least…You DO to me….’
Duff wasn’t a politician, priest or philosopher- theologian, but a layperson, responding to the Gospel imperative of charity, practically.


MC, porn addiction is recognized as a modern day pathology. Is it sinful behaviour?


I think that an addiction would greatly reduce if not take away moral culpability.


I agree. But is engaging in such behavior still ‘sinful’, to some or any extent?
Is it not best to avoid such behavior to avoid the slavery of addiction?
Catholics used to be told to avoid occasions of sin.
I’m not a priest and it’s not some kind of trick question. I’m just trying to understand the issue.


You have a point. Something “sinful” can be done that leads to addiction. But when the addiction is present it is a different matter.

Years ago priests used to say that masturbation was a sin but if your addicted to it is removed the moral culpability!


“There are so many hungry people in this world, but God cannot appear to them, ….except in the form of bread”. Ghandi

Liked by 1 person


I did not deny Duff’s genuine altruism, just his ability to see beyond the personal and social symptom, prostitution, of a much more insidious, and compelling, moral malaise: crushing poverty through the unequal distribution of wealth.



When does a weakness become a serious problem ( pathology or addiction) and how does one prevent it?
Addiction is slavery. It’s not only sin. It’s psychological, emotional, social, spiritual, etc, nightmare that chokes life,
for the person addicted, (whatever the addiction) plus his or her loved ones.
I have no doubt, there are huge numbers of Irish men, ( in particular), addicted to visiting prostitutes in contemporary Ireland. ‘Monto’ is to be found in most, if not all towns, nowadays.


2.00: Magna, stop rewriting historybre: Frank Duff. He achieved more in life for the good of others out of genuine Christian love, kindness and compassion than you would want to acknowledge. If the title FATHER was placed before Frank Duffy’s name, you’d be in your typical faux outrage over his moral and Christian principles. Frank Duff has inspired and shown millions throughout the world how to live the gospel of Christ, something that not within your capability.


This is a purely personal perspective. I should say that I am an addict myself but have not used my substance for eight years. My own opinion is that addictions involve elements of control and power, and also relationships with your substance. If you have the perspective that your addiction is getting in the way of your right relationships with God and other people, then for you it clearly meets the criteria of being sinful. However, because addiction causes the addict to kid themselves that everything is OK, it is not a simple question of changing your behaviour. If you are a Christian and have a porn or sex addiction then this is clearly something which is going to take a lot of frank reflection and work to move over to the Christian ideal of chastity.
You may therefore see it as sinful, however it is one of the things stopping you having a right relationship. Probably part of repentance would be realising what is going on, and working on it.
One of the key therapies in addiction is motivational interviewing because it involves identifying this pattern of change, barriers and stagnation.
So to answer your question, it may sinful but it is also a hugely complicated area of human life and it is virtually impossible to give simple answers about sin and blame.
There is another Christian perspective, since people with addictions will often also have had problems of difficulties before, including trauma, abuse, poverty. There is a biblical word, anawim, for those people, who are especially loved by God.
Hope this helps.



I know your post was directed at Bishop Pat, but since he hasn’t yet replied, I hope you don’t mind if I do.

There is no way any human can avoid addiction altogether, whether to behaviour sometimes wrongly called sin, or to other conduct. By nature we will slip into addiction, however much we want to avoid it, and we slip into it because we lack the ability to exercise universal and full control over ourselves.

From a Christian point of view, it is why Jesus became man, in order to assert his control over our weakened humanity, and to allow us the opportunity to exercise the same control, through his spirit (the Holy Spirit), by means of faith and of perservering prayer.


Seems like we agree on some things Magna, but while I think the middle parag a good comment on human nature, I find your last paragraph more of a hypothesis or conjecture than an explanation.
You will of course realise from my regular comments that I’d be obliged to take this view!


Magna: The causal factor you refer to, unequal distribution of wealth (AKA poverty), brings into stark contrast the huge wealth of the current RC institution and its alleged founder, the wandering Nazarene carpenter.
Michael Ryan (see reckons that annually about $90 million is hived off from Sunday collections by the clergy. estimates these losses much greater according to TerenceMcKiernan. Despite all the Cathbots argument on the blog recently citing greater audit controls, the underlying reality is that “God” won’t give the game away when clergy help themselves to the ‘window’s mite ‘
With nearly 3000 dioceses the RCC is reckoned as one of the richest enterprises in the world. With centuries of accumulated wealth, especially land and property, it’s been reckoned as impossible to calculate it’s true worth.
With the Pope as titular owner of aprox 177million acres of land, lots of it prime real estate worldwide surely its time for the laity to keep their hand and money in their pockets rather than on the Sunday plates.
The only word for it is “obscene “!


The Church typically refers to itself as a sign of contradiction to mammon: to the world. But as we are increasingly learning (and your information confirms it), the only thing the Church historically has contradicted, from the Gospel of Matthew, is its very own mission statement: to make disciples of all nations.

The Church has not taken much heed of Jesus’ advice to store up for itself treasure in Heaven rather than on earth. If the Church won’t take its founder’s words seriously, how can it reasonably expect anyone to take it seriously?


I think Duff was responding to human beings before him, in a concrete way. He may not have had the level of education to do a socia- politico- economic analysis or meta-analysis of the structural factors contributing to creation of abject poverty in Dublin or beyond, or the role of the church in propping it up.
He was a Christian responding to the Gospel of Jesus, in his fellow human beings in dire need, in the ‘here and now’.



The women themselves told Duff that without prostitution they would be destitute: no income; no food; no life, but encroaching death.

Duff did not have to be any of the things you mentioned, but he did need to be a good listener, with a willingness to accept that his Catholic take on morality, especially of this kind, might not be up to the mark.

Unfortunately, many Catholics of his generation (and not a few today) are inflexible in their understanding of human morality and its relationship to social circumstances that can constrain a person’s freedom to do what he or she, in more agreeable circumstances, would find easier to do.

As is often the case, life isn’t always so cut and dried.


Why do you assume he didn’t listen to the women or didn’t recognize the catholic take on morality might not be up to the mark? How do you know he was not one of the few of his generation flexible
in his understanding of human morality and its relationship to social circumstances and constraint on human freedom?


2.09: MMM: I too have no regard for blatant proslytisng through the guise of charitable works. I think your oblique suggestion that this in essence is what Christian/Catholic charity is about is unfair. It could be argued that in the words of scripture ” by their fruits you know whose disciples they are” individuals may, by the example given, influence others to adopt a Catholic or Christian outlook. Can it not be argued that all organisations, clubs or political groupings engage in selling their message either through subtle manipulation or by direct, aggressive tactics. To argue that one may be seen as proslytisng by engaging in charitable good works is a weak argument for “doing nothing” in alleviating poverty, destitution and marginalization. We shouldn’t cynically or maliciously attribute sinister motives to the charitable work of others, particularly charity inspired by the gospel of Christ. I’m sure this isn’t your intention!


I agree that it may not be the driving force for many people of a religious mind, and that altruism as an instinctual response is possibly the major influence. That is why I find Pope Benedict’s 2009 Caritas in Veritate demands, as I’ve outlined above at 2:09 so reprehensible.


MMM, you sound more religiously minded than most.
Are you sure you’re not a closet ‘anonymous Christian’?


6.58: MMM: From my experiences of being with people in parishes where I’ve ministered I have concluded that many people who are broken and hurt experiences their hunger not in a physical way – rather I perceive their hunger as a ‘spiritual’ or a deep ‘human’ need to be accepted, loved, affirmed as being of worth and of value to others in this life. I constantly reassure people of their self worth and dignity and to never lose sight of their eternal worth in the mind of God (for people of faith). None of us, irrespective of age, ever outgrows the need for affirmation as human beings. I have witnessed grown men cry when I assert their uniqueness, value and preciousness as human beings. Many people carry their emptiness, pain and struggle quietly within – men particularly. My experience leads me to identify a deep spiritual/human need in people in their hurt and pain. Accompanying people on that inner journey to accepting their humanity in all its flaws and fragilities is a rewarding ministry. So, at this level of the human heart l understand Pope Benedict’s reference to the great hunger as being….the absence of God.. I interpret that as acknowledging that for many (not necessarily Catholic or any denomination), God is an anchor of life, that our lives are or can be more meaningful having a God reference in our lives. Of course a fuller reading of his Encyclical prompts and urges us, especially Christians, to imitate Christ in revealing the merciful, redeeming and compassionate love of God to all whom we encounter and to ensure that our embracing of Christ’s vision compels us to be exclusivist in outreach for the poor, the outcast, the marginalised, broken and forgotten of this world. I think you may be a little too harsh on Benedict whose writings I generally find profound and thought-provoking.


Thank you Anon 8:04. Indeed I agree to your comments about the significance of personal worth and the effects of its absence on very many individuals. But surely in a world of such inequality, widespread starvation and famine, the use of the words by a wealthy Papal head of a supremely wealthy organisation: “The most tragic hunger is not the lack of food… is the lack of God” is grossly intemperate, and certainly offensive to many.
Did you really mean to say “Christ’s vision compels us to be exclusivist in outreach to the poor……”


8.27: MMM: Yes, I believe that Christ’s vision as expressed in the parable of the Last Judgment us a parable for today’s Christians …the imperative to care for the hungry, the homeless, the naked, the sick, the prisoner….the outcasts, marginalised. I believe we who claim and profess our Christianity should be “exclusivist” (100 % committed) to these groups in our midst, and we take Christ as our example of total self giving. (This is the context for munuse of the word exclusivist.). Not an easy ideal! If Pope Benedict suggested that we ignore these broken people then I don’t subscribe to an analysis which says the greatest hunger is the lack or absence of God…I believe there’s a spiritual, deep human inner hunger for meaning. We yearn for affirmation. But, we should acknowledge the horror of hunger and famine and respond with urgency to the human cries of many for the basic necessities of life. In reading much of Pope Benedict’s writings I know he would concur with this.


Thanks @ 10:51: I’ve taken an entirely different and contrary understanding of the word exclusivist. It’s a word I’ve not previously encountered, and wonder if it is the most germane to the subject.


I think the comment by Anonymous Angelicus proves the whole thrust of this blog – MMM’s approach is far more religious than the abuse the Cathbots sling around on here 🤣


MMM at 9.12: You are a good critic of contemporary religion and other view points and philosophies of life, their meaning and purpose. You contribute good analysis and well argued beliefs, principles and convictions. You have responded kindly to some of my comments today and I don’t always agree with your views but we can respect difference and diversity. Isn’t it more elucidating and valuable when contributors remain calm, balanced and controlled!!


Angelicus: If you equate ‘religiously minded’ solely with an ethical concern for others then some would probably say yes. But problem, as often, is in definitions.
I’m in no way religious in terms of having any belief in one or more gods, spiritual beings, their influences, messengers, or observance of the whole paraphernalia customarily associated with religious customs and belief. I reject that my personal conduct should be dictated by external religious concepts.
Many peoples behaviour, ethical or otherwise, seems to rely mainly on acquired religious beliefs and precepts on pain of some penalty for transgressions. Problems arise when weak human nature interprets and moulds those externally imposed religious precepts to more conveniently fit in with personal objectives. Some, even while transgressing might well still consider themselves as ‘religious’: even if the transgression is gravely injurious and/or repetitive.
I would not wish to be associated with that cohort of religious belief.
In saying this, I pay tribute to many devoutly religious individuals who strive to lead a good life in keeping with best tenets of religious belief based on sound ethical principles.


9:12. MMM, thanks.
Did you ever read the psychologist, Gordan Allports work on mature religious theory? Your comment brings him to mind. Mature religious sentiment is how he characterized the person whose approach to religion is dynamic, open minded, and able to maintain links between inconsistencies. In contrast, immature religion is self serving and generally represents the negative stereotypes that people have about religion. Allport believed a deep religious commitment was a mark of a mature person, but he also saw that many regular church-goers did not have a mature religious orientation and were capable of deep racial and social predjudice. He differentiated between intrinsic religion and extrinsic religion. His work is worth reading. Not wishing to pry, why did you chose to study for priesthood? Feel free not to answer. Another question, what do you make of mystical experience, christian mystics and did you study mystical theology in seminary? Thanks again. Best wishes, AA.


AA: Quick replies: As a ‘cradle Catholic’ from a traditional rural background with clergy held in high esteem,(and I had a priest uncle, was an altar boy etc) I drifted through a Catholic ethos all male grammar school (believe me I was in no way academically inclined then….more interested in sport) Various priests, one charismatic one in particular, came to talk to us about dedicating ourselves to the church. So my youthful altruism, possibly for lack of obvious abundant alternative care pathways catalysed me on the clerical route. And the fact that I had had zero involvement with girls was probably a factor as well, for I was too busy with sport, hunting and fishing, and in many ways, a late developer in that respect! (Subsequently made up for it I assure you!)
Mystical theology you ask? No! Frankly my clerical “training” was largely a matter of traditional rote learning religious matters regarded as immutable. And I am very conscious that many older priests of my generation (I’m 75) will have come through the same limited processes with limited “further education/training/thinking”, yet believe they are well knowledgeable on all religious (and moral) matters from having had that belief enhanced for many years by acquiescent laity.
Mystical experiences? Now that “explanation” lies in the realms of psychology aided by understanding of physical electrical/chemical reactions in the jolly old synapses. And I’m afraid I just don’t have the appropriate neuro transmitters to fathom all that one out! Yet!
Best regards.
And PS to Anon@ 8:40: Yes: There’s been some very interesting and balanced comment today. Thank you.


MMM, don’t assume the mystical life/ experience is purely psycho-physical. Study it!


Dear Bishop Patrick.
Do you need me to publicly name the seminarian I am concerned about? I know his name. I know his address. I know the pub he drinks at. I know his dead dad’s name. I know his friends (Byrne and Puck and more) I will help you bring him down.
Listen to me!


I can’t email you it will incriminate me. Do your research on him and listen to what I say in the comm box. Take him down!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NOW!!!!


“LGBT+ masses” should be enough to get anybody kicked out of the seminary. He goes to them. He has PREACHED at one! They applauded him. How is that helpful to a seminarian who is meant to be humble? He probably took the collection from them for his fancy car. It’s a black luxury car of German variety.


You are obsessing about this man. Why? Retain some of the little dignity you still have and look after your own affairs.


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