A FORMER WONERSH SEMINARIAN SPEAKS.

Dear Pat Buckley,

Thanks for adding a couple of posts on your blog about what’s going on at St. John’s Seminary in Wonersh.
I’m an ex seminarian who spent almost 6 years at that place. The first years under the old rector Mgr Jeremy Garrett were great, but once Canon Brian Coyle took over as rector all hell broke loose.
You might find the following information interesting and helpful for future blogs about Wonersh (Pls. don’t stop writing about what is going on there, the stories need to be told and hopefully there will be a change in the regime at the seminary)

Canon Brian Coyle arrived at St. John’s seminary in the beginning of 2014. He introduced himself at the first lunch after half term saying something like “My bishop sent me here because I have emotional problems I need to work on and this might he suggested St. John’s seminary in the countryside would be a good place to do so”. He clearly stated that he had emotional problems and that it was his bishop (Then Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark) that had sent him there. I remember I thought it was a very weird that a bishop would send a priest that is suffering from emotional problems to a seminary.
He didn’t have a role at the seminary until the new seminary year started in 2014 but he did walk around in the building correcting seminarians for what he thought and found the seminarians needed to be corrected for, shouting at them for things like coming back from the bathroom still brushing their teeth when walking back to their room, or for seminarians laughing and playing board games in “the dive” (students common room which was supposed to be student only area free from staff – just like staff had an staff only area free from students)

From September 2014 he took over the role for Human formation at the seminary. He became the one to one human formation tutor for the new students where they had to talk about personal things. Earlier the seminary had used professional psychologists for this task and it had been a free zone where students could went and deal with personal things and issues – now everything had to go through Canon Brian Coyle, at this point not a voting member of the staff but had a seat and the right to speak at staff meeting where students were discussed and voted over.

Canon Brian was also the teacher in “priesthood and sexuality” where theological aspects of the celibacy for priests were supposed to be taught. While the other teacher (there were two of them) stuck to the topic, Canon Brian was obsessed with homosexuality and what ever he talked about during the course was in one or other way about homosexuality and gay people. How he had ended up at a meeting for gay priests, how we should be careful in our approach when meeting people so they wouldn’t think we were gay etc.

He was not liberal in what he said, he stuck to the church teaching, but he talked about it so often during the course that he almost seemed obsessed about the topic and that the course in that sense – even if it was very classical church teaching and conservative in his view – became very “homosexualized”.

Another thing that I remember from these classes are how Canon Brian became furious if someone brought a glass of water or similar with them to the lecture. It was ok, according to him, if a teacher or priest did that but God forbid if a seminarian did that! If it happened Canon Brian would shout at the seminarian in a very nasty way in front of everyone in the classroom.

During the seminary year 2014-2015 there were rumors and whispers about what Can Brian’s role actually was at the seminary. Was he there to spy on the rector, staff and seminarians and report back to the archbishop?

Was he investigating something, if not anything that had happened but if it would be possible to close the seminary due to love numbers of students and move the remaining students to other seminaries? Or was he actually there to learn more about the seminary and become the new rector when Mgr Jeremy Garrett had done his 10 year term as rector?

These rumors and whispers became even stronger during the seminary year 2015-2016 when it was clear that the old rector was going to move out at the end of the year and there was no new rector appointed.

Archbishop Peter Smith paid the seminary a visit every month, and in February he announced at lunch that Fr. Brian was appointed the new rector. I and many other seminarians started to worry about our future, how could they appoint a man that is clearly having deep emotional problems a rector of a seminary?

Immediately after he was appointed Canon Brian openly started to talk about changes he would implement once he took over as a rector, for example he thought it was too much free time that had to be filled with something (the free time is actually not free time – it is study time when students are supposed to do academical work like reading and writing) and the seminarians had way too much freedom – they should really learn about the hierarchy and learn their place in the hierarchy!

I was lucky to be on pastoral placement in a parish the first year Canon Brian was a rector. But during my time in the parish I heard about what was going on a the seminary – students being pinned to the wall by the throat by the rector and threatened, freedom of movement was taken away, people shouted at for having a beard or if they had a cup of tea outside their own room or the refectory. Students that in their free time walking up to Chilworth abbey for mass or prayer were in the same ways shouted at and corrected. I wonder if this had something to do with that the Benedictine community in Chilworth is the same community that Canon Brian used to be part of but left when they still were in Ramsgate?!
When we came back to the seminary at Christmas to take part in fellow seminarians ordination we were called into the rectors office and shouted at that He is the rector and in charge and whatever old rules that we are following are not valid anymore.

He told us that he hated the old rector Mgr Jeremy Garrett and he wanted to get rid of everything that reminded about him. One student on placement had traveled over 24 hours to get back to the seminary due to placement overseas, and he was not allowed to catch up with the jetlag and time difference, instead the student was called into the rectors office and shouted at that such behavior was not to be tolerated.

I have a lot more to tell about how St. John’s has turned into hell after Fr. Brian took over as a rector, more will come in a future email. A last thing for this time:
In February 2018 Can Brian came up with new rules for movement around the seminary. While staff and guests can move freely around the seminary students are now cut off from 2/3 of the seminary building like they are prisoners.

They are also encourage to use the Gym instead of going for walks in the area – a way to keep them away from the world outside and under control. See attachment for a picture of the fancy expensive brass signs he put up on most doors at the seminary!

God bless and keep up the good work with your blog.

71 thoughts on “A FORMER WONERSH SEMINARIAN SPEAKS.

  1. MournemanMichael 5th Oct 2019 — 11:02 pm

    Question for the canon Brian referred to:
    Does the alleged ontological change of ordination render those seminarians previously treated as infantile children henceforth capable responsible pastors able to deal sensitively and capably with the many potential dilemmas of ministry?
    MMM

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    1. Doesn’t seem to have worked in the Rev Canon Coyle’s case. But I wonder what he was like before he was ordained?

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      1. Shilelagh Seamus 6th Oct 2019 — 9:48 pm

        Arrah @10:24, now don’t be too hard on the pure wee Mon. Shure maybe the ontological magic didn’t work for him ‘coz he mighta bin exercising son sorta “mental reservation when taking his vows. Isn’t that anorrah one of those RC tricks?

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  2. jkharveystreet@yahoo.co.uk 6th Oct 2019 — 12:15 am

    Wow, I never knew catholic seminaries was so dysfunctional. Are there any catholic seminaries not in chaos?
    Last week I paid a visit to my cousin who is studying for the Anglican priesthood in Ridley Hall in Cambridge. He is there studying for his final year, before being ordained in the summer of 2020. Very different atmosphere compared to reading about this seminary.
    At Ridley Hall there is a mixture of male and females studying, as well as some families, where dad is studying for the priesthood, whilst mum and the kids live nearby. It works very well.
    Reverend Michael Volland is a great director of the college there, and many catholic seminary leaders could look at him as an example of good leadership.
    I can see the case for married clergy in the catholic church time and time again. Why do they still not accept it?

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  3. Pat Buckley, please tread very carefully with the Queens in Westminster at present. You have upset them greatly over your recent blog regarding Elsie. They are a nasty bunch whom Elsie turns a blind eye, yet you have now focused, in a indirect way, on this nasty group. They are a mix of former ex Anglicans (whom the Church of England were glad to get rid). There is also a mixture of horrible products from Allen Hall and the Beda. The Venerable has more class. The Westminster Seminarians at home often travel and loiter around the Venerable Seminarians in Rome to gain some favour or recognition it’s so sad and pathetic. They even try to hang out in the Vatican favoured restaurants in Roma but even this is futile.

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    1. vanity of vanities. All is vanity

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  4. So this is why hetero celibate men do not fit in the seminary and are ousted if discovered!?
    Nothing new apparently as the system is geared to exclude them.
    Goodbye! Good Men: How Catholic Seminaries Turned Away Two …
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/424645.Goodbye_Good_Men
    Peter Smith needs to sort out the spoilt little boy he has allowed free reign in Wonersh. In fact the place needs to close down.
    Unfortunate for the people that have been damaged by the place. Unfortunate for the priests that have been “formed” in the place. Unfortunate for the Church that “the good men” are excluded. God knows we need good men.

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  5. Filth Watcher 6th Oct 2019 — 5:55 am

    Again I say, what a dirty, sordid lot!

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  6. Does that mean he’s demoted but remains in the church or will he be defrocked?
    What kind of future awaits a 59 year old ex-clergyman?

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    1. penance and prayer at St Augustine’s monastery Chilworth!

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  7. Revolting watcher 6th Oct 2019 — 8:47 am

    The truth will set Henry shagwell free even if the truth is georgous

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    1. Very interesting comment. Is the gorgous deacon Michael legacy about to wheel again.

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  8. No regard for Canon Law? Human Formator to become rector? Come on Smithy

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  9. Pat can we have an update on Henry balkwell?
    Can you confirm who from Clifton diocese is still there?
    Is Thomas Lawes? Tomas Kent? Still there?

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  10. 12.53am Moron. There are no Vatican favoured restaurants in Rome.

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    1. You are the moron. There are restaurants in Rome where the hierarchy and clergy gather – like Abruzzi.

      The really wealthy bishops eat at Pierre Luigi.

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      1. The Abruzzi is favoured by Elsie, Sarah, Dolan, Ricard, Sandri, O’Malley and others. It’s tucked nicely away from the Vatican. They all get the best tables away from the plebs.

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      2. I was in Abruzzi in March. Lovely little gem.

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  11. Peter Smith’s judgment really has to be questioned. I had thought he was okay, but he too seems to clericalized and incapable of thinking outside that highly dysfunctional box. Wasn’t he once Rector there himself? QED – another sad old man going down there once a month but yet neither seeing nor hearing anything wrong. Just a nice chat with the lads – pathetic! Now he’s retired but I doubt much can be expected from his successor. Reports of Coyle’s personal inadequacies and total unsuitability for the job have been aired elsewhere, but do we think anything will be done about him? No, not a thing. As usual the problem lies with the freaks and misfits who are sent to be in charge of formation. The account of Coyle’s Human Formation programme sounds horribly familiar, and people still wonder why the institutional Church is as it is.

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  12. There’s a £350,000 appeal underway for the restoration of Wonersh college chapel, which suggests that sordid seminary will stay open for a while yet.

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    1. Money spent already on here on the staff quTers

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  13. More and more people blog in the safety of the Internet where, like me hding behind anonymity. But which of you, so called ‘in the know’ will take the correct step and alert authorities. No one! Even those who have had first hand been been bullied, abused or worse and hide in fear of the repercussions. You can’t get excommunicated for telling the truth despite what your told by the clergy. The catholic church only allows those people who follow their hidden rules, rules made up by bishops and Archbishops. If your honest and open from the start they will find a way to prevent you from entering any vocation. But if you hide things of commit heinous acts the clergy will close ranks and protect you and you will get away with everything. They regularly destroy documents or bully others to lie. Tbe hierarchy of any organisation is corrupt. Power corrupts, but catholic power corrupts absolutely.
    So stop blogging, shouting for justice, screaming for your voice to be heard. Step up make a difference and alert the proper Authorities.
    Parishioners and clergy forget what the church is about. It’s about teaching God’s love, forgiveness, peace towards fellow man. But instead it’s more and more bullying your own priests till you get your own way and shitting on everyone in the process. That goes for priests as well they and their seniors dont give a damn about anyone but themselves.

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    1. Prefer to follow AB Vigano’s example. The authorities will destroy evidence and witness’s character to promote their own corrupt agenda. The public will decide. Just put the info out there and have the evidence available for production when needed. Bring it on!

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    2. 12.38: This is a load of horse manure. Badly expressed. Over generalised judgments. More a figment of your narrow imagination….

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  14. The singing priest in Newtownards invited all the Sunday Mass congregations to come up after the homily to sign a petition opposing abortion in NI. That’s what I call courage and leadership.

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    1. That’s what I call spineless coercion. He knows exactly who signs and who doesn’t. He’s abusing the Mass to coerce people. He’s a shit house.

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    2. MournemanMichael 6th Oct 2019 — 6:40 pm

      I’d never heard about that singing fella before going to a Newtownards funeral he took a few years back. Completely unnecessary: he was warbling at every opportunity and the whole service seemed solely designed for him to show off.
      I was disgusted.
      MMM

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  15. What’s behind the doors that the Wonersh sems are forbidden to pass through?

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  16. Lol at the idea that priests would need to be told how to approach people so they don’t think they are gay!
    I am reminded of the petition a number of priests signed a few years ago after the synod on the family, against divergence from traditional sexual morality.
    Quite apart from the way the signatories were slapped down by Elsie, the other funny thing was the signatories themselves. Of the ones I know of, one is prevented from public ministry because of child abuse, and one is the subject of whistle blowing by his companion in the noviciate after they had sex! And the ones I don’t know any actual scandal about are as camp as tits.
    Actually, perhaps they should go to the Canon’s sessions on acting butch and speaking in a deep voice…

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    1. Well observed! I too recall those lists of signatures on various petitions demanding the full rigour be applied to those shameless enough to support equal marriage or get divorced and still have the brass neck to present themselves for Communion! Swearing Endless dedication to Humanae Vitae was another one – not that contraception was ever an issue for those madams. I seem to remember Daniel Seward late of the Oxford Oratory regularly featuring. We never got to the bottom of that, did we. Was a woman involved? A chat with Canon Coyle might help him to clarify his issues.

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  17. You start naming yourself then and we will follow ……. thought not! Stop bullshitting then.

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  18. Revolting to see a sign like that in the seminarians’ home. Isn’t Coyle from Derry? He should have known enough about marginalisation, exclusion and second-class citizenship so.

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  19. Pat @ 3.02pm You are talking nonsense. Even if they did give you a table at Abruzi it would be outside in the cold. I read tripadvisor reviews of it just now and most say the staff are abrupt and rude. I don’t think any Prince of the Church goes anywhere near there.

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  20. It is not, in principle, unreasonable to have certain areas of the seminary which are out of bounds to seminarians. For example, one of those signs is on the door leading to the staff common room, and another on to corridor colloquially known as ‘Piggeries’, which is where the guest bedrooms and showers are located.

    Contrary to the impression given by your correspondent, the years under the previous rector were not “great”. Latterly, he was absent from the seminary as much as he was present, and although there were perfectly good reasons for this, it is hardly surprising that discipline broke down. It is inevitable that a new rector coming into such a situation will be perceived by some as a martinet, but not all of the students see things this way.

    The real problem with Wonersh is that it has a series of disastrous rectors over the past forty years, all of whom have, in one way or another, managed to ruin the inheritance that was handed on to them. It remains to be seen whether the current rector can turn things round, but the malaise may well be to great for it to be saved.

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    1. Wasn’t Smithy himself once Rector? And didn’t Bunny now of Brum used to be on the staff? Doesn’t say much, does it?

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      1. He was, from 1985 – 1996. His successor, who had only been a priest for three years at the time of his appointment, left priestly ministry after leaving the seminary (in 2006) and is now running a Chimney Sweeping business in Somerset. So if you live in the south-west of England and want your chimney swept by an ex-Rector of Wonersh, look no further than:
        http://www.khsweep.co.uk/

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      2. “NEVER WRESTLE WITH A CHIMNEY SWEEP” 😊

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    2. maltraitant not the solution for malaise!

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    3. What remains to be seen? His track record is there to see!
      In his own words, “Oh no what have I done?”
      Yes I do know about that!!
      Time to put your hands up Brian and humbly do the right thing. The curate crusher has led you up the garden path.

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  21. Long corridor survivor 6th Oct 2019 — 4:47 pm

    Pat what a tangled web seminary is. The summer of love in Maynooth is still spilling over. Deacon michael Byrne’s little pigeons are finally revealing themselves. It’s very curious that one Henry Balkwell left Maynooth and travelled to Clifton and wonersh to begin again and now things have crash landed. Another Clifton seminarian shared a pool with Michael Byrne in the Irish college after he was moved there. This Clifton seminarian is just back from placement out in Gloucester. Also the web goes to oscott and the daily trips to the deans house in st Mary’s procathedral where Byrne organised the meets. Pat what we have is an international web going on with an Irish king pin. I could go on further to Barcelona etc but I will park it here for the moment. Pat it’s time for a blog to review the d rebels from that summer of love.

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    1. At least Michael is not a nutter, and has got something about him. I would rather have him in the gang than some pious wet-behind-the-ears masturbator struggling with his sexuality and standing outside women’s clinics rattling his rosary. Leave the bloke alone. Let Dermo ordain him and give all those closet queens bitching about Michael a dose of reality. Summer of love – I wish I’d been there, and so do a lot of others if they were to be honest for a change!

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      1. Michael certainly has qualities.
        But the priesthood can not be one big gay sauna.
        Michael lied to me. That makes me not trust him 😥

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    2. 4:47
      This fantasy you have with Byrne is immoral and factually incorrect.

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    3. The Clifton seminarian just back from placement in Gloucester is presumably Stephen Corrigan at Wonersh. So what’s this about someone who might fit that description taking a dip with Gorgeous in the pool at the Irish College? So what?

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      1. Tongues will wag.

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  22. Might be a good idea if Thomas Lawes were airlifted out of that place before something “happens”. His Bishop is another useless tool.

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    1. Do you think he might fall and break his back?

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      1. Starting to become quite a few of them now that have fallen and broken their back. Wonder who will be the next one?!

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  23. In agreement he needs to be removed and THIS WEEK although I believe he is already implicated

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    1. Oh really, implicated in what? Are you suggesting all those work outs and toning in the gym were not merely for his own benefit? Was that display on YouTube the Rector’s notion of presenting the illusion of manly heterosexual normalcy? Who’s not convinced?

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  24. ‘Big Lil’ was the best rector at Wonersh!

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    1. Who was Big Lil for the benefit of those of us not in the magic clerical circle?

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  25. I think the question needs to be what should seminarians behaviour be like? And what should seminary Rector’s be like?
    Under former rector the seminary was lacking discipline and childish behaviour. For example corridor hockey was played resulting it numerous holes in the corridors. In what organisation is it allowed to damage walls in corridors? Under all rector’s the consumption of alcohol was/is excessive. Is this ok for priests and seminarians?
    However Coyle is angry and unsuitable.
    The comments the vice rector makes are reportedly highly inappropriate, that’s being generous. It’s stressed that he brags about things one should be ashamed of.
    The MAIN point here is… Has a seminarian been arressed? If so why? What is going on a wonersh ? With all of Coyle’s control is he missing serious problems, maybe criminal behavior. What on earth is going on there ?

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  26. Blast from the past re Kevin Haggerty who was Rector after Smithy. He was one of a few clerics who was prepared to talk a bit more honestly about the imploding crisis in the priesthood from 2000 onwards, and appeared on a TV programme about Queer Catholic’s. How extraordinary he is now running a chimney sweeping business. Possibly there is a metaphor there.

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    1. … as in chocolate chimney sweep.

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  27. Pat you need to do a follow up blog from the characters from Maynooth. Rory is flaunting around London like a don! While a diocese won’t even consider me. Least the abbey values

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  28. “By acting as you did and solemnising these sham marriages you were undermining the institution of marriage and its very sanctity.” – Mr Justice Mark Horner

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    1. Apropos to what exactly?

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  29. Fly On Th Wall 6th Oct 2019 — 8:19 pm

    Are these seminaries places of formation or greenhouses with recycled air to avoid contamination hi.
    What is the end product supposed to be hi Job discrimination please Sure the lord said plan thouse before ya build it but. If they don’t know clearly what they want why are they surprised at what they get. Sure it might be a laid back version of th masons hi

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  30. Bp Pat, what a place it sounds and, of course, you’re not far into the narrative before… well, you know becomes apparent, this time obliquely described as “emotional problems.”
    I look forward to the next installment.

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  31. Haggerty was aka ‘Big Lil’ badly treated by Archbishop ‘Amy’ McDonald

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    1. Like the Pope Emeritus, McDonald is still with us despite sudden retirement due to ill-health. Was Cat Woman not Miss Popular in Southwark then? Canon Haggerty seemed a decent enough bloke. Wasn’t he ex army? Very butch. Mind you, so is that ex Anglican who now runs Westminster Cathedral. Funny old world, clericalism.

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  32. Anyone know anything about Coyle’s early years in Derry? The complete absence of a trace of a Derry is interesting.

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  33. Canon Kevin Haggerty a priest of the Southwark Archdiocese had been Rector at the Wonersh Seminary in recent years,
    He appears to have disappeared off the “internet radar” so to speak.
    Any information about this former Wonersh Rector? Is he still a priest?
    Thanks

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    1. Haggerty is working as a chimney sweep in the West Country (http://www.khsweep.co.uk/). To the best of my knowledge, he has never functioned as a priest since leaving the seminary. A somewhat strange career path. Ordained by Pope John Paul II, a few years in Sevenoaks as a curate, ten years as Rector making judgements about other peoples’ suitability for ordination, and then … chimney sweeping.

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      1. With his professional background (prior to becoming a priest) and education, that’s surprising!

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      2. Prior to his entrance into the seminary system as a student I believe Haggerty had a career in the British Army. He is without doubt a very heterosexual male and I would not be surprised to learn that his appointment as Rector of the Wonersh Seminary was an attempt by certain bishops to counter what they perceived to be a ‘ homo erotic environment’ that existed in the seminary.
        Clearly it did not work

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  34. The mentioned course about priesthood and sexuality above is by the seminarians called “Sex with Fr. Brian”

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    1. I’m sure: homo stuff a house speciality! Sad, sad , sad. All those coy young men colluding with Father in pretending they don’t have a clue about what us being discussed. Give me Gorgeous and the summer of love any day!

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  35. Re Canon Haggerty at 9:43 pm it is highly significant then that Haggerty as a straight bloke was able to discuss the vexed issue of the Church and homosexuality in a C4 programme presented by Mark O’Dowd in such a relatively sane manner without the usual dissembling. Canon Coyle seems a rather different fish.

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