In conversation with Fr Timothy Bartlett
By Alf McCreary
April 11 2020 10:00 AM
Fr Timothy Bartlett is administrator of St Mary’s, the oldest Catholic church in Belfast, and episcopal vicar for diocesan future planning.
Q. Can you tell us something of your background?
A. I was born in north Belfast in July 1965. The small cul-de-sac I grew up in, just off Alliance Avenue, still has a 30-foot peace fence around it. The Troubles were a huge part of my life growing up. My mum, Alice, and dad, Oliver, were both from Ardoyne and they owned newsagent and ice-cream shops over the years. I am very blessed to still have them in my life. I have one brother, Gary, who is married with three grown-up children (or at least they claim they are grown up!) We are all very close.
Q. What about your education and your clerical career?
A. I went to Christian Brothers’ schools and then to Queen’s University, Belfast, where I was awarded a first-class honours BEd, followed by a MScEd. I was also awarded a Bachelor of Divinity and Licentiate in Sacred Theology from St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. I was ordained in 1992 for the Diocese of Down and Connor and taught for 10 years at St Mary’s University College, Belfast. I then spent 10 years as assistant to the president of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Brady. I am still secretary to the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland. From 2016 to 2018, I was invited to be secretary-general of the world meeting of families and papal visit in Dublin.
Q. How and when did you come to faith?
A. Growing up in north Belfast, the fear of someone coming in to our house and killing my family was the first stage of learning how to pray. I was so convinced something would happen to my family if I didn’t kneel down and say my prayers at night that I never missed a night without saying my prayers. If I fell asleep and suddenly remembered that I had forgot to say my prayers, I would jump out of bed and kneel down and say them, no matter how tired I was. I remember being incredibly impressed by the power of the words of the scriptures read at mass and the sermons of the priests. I also had the incredible example of faith and practical kindness to neighbours, friends and those in need of my parents. They just worked so hard and were so full of goodness to others.
Q. Have you ever had a crisis of faith, or a gnawing doubt about your faith?
A. There have been many times in my life when I have wrestled with God. But, intellectually, I can honestly say that I have never doubted his existence.
Q Have you ever had a crisis of faith, or a gnawing doubt about your faith?
A. There have been many times in my life when I have wrestled with God. But, intellectually, I can honestly say that I have never doubted his existence.
Q. Have you ever been angry with God? And, if so, why?
Yes, usually when I didn’t get my way with him, which has been quite often. Though I usually come to realise, in the end, that God knew better than me.
Q. Do you ever get criticised for your faith? And are you able to live with that criticism?
A. There is a much stronger and aggressive anti-faith culture in the south of Ireland than in the north and I felt this on a number of occasions when I worked in Dublin. More recently, the main hostility to faith, or even personality and priesthood, comes through social media, usually from people I have never met and who know very, very little about me.I have to live with it, but I think we fool ourselves about living in a tolerant, inclusive society. There is a new group orthodoxy around and, if you don’t fit in, you can expect to be subjected to very cruel and nasty treatment online.
Q. Are you ever ashamed of your own Church, or denomination?
A. Yes. The abuse of children and our institutional response to that abuse has filled me with utter shame. I also think that our attitude to women and to people who experience same-sex attraction, gender disphoria, or even basic human frailty, at times has been nothing short of shameful. We have much to celebrate in our Catholic faith, but we have to always face up to our dark side.
Q. Are you afraid to die?
A. I am very blessed in that I have never been afraid of death. I also have an absolute faith in life beyond death, a life which, like this one, is ultimately about goodness and love. However, I believe in hell and I fear it. I also believe that there are a small number of people in the world who are truly evil and have freely and knowingly chosen to be so. They’ll spend eternity in hell. But most of us are good people, who sometimes make very bad, or evil, choices. But they don’t define our fundamental character, or choice, and, if we repent, Heaven is ours.
Q. Do you believe in a resurrection?
A. I absolutely believe in the resurrection of our bodies on the last Day of Judgement. I believe we will know each other again, physically, after the resurrection. The risen Jesus ate, drank, spoke, bore the wounds of his earthly body. In death, God does not throw away these unique bodies by which He created us. In the resurrection, they will be risen, transformed and glorified.
Q. Are the Churches here fulfilling their mission?
A. I don’t think any Church can ever say it is fully fulfilling its mission. I think faith and the institutions of faith are going through an unprecedented period of upheaval and change. I remain optimistic that the Church will, ultimately, emerge stronger and more authentically Christian out of this, sometimes painful, process of change.
Q. Why are so many people turning their backs on organised religion?
A. There are two main reasons, though the answer is complex. The first is that many people have not so much rejected Church, or God, as forgotten God in the midst of very busy, stressful and distracted lives. Secondly, as society has become more individualistic and less community-focused, communal worship and belonging makes less sense to people.
However, I believe this will be relatively short-lived, because our contemporary, individualistic, culture is not satisfying our core human needs for belonging, community and worship. The turn back to God will come – eventually.
Q. Has religion helped, or hindered, the people of Northern Ireland?
I am so weary of people blaming religion and the Churches for the ills of Northern Ireland. The Churches almost always, often together, or sometimes prophetically within their own communities, pointed the way to a peaceful, reconciled and prosperous society here, one based on mutual respect.
If you go back to the document of the first historic meetings between Church leaders in the 1970s, in Ballymascanlon and other places, you find the language and vision that would eventually become the peace agreements that give us the relatively peaceful environment that we enjoy. The joint witness and leadership of the Churches here on social and political issues continues to be prophetic, for those who are willing to hear it.
Q. Where do you feel closest to God?
Late at night, before the Blessed Sacrament, in silence and with only the light of a candle flickering gently in the room, wafting away the busyness and stress of the day.
Q. What inscription would you like on your gravestone?
A. “May he live in love!” I find the whole idea of actually “resting” in eternity a little bit challenging.
Q. Finally, have you any major regrets?
A. While I have always accepted not being married as part of my calling to the Catholic priesthood, without resentment, on occasions, I have experienced very, very deeply the pain of not being married, especially of not being a father. There have been times when I have literally grieved over the wife and children that I never had. But that is what sacrifice is about; giving up something good in itself, something you would naturally desire, for a greater love. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a struggle.
O dear. What utter drivel.
I have always been convinced that Timo is gay.
This Darcy like grieving for a never had wife is so cringeworthy.
The driving desire of Timo’s life in the opinion of many clergy is to wear purple.
Why does he not leave and marry and father?
Or become an independent priest and have a partner.
This great SACRIFICING THE WIFE AND CHILDREN ruse is generally to hide being a Friend of Dorothy and to promote clericalism to a great big pedestal.
On another note – as the organiser of World Family Meeting he has left the Irish RCC in millions of debt.
Not a man to put in charge of future planning?
MASS FROM THE ORATORY THIS WEEK
Mon, Wed, Fri, 5.30
Tues, Thurs, Sat 12 noon
60 replies on “Fr Timothy Bartlett: ‘I have experienced very, very deeply the pain of not being married and not being a father… I have literally grieved over the wife and children I never had’”
At the end of the day priests are first and foremost human beings and therefore carry all the emotional needs as anyone eelse, the need for intimacy, companionship, love, affirmation, acceptance.. all those things that make us human. If as students we were more thoroughly formed in human development, instead of just learning psychological theories, beliefs and learnings, we might have been more discerning about human life in all its dimensions. I am touched by priests who manage to connect with their own humanity just as it is, with its flaws, imperfections, sins, possibilities, potential, fragility, vulnerability….it is vital that we know we are human beings not robots trying to live up to some kind of unachievable ideal. Work out of our humanity as a therapist guided me to do and it is a sensible, difficult but rewarding approach. Above all, in our lives as priests, there must be a relationship with God… and a sustained prayerfulness. I wish Fr. Bartlett well.
‘..priests are first and foremost human beings’. You don’t say!
Were you trained in seminaries to think otherwise?
If priests are not working out of their humanity what are they working out of?
Maybe you’ve touched on an issue at the heart of clerical abuse and covering up.
The heartless lack of humanity, particularly from many in positions of power, in the institutional Church.
10.59: Obviously you don’t get the psychological nuances or insights into human formation at all stages of life…I think you know my point but I’ll leave you in your cynicism. Having studies psychology and integrative personality therapy, my insights are valid.
Self-validation is no recomnendation.
At 10:04am – altogether now everybody – HI TIMMOOOOOO!!! 😆
Pat why is the Northern Ireland Bishops protecting Stephen Wilson at all cost.
Maybe he knows too much?
Brendan Marshall is the only one pathetic enough to be writing these stupid comments.
True Pat , Mr Wilson knows too much of the Network from Rome, Prague and within the Arch Diocese of Armagh. Where did Wilson get this power of control and fear.
Favours done always require payback.
As one camel said to the other “There’s no such thing as a free hump”.
Does the Network extend further afield?
I get the psychological nuances or insights into human formation, alright.
I think you’re missing my point.
What I don’t get is why anyone would think otherwise re priests being human first and foremost. I’m also suggesting, at the heart of the corruption and criminal covering up
in the Church is a lack of humanity. Inhuman behaviour from supposed moral and spiritual leaders. Men, who seem to me, to be heartless, out of touch with their humanity. I never suggested your insights were invalid. There’s no need to be so defensive.
‘Why are so many people turning their backs on organised religion’? I
He fails to mention the ‘ elephant in the room’ in answering the question. Abuse, crime, cover-ups, financial scandals, duplicitous behaviour from many of his colleagues…..
Happy Easter all. The Lord is risen! Alleluia. Interesting set of questions. Bit stereotypical but serve a purpose. Listen hi. This celibacy thing comes at a cost. There will never be a resolution unless people come out of the confessional. This may involve partners too. The cost of life is death. Anyway hi. Did th Easter bunny visit
Good Afternoon hi Fly.
Begorra a Happy Easter to you and the fly family.
He is risen and Lord. Alleluia. Alleluia.Alleluia.
Ah fly tell the truth and shame the divil. Truth sets us free.
Being authentic is where to be.No visit from the bunny.
Bunny is on lockdown.
Bye bye fly hi.
The Easter Eggs Who will look after the Easter Eggs
Until clergy get to grips with the reality that their church’s treatment of people is itself the cause of its current disrepute they will continue to be mystified by the ‘new orthodoxy’ as Timothy is.
“main hostility to faith, or even personality and priesthood, comes through social media, usually from people I have never met and who know very, very little about me…. can expect to be subjected to very cruel and nasty treatment online”.
Just to be clear he is talking about Pat and the people on this blog.
They can dish it out but can’t take it.
A backhanded compliment for Bp Pat.
Just to be clear, the main hostility to the Rcc is a consequence of abuse, corruption and the covering up of criminality.
I would have thought Timo would have been sensible enough not to give such a cringemaking interview ! It’s just asking for people to burst his imaginary bubble of clericalism, and I guess there will be people who know a bit more about him and could do so ! He’s setting himself up for a big fall. And, yes, I do get fed up with the sob story of not being married and fathering children from clergy as a way of masking what they really are and really are up to. Spare us, please !
I can’t quite remove from my mind the image of Alf McCreary’s handing Timothy a sweetie after that interview, and then his patting him on the head, with the reasurring words. ‘You did very well, Timothy. There’s a good boy.’
Incidentally, is the B.Ed course on the prospectus at Queens? I thought it was provided only through its affiliated colleges?😕
Why did he need to mention that he got a first? It was only the B Ed, ffs!
He glossed over the time he spent as a Christian Brother between leaving school and joining D & C. A selective self portrayal.
Interesting. Wonder why?
When he was a student in Maynooth he’d go down your throat if you mentioned his time in the Christian Brothers.
He also glossed over his decades of doing everything to avoid a parish posting.
I think it important to remember that some people have been brought up in an older understanding of sexuality than the modern orientation model – and well within living memory.
The religious example I can think of is Dom Magnus Wilson in a book by du Boulay quotes Dom Bede Griffiths as saying that if he had been born later he would have been a homosexual. Not that he would have been any different but he didn’t identify as gay or whatever.
I lived through the “older understanding of sexuality” but equality is the bottom line nowadays and the sooner these conservative religious pooftahs, old and young, realise it the better.
Of course, if he is a closet case, Bp Pat, his somewhat exaggerated response could easily be adjusted.
‘While I have always accepted not being in a same-sex marriage as part of my calling to the Catholic priesthood, without resentment, on occasions, I have experienced very, very deeply the pain of not being in a same-sex marriage, especially of not being a father of an IVF child with a surrogate mother. There have been times when I have literally grieved over the man and surrogate children that I never had. But that is what sacrifice is about; giving up something good in itself, something you would naturally desire, for a greater love. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a struggle.’
Or the entire conversation could even be condensed into, ‘I have literally grieved over the man that I never had.’
“I have literally grieved over the wife and children I never had” Jeez Louise!!! 😂😂😂 Did you ever in your life hear such utter horseshite? Self-serving, delusional claptrap. Yeah Timmy right on 😆😉
Bartlett – pass the sick bucket. Nauseating 🤢🤮
The only thing he grieves for is the mitre he yearns for! Utterly false this man.
Like his where he feels closest to God – “ Late at night, before the Blessed Sacrament, in silence and with only the light of a candle flickering gently in the room, wafting away the busyness and stress of the day”.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, does he think we are all fools? Dangerously delusional I would say that man is coming off with such utter bollocks.
Grieves for the wife and children he never had??? One scarcely knows whether to laugh or cry. It takes one’s breath away in fact. Delusional doesn’t quite cover it. Christ on a f***ing bike!
Bartlett “grieving” for the wife and kids he never had 😂😂😂🤣🤣🤣😆😆😆😉
Serious question – is he stupid?
Pat, did you ever see the “behind the scenes” RTÉ documentary on the Papa Frank’s Disaster of a visit to Ireland and the WMOF2018 Massive Flop?
It’s on RTÉ player. It’s an absolute cringe-fest starring the thwarted and grieving wannabe husband and father, Timo Bartlett.
Let’s hope that his yearnings to be a Bishop don’t go the same road as his ambitions to find himself a bonnie wee lassie and sire some bairns. If they do, then you will see some “grieving” alright! 😂
Wasn’t it on the flight back to Rome the Vigano bombshell was dropped on the Pope?
The jamboree on ‘the family’ was rapidly forgotten.
Of all the girls I’ve loved before
The only one who I adore
She lives inside me head
We never ever wed
Of all the girls I’ve loved before…
Is Fr. Bartlett in the running for the Dublin position?
Somehow I don’t think it has been that much of a sacrifice or a struggle for him. Losing a couple of stone in weight might be more of a battle for him.
Where I work, we’re not allowed speak to the press without input/guidance from the communications team.
After reading this, I take it the Church doesn’t have any such rules?
I’d love to meet the PR person who signed off on it…
More of, the pain of not being married with children he never had, narrative. The pain of it!!
God bless his imagination. What does he want the public to do?
If he’s so pained by the wife he never had, just leave the priesthood, find her, and get married. With a bit of luck they’ll have children. Bob’s your uncle. Sorted.
Give us a bleedin break!
P.S. He might find greater pain being married to the wife he never had.
I’ve met him a couple of times through work and he’s not bad looking but he gives off that same asexual, chemistry-free vibe as most priests.
Is that a skill taught in Maynooth, like public-speaking?
I used to think that about KOB… until he was shamed and disgraced and sent into exile for the rest of his life!
Fr Sugar Ray Kelly would have answered the question like this:
Pat this is below the belt. Leave the man alone. Nothing Christian about this. I am disappointed with myself for reading. It is character assassination pure and simple. If this is your opinion of him fair enough but you are encouraging others to speak ill of the man. It is Easter Sunday, stop
No one here asked him to put himself and his private life up for public scrutiny.
In responding to Alf McCreary’s questions with some of the the answers he gave,
Bartlett might as well as stuck out his big arse out with a sign on it – KICK ME.
Timothy Bartlett has unintentionally revealed a very great deal about himself in his pretending to have “grieved” over the wife and children he never had.
A very foolish interview. A self-serving attempt to portray himself in a certain light that has backfired on him.
And if he is uncomfortable about what is said about him in a forum such as this, well he might as well have rung Pat Buckley and asked him to write a blog on him, in giving this risible interview.
No one with a titter of wit is going to believe one word of his self-promoting shite and he is some idiot to imagine that anyone is going to buy poor Tim, the martyr to celibacy, experiencing very very deeply, the pain of not being a husband and father. I mean does the man think we came up the Shannon in a bubble?
Pull the other one, Timothy. 🙄
No purple or mitre for Timmy – the parish dodger
The posting to a parish would give him a better chance of promotion in the Francis era. Where did the initiative come from and who colluded with it?
I have to say I was in Maynooth with Tim and always found him to be a gentleman. Yes, he was a small bit precious, but polite, sincere and spiritual He was, also, obviously on a trajectory for an ecclesiastical ’career’, but that was the fault of the institution for creating a culture of such not the man himself. By contrast, I would say you are mostly right in your assessment of Paul Prior. There was always something a little bit unwholesome lurking under the surface there. Tim, however, was always sincere in his efforts. Whether he was misguided or not is a matter of opinion. Yes, the article is a bit of a cringe fest, especially pertaining to celibacy, but, overall, he’s not the worst I met in Maynooth. Put it this way, there was some there who I wouldn’t let within an asses roar of a clerical collar.
Timmy’s nickname among priests when he was a seminarian was “Extreme Unction” 🙂.
I have to say I find his comments on the being married and having children entirely incredulous.
He always struck me as somewhat unreal and obviously the years haven’t succeeded in making him a “real” person. He sounds to me to be in cuckoo land.
In my experience, any priest who bangs on about longing to have a wife, etc., there is usually an alternative narrative hidden behind that pretence – the “real” story in other words.
I made a reply here yesterday, just after 7pm. It was a fairly neutral reply, saying I thought Tim’s comments were believable and that it would not be surprising for a priest, gay man or other without children to think “What if…..”
The reply did appear on the page yesterday. Today it has disappeared. Did I offend someone?
You people are so mean about my Timmy!
I’m the one who hears him sobbing his little heart at nights when he thinks I’m asleep because he’s grieving, very very deeply indeed, the wife and children he will never have. It breaks my heart!
My Timmy is quite the catch I’ll have you all know! There are woman literally throwing themselves at him day in and day out! He could have his pick of women who want to have his babies.
I personally am a first hand witness to his heart of bronze for chastity. He has the fortitude of the martyrs when it comes to living out celibacy for the sake of the kingdom. I don’t hesitate to say it is ‘white martyrdom’ in fact – his unflinching courage and impervious resolve.
And it’s bloody well about time he was made bishop too! The Church is so ungrateful, after all his indefatigable efforts and selfless hard work, which made the WMOF and the visit of the Holy Father such a stellar success!!!
He’s my inspiration and my hero!
Years ago Keith O’Brien “of happy memory” was giving a priests’ retreat and in one of his talks he had a whole sob story about falling in love and wanting to be married and how it “enhanced“ his priesthood – blahdy blahdy blah. Pure unadulterated shite.