Text of Irish Examiner article on 18 Jan 2022 by Eoghan Dalton
Controversy has flared in the Diocese of Waterford over the departure of a popular priest.
Richard Geoghegan tweeted on Sunday night that he had been “officially dismissed by Rome” and claimed his “Bishop was happy to dispense” with him.
The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore has pushed back on this, contending that Mr Geoghegan has left the priesthood “of his own accord”.
Mr Geoghegan was a longtime priest in south Tipperary, covering Carrick-on-Suir and other parts, and is the brother of former Mayor of Waterford, Fine Gael councillor Damien Geoghegan.
He came under fire in 2017 by an international right-wing Catholic publication following an appearance in an RTÉ programme hosted by hotelier Francis Brennan, where he performed in drag as singer Shirley Bassey.
He tweeted: “I entered seminary in 1987 at the age of 19. I was ordained in 1993 at the age of 25. On 7/1/22 I was officially dismissed by Rome. On Friday 14/01/22 my Bishop was happy to dispense me.”
Mr Goeghegan added: “I’m a good man. And he talks about the shortage of vocations.”
The crisis facing the Church due to a lack of priests has been referenced in the past by both Pope Francis and Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Alphonsus Cullinan.
However Bishop Cullinan told the Irish Examiner that Mr Geoghegan had sought to leave the priesthood of his own accord.
“Richard Geoghegan petitioned Pope Francis for laicisation from the priesthood on 31st March 2021,” Bishop Cullinan said.
“At the meeting last March, Richard attended the diocesan offices, in the company of a chosen colleague, to sign the request to the Holy Father for laicisation.
“On 15th December 2021, Pope Francis granted Richard Geoghegan’s petition, meaning that he is no longer a priest.
“I wish to acknowledge and thank Richard for his pastoral ministry over the years and wish him well for his future.”
Local councillor David Dunne said it was known there have been disagreements between Mr Geoghegan and the Church hierarchy.
“Fr Richard has my one hundred percent support. He’s one of the nicest men and is extremely well liked in Carrick,” Mr Dunne said.
“It’s people like him who will make the Church relevant and who are needed by the Church — not the other way around.”
Tributes were paid on social media to Mr Geoghegan for his work as a priest, with two saying he had been “treated abysmally” in recent years.
Some of his 3,400-strong social media following were surprised to learn he was a man of the cloth, and instead knew him for his tweeting on Waterford matters, musicals and events of the day.
Parishioner Nicola Long told him: “You were, and still are, and will continue to be a wonderful person. You are part of practically every family in Carrick, for being an amazing person in good times and in sorrowful times.”
STATEMENT OF THE ASSOCIATION OF CATHOLIC PRIESTS.
ACP Statement, Thurs 20 January 2022:
Last October, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) issued a statement in relation to complaints we received about the way some bishops are treating – even it might be said bullying – some of their priests. We noted that this is generally not the case with most Irish bishops. We pointed out that, for over a decade now, the ACP has seen its role as supporting the rights of priests to fair and just treatment.
So it was with dismay and sadness that we read the news that Richard Geoghegan of the diocese of Waterford and Lismore has left the priesthood. As the ACP supported Richard’s quest for fairness, it is imperative that we add some facts, as we know them, in response to the recent statement from Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore.
In 2020, the Association was contacted by a priest from the diocese of Waterford and Lismore as he felt a priest of the diocese – Richard Geoghegan – was being “pushed out of priesthood” – even though there was no allegation or official complaint against him. One of the ACP Leadership team met with Richard and, with Richard’s agreement, accompanied him to a meeting with his bishop.
During the meeting, Richard expressed his wish to remain a priest of the diocese. Bishop Cullinan responded that he knew that Richard did not want that. The Bishop added that he felt it best for Richard if he left the priesthood. In response, Richard said that he never felt supported by the bishop since he came into the diocese.
In reply, the Bishop outlined all the reasons why he felt Richard should leave – including a mental health crisis that Richard had experienced. Sometime after the meeting, when Richard obtained the minutes, he discovered they were completely distorted and only included some of what the bishop had said and nothing of what Richard or the ACP member had said.
During 2021, Bishop Cullinan withdrew Richard’s ‘celebret’ – a card that acknowledges a priest is in good standing with his bishop – which meant that Richard could no longer say Mass publicly or officiate as a priest. Richard was not informed of this nor did any formal process take place to alert him to it. He was then asked to leave the house provided for him by the diocese. Because he felt unsupported and ‘not wanted’ by Bishop Cullinan, Richard reluctantly signed the laicisation papers.
The ACP believes that Bishop Cullinan’s treatment of Fr Richard Geoghegan fell well below the ‘pastoral care’ a bishop as ‘a shepherd’ is expected to exercise in relation to his priest, a standard of respect, support and care that is enshrined in the law of the Catholic Church and which priests have a right to enjoy. Richard Geoghegan’s reluctant signing of his laicisation papers after 28 years of service to the diocese of Waterford and Lismore has left him at 54 years of age, without an income, accommodation and dependant on a derisory financial settlement.
The ACP contends that Fr Richard Geoghegan’s treatment is inappropriate, unreasonable and unacceptable.
“I SENT THIS EMAIL TO DAMIEN ON WLR FM
I’m a former parishioner of Fr. Richard Geoghegan’s in Carrick on Suir. I am utterly heartbroken to hear the latest news about him and how shabbily he has been treated.
I’d like to share a couple of examples of what a good man he is.
Back in 2012, my husband’s 16 year-old nephew died by suicide, my mother-in-law was an elderly, devout, holy, Catholic lady, everyone was worried as to how she could be told the devastating news (keeping in mind, suicide was considered sinful) – Fr. Richard took it upon himself to go to Bridget and explain to her in words only he could say – from his heart – as a human, he comforted her and prayed with her and she was forever grateful to him for guiding the whole family through what was undoubtedly the most devastating time. He has been an amazing friend, confidant, and shoulder to cry on to our extended family. We will never forget his kindness.
He treated every parishioner the same, be they rich or poor, he could chat with the smallest child as easily as he could to the richest farmer.
Ask anyone in the parish what it was like at Christmas Eve “midnight” Mass when we heard Fr. Richard was to say Mass…. People would start arriving from 7pm for 8pm Mass!! There would be as many standing outside as sitting inside. He always said a few words to the attending children about the imminent arrival of Santa Claus, rarely was there a boisterous child in the Church when Fr. Richard said Mass – on the odd occasion that there was, in his own calm humourous way, he would say God was listening to their chatter and enjoying it too… Young and old alike would listen to every word he would say during a sermon, he spoke from the heart, made Mass interesting, understandable…
The bottom line is Fr. Richard is the epitome of a “true Christian” – not “just a priest”…. He is an immense loss to our parish, our religion, our community and the Catholic Church.
Fr. Richard wears his heart on his sleeve, he is gregarious, funny, witty, kind-hearted, understanding, nonjudgmental and above all – a beautiful soul…. He has more Christianity in his small finger than a lot of people who claim to be practicing Catholics…
I am very proud to be considered his friend,
FATHER RICHARD – HOLIDAY PERFORMANCE
I was literally shocked the first time I saw the video of Richard dressing up and singing.
And, God forgive me, I enjoyed him being Phonsie’s problem.
Some people say he is lovely, a wonderful priest and a nice person.
Others say he is haughty a life long trouble maker and taking the piss.
He seems to had mental problems?
Now, he and Phonsie are at war and the ACP are backing Richard.
It’s a pity he is dealing with Phonsie. Phonsie has no sense of humour and I can’t imagine that his people skills are great
We need the while truth.
Then we can decide the rights and wrongs.