Article by Fr Martin Tierney about Fr Gerard McGinnity -
published in The Irish Catholic on Thursday 7th September 2006
I listened with incredulity to Fr Gerard McGinnity, former Dean at Maynooth College, speaking on RTE One of his appalling experience at the hands of Church leadership. The pimitiveness of the abuse of power was painfully exposed.
Here is a man who was grievously wronged, and no restitution was made for a reputation left in tatters at the hands of certain bishops. They apparently preferred the ‘status quo’ to the exposure of possible evil. Not only that, but the breach of a serious confidence by the then Papal Nuncio, was inexcusable. If ever the cliche ‘mind boggling’ could be applied to any event, this one qualified as mind boggling by any standard. Listen to this Whistleblower series by keying into RTE’s website.
The story in brief runs like this. In 1984, McGinnity was approached by seminarians who had concerns about the behaviour of the college’s Vice President, Dr Michael Ledwith – these included concerns of a sexual nature.
After bringing these concerns to the attention of bishops, McGinnity was pressured into resigning his post and had to return to his diocese as a curate, while Ledwith was promoted to College President. False rumours then circulated that McGinnity had suffered a mental breakdown. This bizarre story would do justice to the CIA at its most devious!
Later Monsignor Ledwith left the country under a cloud, having made a settlement with a youthful accuser, without admission of guilt. He then became a lecturer in a New Age College in America, the very antithesis of what Catholicism is about and was finally laicised. Unbelievably, he had been touted as possible Archbishop of Dublin. To the best of my knowledge no bishop was made accountable for the injustice visited upon Fr McGinnity. The sheer lack of discernment by a group of men who by their very office are sometimes considered wise, is amazing but not surprising.
My hunch is that some good bishops remained silent when they should have put a stop to their more vociferous colleague, but they lacked the courage. Who were in the epicentre of events? Cardinal O’Fiach and Bishop Casey!
Good leaders inspire. Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul – inspired others. Every mother or father who seeks to instill good values and moral character in their children inspires. Every great teacher who wants his or her students to excel inspires. As human beings we yearn to inspire and be inspired.
Leadership is a relationship of service that inspires growth and makes the world a better place. Leadership is something you live, model and practice, not something you tell other people to do. Pope Benedict’s skills as a leader are wonderful. As Albert Schweister said, “example isn’t the main thing in influencing people – it is the only thing”. What was so remarkable about people like Gandhi, Pope John Paul, Nelson Mandela, Basil Hume, was that they know why they were here on this earth. They were in touch with themselves and God’s plan.
It often puzzles me that when a diocese is vacant we have no campaign of prayer to seek God’s wisdom in the choice of leader. Instead ‘important people’ play ecclesiastical politics. A device like Papal Secrecy clouds and obscures a process that is too important to be hidden. Good leaders know what they stand for, what they are needed to do and how to use their talents to fulfill their calling. Inspiration isn’t about me – it is about a leaders love for people and his desire to serve them in some way. Inspiration is about love.
In the McGinnity affair inspiration was sadly absent. Did the bishops pray before they came to the decision to demote Fr McGinnity? What sort of process of discernment took place before the decision was reached. Will the minutes of the Episcopal meetings that took place be made public? If justice is to be done a lot of questions demand answers.
I have never believed that a ‘head on a plate’ must be delivered before justice is done. But all leadership is so dependent on those who follow that people need to have confidence in their leaders. That confidence will take some time to restore after the McGinnity affair. This is a very sad business that further tarnishes the image of our spiritual leaders.