The Vatican announced Wednesday that Msgr. Dermot Farrell will be the new bishop of Ossory, one of six suffragan dioceses in the ecclesiastical province of the metropolitan archdiocese of Dublin.
Faithful Irish Catholics are regarding the appointment as one to watch, owing to Bishop-Elect Farrell's particular relationship with St. Patrick's College, Maynooth — a seminary infested with homosexuality and heterodoxy.
Monsignor Farrell was awarded a licentiate in theology at Maynooth in 1981. Eight years later, he was named lecturer in moral theology at the national seminary. While continuing to instruct seminarians, in 1990, he was appointed executive assistant to the college president, Msgr. Micheál Ledwith, his cousin.
Within three years, he'd advanced to become seminary vice president, and in 1996, he ascended to the presidency, where he remained for the next 11 years, before transferring to the diocese of Meath to serve as vicar general.
Notably, Msgr. Farrell's appointment is being cheered by Meath's Bp. Michael Smith, a conservative stand-out among Ireland's prelates. Lauding his vicar general's "fidelity, energy and commitment," Bp. Smith recalled the monsignor "initiated new pastoral programmes and renewed the parish churches and schools in one of the largest and most rapidly developing parishes in the diocese of Meath."
But the monsignor's appointment as bishop will be scrutinized by the country's committed Catholics.
Under his leadership, Maynooth sank into steep decline. Farrell presided over the "revision" of the seminary's formation program and its subsequent collapse in vocations. He allowed dissident American theologian Fr. Charles Curran to speak at a conference celebrating the work of liberal theologian Fr. Enda McDonagh. During the monsignor's tenure, faithful seminarians were persecuted and driven out, while a flourishing homosexual subculture scandalized the country.
It is reasonable ... to ask what did he know about the depraved behavior of his cousin, and what action did he take to end it?
More troubling is his association with Msgr. Ledwith.
As far back as 1983, faithful seminarians began lodging complaints against Ledwith, voicing grave concerns over "their seminary training, Msgr. Ledwith's allegedly extravagant lifestyle and his alleged sexual orientation and propensity."
Father Gerard McGinnity, senior dean at St Patrick's College, voiced support for the seminarians. In 1984, he was demoted to curate; later, he alleged the reduction was punishment for breaking ranks with Ledwith.
That same year, Ledwith was accused of sexually harassing junior colleagues and of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy.
A massive cover-up by Maynooth and the country's bishops followed. But owing to ongoing allegations of sexual impropriety, the disgraced monsignor resigned from Maynooth in 1994. In 2005, Rome dismissed him from the priesthood.
Bishop-elect Farrell served directly under Ledwith for four years. Some faithful Irish Catholics wonder, therefore, about the possibility of complicity. One told Church Militant Wednesday, "It is reasonable ... to ask what did he know about the depraved behavior of his cousin, and what action did he take to end it?"
Significantly, a number of Irish press reports suggest Farrell shared the bishops' masking mindset and refused to expose his cousin.
Ireland, once one of the great pillars of the Church, is suffering through a crisis of faith and fidelity unparalleled in its history, with heterodox bishops the catastrophe's custodians. Now, the faithful Catholics of Ossory — and all Ireland — wait to see if Bishop-elect Farrell will be more of the same.