The Scandal of Maynooth (1973)

click above to read in full (pdf)

This superb special issue of Approaches magazine from October, 1973, was given over by its founding editor Hamish Fraser to ‘The Scandal of Maynooth’ and detailed the descent of Ireland’s National Seminary into modernist anarchy. It was widely reported in the Irish newspapers at the time and provoked a lively correspondence in the Irish Independent’s letters section. A copy was sent to every Irish bishop, who predictably (and tragically) ignored its warnings. I am immensely grateful to Hamish’s son, Tony Fraser, for very kindly sending me this copy on my request. Tony is editor of Apropos, which is the successor magazine to Approaches. Please consider subscribing or donating to the magazine here. Good traditional Catholic periodicals such as Apropos deserve our support.

See also: Leading Maynooth Theologian Decries Disintegration of the Irish Church

Note: This Maynooth magazine from 1951 published an article (pp. 75-80) by Hamish Fraser entitled ‘Where is Britain Going?’. The magazine gives an insight into a very different Maynooth (and a very different Ireland).

Posted on July 14, 2012, in CATHOLIC PAMPHLETS. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Shane: thanks very much for the link to “Apropos”. It jinked my memory that you had posted on Hamish Fraser before and I’m sure I meant to subscribe then, but never got around to it.

    As for the Maynooth fiasco, well, I was 12-13 then and can only comment from a kid’s p.o.v., having been relatively safely sheltered in a fairly traditional school where we still had 40-hours etc. and as I mentioned before the parish clergy were pretty good as well. Cardinal Conway was actually our emeritus parish priest then (in the final 4 years of his life – he died in ’77) and criticism was never heard in my house, although my parents read the Irish Times but would have taken its progressivist opinion-forming…oops, journalism, sorry, but how little things change, isn’t that right, Patsy?… with a ton of salt. But the general view of Conway was that he was fairly strict, so it’s interesting to read how he handled, or didn’t handle, Maynooth. And the priests in the school mostly made no secret of their scorn for the modern fads and continued teaching us the catechism (I still have the school’s own version, produced in-house circa. 1975).

    As regards Ireland being insular at that time… it manifestly was not so much so, if the evidence in the leaflet of our “leading” theologians and media commentators scurrying to jump on the modernist bandwagon at the earliest opportunity is anything to go by. They seem to have been well up with the leading edge of trendy dissent, even in those days of primitive communications by modern standards. What was in them anyway? Did they actually hate the Church they were brought up (and ordained) in? Were they like the Cambridge ring in the 30s, with a guilt-based hate of the society/Church that formed them and a burning desire to re-form/tear down/destroy, from the inside? If so, what caused that? I’d love to know, because we have such a long struggle ahead and I think it’s essential to know the root of the problem before we can even begin to tackle the mess they have caused . We’re far from beginning to do that, as far as I can see.

    • Very interesting. Cardinal Conway was Archbishop of Armagh so he might not have considered it his business. The Archdiocese of Dublin’s files regarding Maynooth are still inaccessible to historians.

      I agree with you that it’s essential to know ‘how we got here’ in order to move forward. The modern history of Irish Catholicism is still an extremely primitive topic and the gap in scholarship has in in the interim become filled with myths and received wisdom.

  2. Now that I come to think about it, didn’t the McCullough Report about the allegations surrounding former Msgr Ledwith make reference to the concerns of the Bishops in the early 80s about how bad things were in regard to discipline in that place? They obviously acted on that of course, so that Irish clerical formation once again became the envy of the world and…

    (former Msgr. Ledwith was unavailable for comment at his Ashram)

  3. Thanks for posting this, Shane. One of the things mentioned is that along with contraception and divorce, abortion was on the agenda but not yet publicly. (I’m saying what was implied). Since divorce came in the rate has shot up sevenfold between the last two censuses in the Republic. Many don’t bother with marriage at all and The Irish times is pushing for same-sex ‘marriage’, something utterly inconceivable in 1973. Abortion is now being pushed. Planned Parenthood was mentioned as being involved in the push for contraception. It is being supported by the taxpayers of the USA in its policy, reflecting the views of its founder Margaret Sanger, of destroying Black America by destroying the unborn children of African-Americans at a much higher rate than those of European-Americans.

    The brief comments about the Vietnam War jarred on me. As a young priest studying near New York from 1968 to 1971 I was once called a ‘Communist priest’ by a postman on the street. I was wearing a black suit, my clerical collar – and an anti-war button. I found many Americans on both sides of the issue to be motivated by their faith. I also took part in a peaceful anti-war rally one time in the USA, wisely or unwisely. I phoned the parish priest in the area to let him know that I was doing so. He hung up on me. This was a totally different matter to Humanae Vitae. But then the dossier was written in 1973.

    I had forgotten the term ‘Underground Church’ for dissident groups. I think that that term has now disappeared in that context, though it is still used for the Catholics in China who refuse to join the Patriotic Association. (The Church in China now is a very complex matter, not at all black-and-white).

    The ‘Miss Kenny’ mentioned towards the end of the dossier is, of course, Mary Kenny, who would see things much differently now.

    In 2006 The Furrow published an article by Dr Enda McDonagh that utterly disgusted me. It was a ‘reflection’ that he gave at some kind of ‘liturgical’ celebration in England on the occasions of the civil partnership ceremony of two men, one a former friar-priest. Dr McDonagh concluded, ‘In their being so honourably gay they have enabled us to be a little more honourably Catholic’.

    It does seem incredible that the bishops were so lax. The results are there to see now, with the loss of the Catholic faith by a majority who still describe themselves on census forms, north and south, as ‘Catholics’.

    • Very interesting Father.

      Yes, the bishops have a lot to answer for in their failure to protect the purity of the faith. (“They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind”.)

  4. THE SCANDAL OF MAYNOOTH plus originals-signed.pdf Shane thanks to Roger Lacey the above has been converted and can be read with abode reader Thanks for discovering and posting this unbelievable content

  5. Hi Shane people are having difficulty with the link for the converted file above. If you are too then download the file and open with Adobe Reader Blessings Noreen FitzGerald

  6. Thank you for posting this, Shane. It was my very great honor to have known dear Hamish Fraser, his delightful wife (happily still with us) and a number of his family, including Tony and his wife. And, yes, APROPOS should be subscribed to by anyone who takes a serious interest in the Faith.

    His publication is indispensable, and on ,my poor blog,, I have and will continue to include articles from both APPROACHES and APROPOS.

    And may God bless the Fraser clan.

  7. The decade of the 1960s is recalled for many things, but principally for change. There was an air of a ‘new beginning’. Old habits and beliefs were being cast off. Anything old was denigrated. Youth was the future of the world. There was social upheaval in public life and it was felt in the Church. How was the Church to deal with this new reality? How could She relate to it? And it was in an effort to answer this that Pope John XXIII convened Vatican II to provide an ‘aggiornamento’ – an updating – of the Church’s role vis-à-vis the new reality of the world.

    One of the mantras of the 60s generation was to ‘question everything’. Nothing was to be taken for granted, especially if it was ‘old’. And of course Church teaching was old. I well remember the lead-up to Humanae Vitae in 1968. As in other aspects of life, change was in the air and The Pill had changed the notion of contraception – or so it was thought. Unlike other forms of contraception that were directly related to the physical act, The Pill was more remote and seemingly ‘unrelated’.

    So the expectation was that it or some other ‘unrelated’ form of contraception would be approved. Weight was given to this by the leaked information that the Commission set up by Pope John to study this was divided on the matter. The existence of a Majority Opinion and a Minority Opinion from the Commission – wherein the majority favored some relaxation – added to the general expectation that some form of artificial contraception would be permitted. It had to happen. It was a ‘done deal’.

    But it didn’t – and it wasn’t. When Humane Vitae was published in 1968, shock and awe resulted – and a lot of anger. Expectations had been raised so high that the resulting letdown was of seismic proportions. For the first time in my memory there was open and unrestricted opposition from priests, theologians and even national bishops’ conferences.

    This was unprecedented in my lifetime. Who to believe? Who to follow? The Holy Father seemed a small voice in a sea of voices opposing him – voices of learned and prominent churchmen and laity. To me, that was the turning point in modern Church history, leading to the many abuses in the Church – and the world – in recent decades.

    Pope Paul VI could be criticized for many things, but not for Humanae Vitae. He got that right and his warnings went unheeded – as we now see to our regret.

  8. This really is fascinating. Parochially, it is interesting to see England and Wales held up, at least partially, as a model of orthodoxy. In fact, though some E&W Bishops dealt with a few of the more outspoken clergy, others were in collusion with their priests to sideline Humanae Vitae.

    It would be interesting to see if there were parallels to the E&W experience in the way the Bishops’ Conference was set up in Ireland – did it effectively make/allow/force the Bishops to pool authority, or did (or do – I don’t know Ireland in this sense at all) individual Bishops resist the encroachment on their authority?

  1. Pingback: Leading Maynooth Theologian Decries Disintegration of the Irish Church | Lux Occulta

  2. Pingback: The Irish Bishops and the Legalisation of Contraception (1978): Mgr Cremin Speaks Out. Full Text of Interview. | Lux Occulta

  3. Pingback: A Scot who shook the Maynooth progressives | Lux Occulta

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: