Bishop Kevin Doran is one of the raft of new bishops that have been chosen by Charles Brown, the Papal Nuncio, with even less consultation than used to happen in the past. He was landed from Dublin into Elphin, and the one thing we can be sure of is that he was not the choice of the priests, or of whatever small number of lay people who may have been asked for their opinion. Charles Brown does the worst of all possible things; he asks people for their opinion, and then totally ignores what they say.
Kevin Doran came with some record of achievement. In particular, he was in charge of the organisation of the Eucharistic Congress, and I think the general opinion was that he had done that job well. He also caused controversy by resigning from the board of the Mater Hospital following the passing of the law on the availability of abortion in certain very limited circumstances.
Since becoming bishop he has been quite outspoken, and adopted a significant public profile, in contrast to most of the new bishops Brown had put in place. But when I listened to his interview on Newstalk the other morning I could see immediately that, in a manner of speaking, the mitre had gone to his head. He used the word “we” constantly, without making it clear who these “we” were that he regarded himself as speaking for. His language was loose and inappropriate, and on almost every issue the interviewer brought up, he was digging a hole for himself in what he said. What he said about the nature of sexuality, a woman pregnant after rape and a woman carrying a child that cannot live outside the womb were particularly bad. I have seen many times during my years of priesthood how men can change when they put on the mitre. It has not happened to everyone, but to a significant number. They can adopt a dogmatic, often arrogant, tone and speak from on high at their people. Doran’s interview was a good example of a man who lived at an intellectual level, and was out of touch with the human reality of people struggling with the issues he talked about.
All of this is a hard, but very useful, lesson for him, if he is willing to learn from it. To be publicly remanded by the two most senior prelates in the country must have been extremely embarrassing. And to have it happen during the bishops’ conference was even more unpleasant.
I know that Diarmaid Martin has many admirers, but I have never been one of them, even though I recognise that he has done good work in some aspect of his role as Archbishop of Dublin. I thought we saw a good example of a really nasty side of him when he was interviewed about Bishop Doran last evening. In his years as a priest in Dublin, Doran has been a faithful servant of the Archbishop. But when the interviewer asked Martin if he had confidence in Doran he answered in a very blunt and sharp tone: “I won’t go into that now”.
It reminded me of the way he had shafted Donal Murray of Limerick after the Murphy Report. I suspect that if you had the temerity to cross Diarmaid Martin, especially in relation to his public image, you wouldn’t want to be expecting the type of ‘mercy’ that Pope Francis constantly talks about!