Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dublin Samaritans plan viewed with suspicion by archbishop

PLANS TO set up a branch of the Samaritans in Dublin were viewed with deep suspicion by the former Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Most Rev John Charles McQuaid.

He returned an invitation to attend a meeting called to set up a Samaritans branch in Ireland, and prevented a Dublin priest from attending, but allowed a Belfast priest do so on condition he did not chair it.

The Belfast priest had permission from his own bishop.

In his new book The Samaritans: Memoir of a Biographer, author Anthony Jordan recounts how then Church of Ireland rector of Monkstown, Co Dublin, Rev Billy Wynne, set about organising a Samaritans branch in Dublin.

Wishing to involve the Catholic Church, he liaised with the then professor of psychology at UCD, Fr EF O'Doherty.

Rev Wynne called a meeting for July 2nd, 1969, to discuss setting up the branch. He wrote to Archbishop McQuaid hoping a Catholic cleric might be sent, as Prof O'Doherty would not be able to attend.

Archbishop McQuaid did not get the letter until the meeting had taken place. Archbishop's House was in immediate contact with Rev Prof O'Doherty, then holidaying in the Azores.

He replied confirming he had met Rev Wynne, and "reading the mind of his superior, distanced himself from the need for such an idea for Dublin".

He said as priests were "on permanent duty in all city churches, such a service did not seem to me to be as necessary in Dublin as perhaps it is in other cities".

Rev Wynne organised a meeting for September 18th that year to launch the Samaritans in Dublin. Prof O'Doherty accepted an invitation and wrote to Archbishop McQuaid informing him, adding, "I think he intends to ask your Grace to nominate a representative to attend."

Rev Wynne was pleased that a group of Belfast Samaritans agreed to attend, including the local Catholic deputy director Fr Kevin McMullan. He wrote to Fr McMullan: "Let's hope that this time there will be an attendance and proposal coming from your church to investigate starting a Samaritans branch in Dublin."

The letter was copied to Archbishop McQuaid.

Having received no response to his letter, Prof O'Doherty, who also got an invitation for Archbishop McQuaid himself to attend, phoned Archbishop's House early on September 18th, 1969, seeking "His Grace's direction".

He was advised to return the archbishop's invitation and not to attend himself, but that Fr McMullan would attend.

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Sotto Voce

(Source: IT)

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