Initially, the Rector of the Graan did not want to write another book for fear of “flying in the face of the Vatican”, which censured him in 2010, claiming that his writings and broadcasts were “a source of great scandal to the faithful.”
However, following discussions with his publisher and an analysis of his sermons over the last three years – during which he had “lost my joy for life” and had “thought seriously” about leaving the priesthood – Fr. Brian decided that a compilation of those sermons may help others who are struggling with disillusionment.
Despite newspaper reports this week claiming that Fr. Brian said he will leave the priesthood if the Vatican censures his latest book, he states: “It’s not as simple as that. That’s over-stating it.
“The point is, I’ve tried to ensure that this is me. I’ve tried to ensure a mature approach and if they can’t take a mature approach, what’s the point in being a priest?”
Writing ‘Food for the Soul’ is “me taking my freedom and taking the consequences.”
Asked if, during the last three years, he has imagined his life outside the priesthood, he tells The Impartial Reporter: “I don’t think it would be that different. I would definitely miss Mass, I would miss weddings but I think I would still be a man who visits the sick, who visits houses to try to help people through grief.
“I’d be more free to write and I’d be able to take up some of the broadcasting jobs that I’ve been offered, but I am a priest and I would still be a priest whether in the ambit of the Catholic church or not. I’d be the same man.”
In his introduction, Fr. Brian writes candidly about how “anguish, rejection and the pain of abandonment will destroy your soul.”
He writes that for three years, the censure has “eaten me up inside and destroyed me as a human being and as a priest.”
He lost his confidence and his trust in people, wondering who was sending his writings to the Vatican.
It was his appearance on The Late Late Show and the screening of BBC documentary ‘The Turbulent Priest’ on the last weekend of October 2012 that shocked Fr. Brian into “taking my own freedom.”
“That was a huge turning point for me,” he reflects. “I looked at the two shows and I saw that I was an old man, I was limping, I was emotional, I was sad. I said: ‘I can’t go on like that.’ I saw a guy who was destroyed. He’d lost his ability, his joy for life, his enthusiasm and was thinking of answers so he wouldn’t offend a Pope, rather than thinking of the right answer.”
Fr. Brian struggled through Christmas and underwent a knee replacement in the New Year.
“It was during that time that I was at my lowest. I had nothing to do only think,” he says.
He reveals his thought process at the time. “You sit and say: ‘You’re a sorry state. Hasn’t it been hard on you.’ Then you say: ‘Hold on a minute. No-one gives a damn. No-one is going to hand you back your life; you’ve got to take it.’”
Long walks surrounded by the beauty of nature was one panacea for his restless mind. In one chapter of ‘Food for the Soul’ he reflects on a walk across Innis Davar island to see the bluebells.
It was during that walk that he realised: “God’s compassion cannot be imprisoned in laws, state or church.”
On another walk, he said to himself: “If you are waiting for a letter from the Vatican to say you’re free to write, it will never come. The point is, you take your own freedom, you stand by it, and if they don’t like it, then fine.”
The resignation of Pope Benedict and the selection of Pope Francis was “a miracle,” according to Fr. Brian who describes Pope Francis as “God’s gift to a broken church.”
“In one day he had changed the atmosphere of the Vatican completely. What they were silencing me for, he was saying.”
He does not expect to ever correspond directly with the new pope, but his message to Pope Francis would be: “He needs to be strong because he is right. The Holy Spirit is with him. I would tell him not to be fearful of his changes because his changes will save the church.”