Last Sunday, May 13, as the Pope was releasing his World Communications Day message on the theme ‘The Truth will set you free – Fake news and journalism for peace’, this newspaper was publishing an exclusive report online which exposed a fake sex slur story about seminarians in Rome which was published widely in the Irish secular media.
Subsequently major newspapers have begun taking down the story. However at the time of going to press it still remains on the website of a major Irish daily.
It is believed that lawyers and senior counsel have been instructed to take immediate legal action to clear the names of the two men who have insisted that the allegations are entirely false.
Speaking exclusively to The Irish Catholic, one source said that while the two seminarians had been disciplined over concerns around excessive alcohol consumption, at no time were allegations of sexual impropriety put to the men by the college authorities.
It is understood that a report furnished to the Archbishop of Dublin from the Rector of the Irish College Msgr Ciaran O’Carroll also makes no mention of any matters of a sexual nature and, sources claim, that this has been confirmed by the archbishop to one of the seminarians. It is also claimed that both men were not dismissed from the college, as reported in the media, but left of their own accord. Both men were not sent back to Ireland as claimed in the media.
The media also reported that the alleged incident happened after students attended a Mass commemorating Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae on artificial birth control.
The Irish Catholic has established that there was no Mass in the Vatican to mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of the papal encyclical as reported in The Irish Independent and The Irish Times and repeated extensively elsewhere. A senior source in Archbishop’s House in Dublin described these media reports as containing “fabrications”.
Both seminarians are believed to be deeply distressed at the false allegations aired in the national media about them.
It is understood that the men have pleaded with the Rector of the Irish College Msgr O’Carroll to issue a statement to set the record straight about what they describe as “lies” in the media. However, the rector has declined to do so and Archbishop Martin has also refused to issue a similar statement on behalf of one seminarian despite repeated appeals to help clear his name. This paper also appealed to both men but they declined.
It is believed lawyers for one of the seminarians have criticised media outlets directly for reporting the allegations without trying to make contact with the men involved or seek independent confirmation of the story.
They also claim that as there are so few seminarians in the Irish College, particularly from the Dublin Diocese, the men involved – even though not named – are easily identifiable.
In his message for World Communications Day, Pope Francis says that at the heart of all information is the ‘person’ and calls for a journalism that stands up for those who have no voice, especially, as in this case, when the media ignore their voice and those with a duty of care for them refuse to come to their aid.