Pope should bring laicised ‘back to the Church’

One of Ireland’s best known and most influential laicised priests has suggested that Pope Francis initiate a way of bringing back to priestly ministry thousands of men who have left because of compulsory celibacy.

Denis Bradley told The Irish Catholic he wished the Pope could “find a way of bringing back a lot of people who have left or were pushed out and find a sacramental role for them”.

Mr Bradley (68) was a diocesan priest in Derry for a decade in the Seventies where he witnessed Bloody Sunday and was laicised in the early Eighties.

Married with three grown up children, he said: “If I was Francis I’d say to the hierarchies of the world go and find a way of bringing back as many as possible of these people.”

He stressed the issue should be dealt with in a “sensitive and indirect way” and that his suggestion “poses no theological or doctrinal difficulty”.

Mr Bradley said: “The Pope could say to the hierarchies find a method within your own culture, within your own communities and within your own churches of bringing these people back.”

He suggested that a return to the priestly fold of many former priests would help redress the current situation where he claimed “the Church at a clerical level has been taken over by very young and very conservative young men. I think half of them are in Opus Dei.”

He has been “surprised and buoyed up” by Francis and hopes he “will succeed in knocking clericalism out of the way and replacing it with a more mixed leadership”.

Denis Bradley was the founding vice-chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board and with former Archbishop Robin Eames chaired the Consultative Group on the Past. Many of its ideas have been re-introduced by former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass.