Secularisation of a Catholic priest in Tipperary provokes disappointment and anger in the parish

Standing in the family hardware store on Main Street in Carrick-on-Suir, Fiona Hearn recalls how Father Richard Geoghegan gave his son First Communion 15 years ago.

Today, Geoghegan is no longer a priest, following the Vatican’s decision to issue a secularization order, with the story of the story up to that point being a matter of disagreement.

The former parish priest of Ballyneale and former vicar of St Nicholas parish in Carrick-On-Suir announced on Twitter last week that he had been officially “deposed by Rome” on January 7.

“My bishop was happy to dispense me. I am a good man. And he talks about the shortage of vocations,” said Geoghegan, who entered the seminary in 1987 at just 19, and was ordained six years later.

The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Phonsie Cullinan, whose diocese spans both the borders of Tipperary and Cork, dismissed Geoghegan’s accusations.

Father Richard Geoghegan

Geoghegan had asked Pope Francis for secularization last March and it was granted Dec. 15, the Bishop said, “I want to acknowledge and thank Richard for his pastoral ministry over the years and wish him good luck for the future. “.

Geoghegan came under fire from conservative Catholics after an appearance on hotelier Francis Brennan’s show Grand Tour of Vietnam in 2017, in which he performed in drag like singer Shirley Bassey, wearing a blonde wig and red lips.

The TV appearance may not have done her any favors, Hearn agrees. “He’s only human at the end of the day. He’s well loved here in town. We would love for him to come back. I would have nothing but deep respect for him,” she said.

“He’s a real person. Some older priests might be distant. You couldn’t meet a nicer, more down-to-earth man. I think it was pretty harshly done by the pope and the bishop.

Hearn is not alone in her feelings, with many in the close-knit Catholic community in Carrick-On-Suir and surrounding districts still shocked and disappointed by this turn of events.

Despite the Bishop’s statement that Geoghegan himself asked to be secularized, Tim Hazelwood of the Catholic Priests Association describes his treatment as “inappropriate, unreasonable and unacceptable”.

In 2020, Hazelwood accompanied Geoghegan to a meeting with Bishop Cullinan and his secretary.

“From the meeting, it was obvious that he wanted Richard to ask for secularization,” Hazelwood said. “That’s when Richard said he would have liked to be a curate…Richard found it difficult to be alone in a parish. He needed support,” adds Hazelwood.

“Obviously the bishop had made up his mind,” Hazelwood says, “I was shocked, really because the majority of bishops would be supportive, but what I was hearing was really a belittlement.”

Geoghegan declined to comment when contacted.

Former parishioner, John Nolan said: “The Church is crying out for priests and letting go of a good man. He was friends with everyone, a real gentleman. Anyone having a wedding here would seek it out. I think it all depends on Bishop Phonsie. ”

Describing him as “a fantastic priest”, Carrick-on-Suir butcher Morris Whelan said he was a great man. “He knew everyone by name. You met him once and he knew your name forever. He was involved in the parish in all its parts.

Sinn Féin local councilor David Dunne remembers Geoghegan’s kindnesses during his mother’s illness.

“Everyone recognized him for the program he did with Francis Brennan… It was quite flamboyant and not in keeping with the Church, but it was typical of Father Richard,” said Cllr Dunne, “He was always friendly, outgoing and is well-regarded. It’s a great loss.”

Describing the former priest’s ability to engage, Luke Foran said: “One of my favorite memories of him is my brother’s communion where he had all the kids together and Richard’s phone rang, and that was on the phone only “Jesus”.

“You should have seen the children’s faces fall. It was brilliant and he captivated and captivated the whole place. He was ahead of his time. Richard humanized the priesthood and was a breath of fresh air,” he said.

Besides memories, there is also anger. Ashling Ní Fháthaigh said, “When he said mass, the church was much fuller with a younger congregation. (He) was loved by so many people and was punished for it.

Believing that the church hierarchy has questions to answer, Margaret Croke said: “A church without compassion and without understanding who can so easily dismiss a person who has been so devoted for so many years to his flock and to God really needs to change.

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