Public outrage has been prompted after a Dublin parish priest claimed there was no proof that Father Michael Cleary fathered two children by his housekeeper Phyllis Hamilton.
Even the archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has strongly disassociated himself from the view expressed by Father Arthur O’Neill of Cabinteely.
Cleary, a prominent priest and singer who entertained the crowd while waiting for Pope John Paul II to arrive in Galway in 1979, died in 1993. Phyllis Hamilton died in 2001.
Two years after Cleary’s death it was revealed he had a son, Ross, with his housekeeper. She later revealed the couple had given another son up for adoption.
In his St. Brigid’s parish newsletter in Cabinteely last month O’Neill described the revelations as “exasperating,” unproven and the result of “shoddy practice” by named journalists, whom he challenged to prove them.
He suggested his former clerical colleague had suffered a serious injustice: “The burial of a person’s legacy deeper than their body just isn’t fair – if it’s based on a falsehood.”
Archbishop Martin rebuked O’Neill. The archbishop’s spokesperson told The Irish Times, “Father Arthur O’Neill’s publicly expressed views are his alone and are not supported by Archbishop Martin.
“Parish newsletters are not vehicles for the expression of personal views. Archbishop Martin fully respects Ross Hamilton’s right to privacy and his right to determine what is said publicly about him.”
A former confidante and friend of Cleary and Phyllis Hamilton, Dr. Roisin O’Shea, wrote an angry letter to The Irish Times in which she said she was “astonished” by O’Neill’s challenge that Fr Cleary had fathered two sons.
O’Shea, related through marriage to Cleary, wrote: “He did so without contacting Ross, who is entitled after all these years to get on with his life without this kind of attempt to once again seek to deny who his father is.
“I will not stand quietly by and allow this man to bring more pain to Ross, who has had enough denial rained on him to last more than a lifetime.
“The challenge is even more ludicrous and offensive when the most cursory comparison between Ross and his father shows the startling likeness between them.”
O’Shea revealed she “sounded out” the Dublin diocese on behalf of Cleary and Phyllis Hamilton while they were still alive.
She said she urged Cleary to tell his family the truth about his relationship.