Research looks at every facet of life for Irish priests in modern Ireland with some shocking results.Getty Images/iStockphoto

A new book exploring the experience of priests living in Ireland has revealed that many priests are sexually active, that bishops are aware, and that there is an active but secretive gay scene in the Catholic Church.

The book is titled “Thirty-Three Good Men: Celibacy, Obedience and Identity” and describes itself as “a sociological study of the lived experience of Irish diocesan priests in modern Ireland, 1960 – 2010.” The study, carried out by Dr John Weafer, a former seminarian who is now married with children, uncovers intimate facts about the lives of the priests interviewed, such as the fact that on parish priest interviewed is in a long-term gay relationship.

Speaking to the Irish Independent Weafer said that “Fr C” was “very happy with his life as a priest and a person".

Another “Fr L”, who was ordained in the 1990s, said it was only after he was ordained that he ended up “sleeping” with another priest.

The priest said “Although we both vowed it would never happen again, it did and I was really very confused.”

It was after this experience that Fr L “discovered a strong clerical gay scene in Ireland,” but added that it’s not easy to access due to the need for secrecy. The priest believes there are “quite a lot of gay guys in the priesthood" and said that one night, while out in a gay bar in Dublin, he saw nine of his fellow priests.

Weafer insists that the hierarchy in the Church would not be shocked by his research and said they “are aware” or what’s going on.

He said “As long as priests don't go public and don't flaunt those actions that don't correspond with being a celibate priest" they turn a blind eye.

However , he added "If a priest was to say in the morning 'I am gay', he would be fired. Priests have learned to keep their heads down".

Weafer, the first lay director of the Irish Bishops' Council for Research and Development in Maynooth, said most of the 33 priests he interviewed live celibate lives and the majority of them are heterosexual.

Also many of the priest interviewed were very critical of the fact that sexuality is taboo in the Church. In fact one former priest interviewed has left the priesthood, married and joined the Church of Ireland while Fr L has also decided to leave priesthood saying the double standards had become too much. Fr G had opted to remain in the priesthood and was not sexually active.

The book examines all facets of the priests’ lives. Their “diverse backgrounds, personalities, behaviors and attitudes.”

The description continues “While most of them are active priests in good standing, others have left the priesthood; while some are young, most are middle-aged and elderly… while most hold orthodox Catholic beliefs, others are more liberal in some aspects of Church teaching; and while some are enthusiastic about their priesthood, others have become disillusioned.”