“It could start a fashion that is very unhealthy in terms of freedom of speech.”
“I run a blog called ‘Thinking Catholicism‘, which is critical of the Catholic Church hierarchy and they don’t like it,” said Mr Buckley.
In January 2017, Archbishop Eamon Martin had a Church officer report a comment made on the blog to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) as incitement to hatred.
According to the cleric, “Archbishop Eamon Martin sent the Church’s child protection officer Aidan Gordon to the police station to make the complaint even though there were no child protection issues involved in this.”
The comment was not made by Mr Buckley, but by a reader who follows the blog.
“[The comment] involved scandals in the Catholic Church, namely the ‘gay sex scandal’ at Maynooth. It was something like, “a flamethrower should be taken to the lot of them.” It was figurative language. No one would have thought this was to be taken literally,” said the cleric to the Belfast Telegraph.
Mr Buckley was ordained in the Catholic Church in 1978, but quickly clashed with the Catholic hierarchy.
During the 1981 Hunger strike, he brought communion to many prisoners in the H-Blocks.
According to the cleric, “I was forbidden by the hierarchy from going to their funerals – they said it wouldn’t look good with the authorities. I went to all 10. Not because I supported the IRA – I most definitely did not. But these were men I had ministered to, I had heard their confessions. I did the Christian thing.”
“It was the same with British soldiers. Many priests in west Belfast wouldn’t talk to them. I always did, and got grief for it. I remember one soldier asking me to bless his miraculous medal. I didn’t hesitate. I relate to people as human beings.”
In 1998 he chose to be ordained as a bishop into an independent church, which resulted in his excommunication from his former Church.
A year after his excommunication Mr Buckley came out as gay, and married his partner in a civil ceremony in 2010.
As Mr Buckley told the Belfast Telegraph, “They took my membership card away, but they can’t stop me working. I run an independent ministry from The Oratory in Larne.”
Extended Interrogation by the PSNI
“So, on January 17 I was interviewed under caution at Larne police station by two officers and was told I would be informed whether or not I would be prosecuted within 14 days. The police told me that I had nothing to worry about and I wouldn’t be prosecuted. But, despite repeated requests, it took 11 months before I received a decision from the Public Prosecution Service.
“The police were sent to my home on three separate occasions about three different blogs after that. There are people out there, probably pro-Catholic Church people, who do not like the blog and who are using the PSNI to close the blog down.
“Depending on the topic being discussed, there are between 4,000 and 15,000 people on the site each day. It’s quite clearly a waste of police time.
Mr Buckley added: “It was a worry that elements in the Catholic Church used the PSNI to target me. It could start a fashion that is very unhealthy in terms of freedom of speech etc, particularly over the Maynooth issue.”
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