I was very sad to hear this week of the passing of Fr. Des Wilson, a man who I greatly respected, even in more recent years when it became more difficult for he and I to speak with the honesty and forthrightness which had characterized our relationship in earlier, simpler years.
Notwithstanding that I will always be grateful to Fr. Des for agreeing to baptize our son, Ciaran, even though he knew that neither of his parents believed in the religion which had guided his own life and led him, through devotion to great political principle, into sometimes bitter conflict with his superiors.
Our difficulty was that the mother of Ciaran’s birth-mom, Joan, was planning a lengthy trip from New York to look after Ciaran following his birth and being a traditional Catholic from Co. Mayo would expect her grandson to be inducted into the faith of her fathers.
So what were a couple of atheists to do? Fr. Des was the answer. He was the next best thing to, if not an atheist priest, then at least a slightly agnostic one. And he readily agreed. The brief ceremony was held down in the Markets and after the necessaries, we all retired to Ireton Street for a fine lunch, some intoxicating liquor and good craic. And a happy and contented mother-in-law.
Many thanks, Des. Sleep well.
You might mean well, but Des was anything but “slightly agnostic,” as you put it. Problems and disillusionment with some prelates and clerics has little, if nothing, to do with belief in Jesus Christ. He was a believer–to his bones. In the forty years I was his comrade and friend, I never heard him say anything to the contrary. If you want to honor him and his memory, don’t distort what he believed.
George Thomas McLaughlin
Fenian Memorial Committee of America
Sure, whatever you say. But as a good Catholic boy yourself why don’t you make a connection with the the late Bishop Philbin and ask him what sort of Catholic he thought Fr Des was?
This is not a comment on Fr Des, but speaking personally I’ve always felt agnostic and ‘doubting’ priests are a bit like ‘ruined’ abbeys – more attractive places to visit and with a little bit more depth, beauty and mystery than the ‘working’ versions.
With the passing of Fr Wilson and Gay Byrne, one should remember when Wilson and the Cruiser were on the Late Late together. Every time the Cruiser interjected, Wilson would say “That’s right Conor” and the Cruiser would beam and Wilson would continue making his point, paying no heed to the Cruiser. One of the best nights ever on the Late Late Show
https://www.funeraltimes.com/fr-deswilson163031599 Fr Wilson’s funeral notice is interesting for “sins of omission and commission”. “Saint Teresa of Calcutta pray for him. Family flowers only please, donations in lieu if desired to, Ballymurphy Massacre Memorial Garden, Care of Springhill Community House, Springhill Close, Belfast, BT12 7SE.” Nice touch.