President of Maynooth Monsignor Hugh Connolly has said he has no reason to believe there are students attending the seminary who are not living a celibate life.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Keelin Shanley, Msgr Connolly said as soon as information is received that a seminarian is not abiding by a celibate way of life, they would be challenged.

He said reports of what is happening at St Patrick's College are not representative of seminary life.

On Wednesday, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said he did not believe the seminary is the right environment for men to study to become priests.

Dr Martin said he was "somewhat unhappy about an atmosphere that was growing" in Maynooth and had decided to transfer Dublin seminarians at the college to study at the Irish College in Rome.

There have been allegations of gay sexual activity, use of the dating app Grindr and other anonymous allegations of misconduct at the seminary.

Dr Martin said he had offered to provide an independent person for whistleblowers to approach, but the response to this offer was the publication of more anonymous letters. 

He described as "quarrelsome" anonymous accusations being made on blogs and called the culture of anonymous letters "poisonous".

Today, Msgr Connolly said all of the structures around the complaints procedure at the college are being looked at and that all students should be made aware of it.

He said there is a panel, which is made up of independent people not attached to the church or college, that students can go to outside of himself and their bishops.

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He said it can happen that students can fall in love while in formation and that they can approach college staff about it.

The human formation programme at Maynooth promotes development in a number of areas including the integration of an individual's emotional needs and desires and developing "mature attitudes to one's sexuality and a willingness to embrace a healthy celibate lifestyle".

The monsignor said that the college has to be realistic about the world we live in and that not everyone is suited to a life of celibacy.

In relation to a case where he was approached by someone with a picture of a seminarian on the Grindr app, he said this was not the proper way to do things.

Msgr Connolly said he asked for the picture to be sent to him separately from the person in question but that it subsequently turned out that the material could not be substantiated, adding that this was the difficulty with receiving anonymous material.

In relation to the reports of a culture of fear within the college, the monsignor said such a culture is not compatible with seminary life and college authorities do everything they can to "make the culture one that is open and honest, where a person very honestly prepares for a celibate lifestyle".

He said that if anyone is not living a celibate life, they should not be in the seminary, adding that there is simply no reason for someone to be in formation, preparing for a celibate way of life if they are not living celibately.

'Homosexual sub culture destroying seminary life'

One seminarian currently in St Patrick's College, and who wants to remain anonymous, said that the "dogs on the street know that Maynooth seminary, in its current state, is not fit for purpose".

Speaking to the same programme, he outlined his experience at the seminary, saying that one of the elements destroying the life there is the existence of a homosexual sub culture.

"It's an element which has lingered in the seminary for decades and sadly our bishops have for some reason turned a blind eye to this problem. The Catholic Church is very clear that men with deep-seated homosexual tendencies cannot be ordained priests.

"I’ve heard a lot in recent days about how seminarians made complaints through anonymous letters - this is being used as a reason for why the complaints are not being investigated.

"Is it any wonder that a seminarian might feel that the only thing he can do is complain anonymously when he sees what happens to seminarians when they report inappropriate behaviour?"

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He said to hear Msgr Connolly say in recent days that there is a healthy and wholesome atmosphere in the seminary was "extremely disappointing and far removed from the experience of seminarians".

He added: "Neither I, nor I suspect the majority of seminarians, would describe the atmosphere in the seminary, this past year in particular, as anything other [than] poisonous.

"I mean how can it be healthy for seminarians to be living in a situation where fear rules, where whistleblowers are shown the door, where there exists a culture of secrecy and suspicion?"

Complaints around the teachings and sexual activity were not followed through, he said, and at times he said those making the complaints were the ones reprimanded.

He said: "I, like the vast majority of seminarians in Maynooth, feel that God is calling me to be a priest.

"I love the church and I love what she teaches because I believe it to be the truth.

"However, what I have been met with in Maynooth is a formation structure which would prefer me and my brother seminarians to be worldly, to be just one of the lads, to be a Yes man who'll not offer the challenge of the Gospel to the modern world."