Statement Regarding the Public Announcement by Mrs. Christina Gallagher that She Intends Closing the House of Prayer at Achill
Most Rev. Michael Neary
Archbishop of Tuam
I learned today, with considerable surprise, that Mrs. Christina Gallagher has decided to close the House of Prayer at Achill. This information was transmitted to my office by the local radio station to which Mrs. Gallagher had already made a statement of her intention. In the course of various statements made by Mrs. Gallagher on radio throughout the day, and in the course of the ensuing public discussion, a number of points have been made which I feel bound to address in an equally public manner.
I wish to state clearly and emphatically that at no time have I ever instructed Mrs. Gallagher, either verbally or in writing, to take this step. On the contrary, I have repeatedly stated, both verbally and in writing, that it was not my intention to close the House of Prayer. This decision had been made by Mrs. Gallagher and if she has taken advice on the matter it was not requested of me or of my office.
I have had occasion in the past to question, both privately and in conversation and correspondence with Mrs. Gallagher, whether she had indeed been well advised at various stages in her dealings with the Archdiocese. I repeatedly offered the services of a canon lawyer, in order to make absolutely certain that justice would be served, but this offer was not availed of. I remain unconvinced that she has ever, in this matter, had the benefit of advice which might be called sound in every relevant sense.
My predecessor, to the record of whose earlier decisions in the matter Mrs. Gallagher has chosen to appeal, officially opened the House of Prayer in 1993. Dr. Cassidy explicitly and repeatedly stated at that time and afterwards that the House of Prayer was intended to be a place of quiet where the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the recitation of the Rosary and the provision of a place of retreat for some priests would be the only activities. Within a fortnight after the opening he found himself obliged to write to Mrs. Gallagher in protest against persistent deviation on the part of the House of Prayer from that original simple vision. This tendency to stray from the terms of which the Archbishop had permitted the House of Prayer to function was to continue. Instead of a quiet place of retreat a de facto shrine was coming into being, attracting large crowds of visitors weekly. In a letter to Mrs. Gallagher of 15th September, 1994, Dr. Cassidy criticised these developments again and refused permission, as requested by Mrs. Gallagher, for an extension of the actual premises.
My own initiatives with regard to the House of Prayer are a matter of public record. My intention throughout was to facilitate a far greater degree of integration of the House of Prayer into the local church community and to encourage Mrs. Gallagher to proceed cautiously and wisely in the gradual development of her work. I believed and still believe that the measures which I adopted and the mode of development which I proposed would have guaranteed a future, perhaps a significant one, for Mrs. Gallagher’s work insofar as that work might have been inspired by God and for the good of the church.
The model of existence and operation which I had hoped Mrs. Gallagher would adopt for her work was that of the Private Association of the Christian Faithful, the most basic and flexible model of association presently available in Canon Law. I was pleasantly surprised when, after months of delay and apparently fruitless correspondence, Mrs. Gallagher contacted me recently to tell me that she had set up such an association, as she had indeed a right to do. I was surprised further, however, to be informed in the same letter that not my approval but rather that of Rome would be requested for the statutes of the new association since this work was to be “of world-wide scope”.
In my most recent letter to Mrs. Gallagher I was obliged to ask for clarification in the matter of Sunday Masses being allegedly celebrated in the House of Prayer in direct contravention of my express instructions in the matter. I found myself furthermore obliged to note in the same letter her tendency, persistent throughout my dealings with her, to misunderstand and misinterpret legitimate directives and to consequently misinform her associates and supporters. I am unsure as to whether this tendency resulted from genuine confusion or not but I am quite certain of the clarity with which the directives in question were stated.
My letter also contained a request for detailed accounts concerning any monies which might have been willed or otherwise donated for “pious causes” of whatever kind since the House of Prayer had been opened. This is an area which comes under the jurisdiction of any diocesan bishop but I had not addressed it previously, preferring to wait for the establishment of the Private Association and, with that, a more structured mode of supervision. It remains a legitimate matter of interest for my office and will be pursued in spite of the decision to close the House of Prayer.
I regret very much that Mrs. Gallagher believes herself to have been put under undue pressure by what I considered, and still consider, to have been sensible and fair measures adopted for the good of all. In this context I repeat my already stated doubts as to the wisdom and quality generally of the advice she has been receiving. Whatever the merits of her remarkable claims, and time may eventually clarify this, I had hopes that her work might have been amenable to integration into the life of this diocese. That it has not proved so amenable can only be a cause for regret, since I believe that good spiritual works of every kind are desperately needed today. I recognise that many people benefited spiritually from the House of Prayer, however, and I urge them not to be in any way discouraged but rather to hold on to and build on the good they have received.
I wish Mrs. Gallagher well and will pray that she finds happiness and peace.
+ Michael Neary
Archbishop of Tuam.
Date: 3rd July, 1998.