Fr Doyle SJ, a truly European hero

Fr William Doyle SJ
Fr William Doyle SJ

Award winning journalist Robert Fisk has held up an Irish Jesuit, Fr Willie Doyle, as a counter example to Brexit.  Fr Doyle SJ, died serving as a chaplain during the First World War.  Last week, Fisk was attending a lecture by Damien Burke of the Irish Jesuit Archives, in Dalkey, outside of Dublin, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Fr Doyle’s death.  The Irish Jesuit made a deep impression on many alongside him: he was mentioned in dispatches, awarded a military cross and recommended for a posthumous Victoria Cross.  As well as his heroics, Fisk holds Doyle up as a European Man, ‘Trained in England, preached in Aberdeen, visited Belgium, worshipped in France”

Doyle was proposed for canonisation in 1938, but it was not followed through. This maybe reconsidered now as Pope Francis, in a motu propio ‘“Maiorem Hac Dilectionem”, has recently opened up a third path to sainthood for Catholics who freely accepted a certain and premature death for the good of others. Many of Fr Doyle’s letters – carefully preserved in the Irish Jesuit Archives – attest to this.

Writing in the Independent, Fisk interpreted Doyle’s life against the contemporary divisions in Europe. Fisk summarised his argument stating, “ There was an Irishman who fought in France, comforted the Germans, and died, in British uniform, in Belgium. Theresa May, hang your head in shame.”  In a Church in crisis and transition in Ireland, Pope Benedict XVI  writing in a pastoral letter urged people to reflect on the often heroic contributions made by past generations of Irish men and women to the church and humanity as a whole.  For this very reason, a popular blog, Remembering Father Willie Doyle SJ,  was started in 2010, but recent commemorations of the centenary of the beginning of the First World War have led to much more interest.  The National Museum of Ireland is currently exhibiting some of Fr Willie Doyle’s uniform and medals.

Robert Fisk, currently the Middle East Correspondent for the Independent, has won numerous awards in a distinguished journalistic career, including the prestigious Press Awards Foreign Reporter of the Year seven times.  A sign of his influence is the coining of the word ‘fisking’ which describes a point-by-point criticism that highlights perceived errors, or disputes the analysis in a statement, article, or essay.  According to the Guardian, "fisking" has come to denote the practice of "savaging an argument and scattering the tattered remnants to the four corners of the internet". Read his article on the website of the Independent: What the death of an Irishman who lost his life fighting for Britain can tell us about the stupidity of Brexit >>