Tributes paid to Cork priest who challenged Church's stance on contraception

Tributes paid to Cork priest who challenged Church's stance on contraception
Fr James Good. Picture: Des Barry

Father James Good was well known for his outspoken opposition to elements of church orthodoxy but was the very opposite of a ‘trendy priest’ according to historian Dr John A Murphy.

Dr Murphy and Bishop of Cork and Ross were among those who paid tribute to the Cork priest and theologian, who died this week.

“Father James Good was a most hardworking priest who was dedicated to his priestly ministry,” Bishop John Buckley told the Evening Echo.

“He will be particularly remembered as a missionary in Turkana (in Kenya) and as a teacher.” 

Father Good was born in Nicholas St in Cork city in 1924 and educated in Farranferris. After studying in Maynooth, he was ordained a priest in 1948 and would have celebrated 70 years since his ordination in June.

He spent some time studying theology abroad before taking up a position as a Lecturer in Medical Ethics in UCC.

It was while he was working in UCC he drew the ire of church authorities, most particularly the then Bishop of Cork Cornelius Lucey. 

The Bishop sanctioned Father Good after he publicly opposed Humanae Vitae - Pope Paul’s 1968 encyclical which reinforced the church ban on contraception. 

Father Good made worldwide headlines as a result of his vocal dissent and this led Bishop Lucey to suspend him from diocesan functions in Cork - including preaching and hearing confessions.

While Father Good was free to continue his role with UCC, Dr Murphy and some colleagues made representations to the bishop about the sanctions, something the historian now regrets.

“He was a colleague of mine in UCC and Some of us in the college felt we should rally behind our colleague,” Dr Murphy said.

”We argued the case with the bishop but in retrospect, we shouldn’t have done that because it was an ecclesiastical row, an internal matter.” 

The furore eventually led Fr Good to move to Kenya, where he spent much of his life engaged in missionary work. When Bishop Buckley retired in 1980, he joined with Father Good in Kenya for a time.

"He and the bishop made up and he was amused at the bishop’s tolerance for local customs in Kenya, bare-breasted women and the like," Dr Murphy said.

Years later, Father Good said he and the bishop never discussed the suspension but added: “We both understood our position and accepted it”.

Despite the controversy, he remained a dedicated, in many ways conservative, priest.

"He was a great man in every sense, I am greatly upset by his death," Dr Murphy said.

"People make the mistake, because he had this row, that he was somehow a trendy, modern type of priest. He wasn’t in fact, he was extremely conservative in priestly matters, there was no open collar for Jim Good."

However, he never changed his mind about his position on Humanae Vitae.

"He never took back the stance he took in 1968, he remained convinced about his liberal views on sexual matters," Dr Murphy said. "He stood his ground from that day to this, while remaining very much a priest. I greatly admired that position."

Since retiring and returning to Cork, Father Good assisted in Douglas and regularly celebrated mass at weekends in two nursing homes.

“Despite his age he was always working and writing - and published a booklet recently on Mary, Mother of God,” Bishop Buckley said. 

“Those who met him always felt they were in the presence of a teacher. He was a great scholar and would read the bible in Greek.

“He was also blessed with many friends who kept in contact and provided him with much comfort.

Father Good’s body is being donated to UCC. Bishop Buckley said: “Given his love for teaching it was not surprising that he made the decision to donate his body to medical science.”

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