Bishop Drennan has questions to answer on case of Noel Reynolds
Martin Drennan was auxiliary bishop in Dublin when one of the worst abuse cases came to light. Did he know about it? If so, what did he do, asks PATSY McGARRY
ALLEGATIONS OF serious sexual abuse against a priest were brought to the attention of Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese by two sisters in 1998 during Bishop Martin Drennan’s tenure as auxiliary bishop there. The bishop was ordained auxiliary on September 21st, 1997, and remained in Dublin until installed as Bishop of Galway on July 3rd, 2005.
The sisters, called “Martha” and “Mary” here to protect their identities, spoke to this reporter in June 2003. In February 1998, their mother went to the chancellor of the archdiocese, Msgr John Dolan, to report the abuse of one of her daughters by Fr Noel Reynolds 20 years previously when he was based in Kilmore Road parish in Dublin’s north city.
He was curate there from 1969 to 1978. She did not name him, nor was she asked to. She was told that, as her daughter was an adult, then it was she who would have to make the complaint. The mother was pessimistic about this happening due to the circumstances of her daughter’s life. Nothing was done.
Later in 1998, a nun who was a social worker at a drug treatment centre contacted Mgr Dolan to say a woman being treated there alleged she had been abused by Fr Reynolds when she was nine. The nun named the priest.
She also expressed concern about Fr Reynolds being chaplain then at the National Rehabilitation Institute, where there were children. Cardinal Connell was told of this in May 1998. Fr Reynolds was removed from the National Rehabilitation Institute in July 1998. The hospital was not told why.
Fr Reynolds had been appointed to the institute in July 1997.
In May 1997, two months before Fr Reynolds’s appointment at the institute, church authorities in Dublin were told by Dr Patrick Walsh of the Granada Institute that Fr Reynolds “should not be involved in non-structured or informal interactions with children . . .” There were 94 patients under 18 while he was at the institute.
(The Murphy report said Fr Reynolds admitted in March 1996 to then chancellor Msgr Alex Stenson that he was sexually attracted to children.)
In November 1998 Martha and Mary’s mother told the archdiocese that Fr Reynolds had abused her two daughters and a meeting was arranged where she met the priest. He admitted the abuse. The Garda Síochána was not contacted.
In June 1999 the nun/social worker told the archdiocese that the sisters had contacted gardaí. The archdiocese then also contacted the Garda to say it had received complaints about Fr Reynolds from his time in Kilmore. The nun/social worker described the sisters’ allegations as the worst case of “serious and systemic abuse” she had encountered.
In August 1999, priests in all areas where Fr Reynolds served were brought together to be informed of the situation. This included Glendalough parish which Bishop Drennan had direct responsibility for. Fr Reynolds was parish priest in Glendalough from 1992 to July 1997, where concerns were also raised about him.
He was arrested in October 1999 on a charge of raping one of the sisters between 1971 and 1979. He admitted abusing both girls and others.
He presented gardaí with a crucifix with which he said he had abused one of the sisters. A file was presented to the DPP who, reluctantly, did not pursue charges due to Fr Reynolds’s poor health. He died in April 2002.
The Murphy report found that the Fr Reynolds case “was extremely badly handled by the archdiocese”.
In June 2003, Martha and Mary, then both in their 30s, told this reporter how Fr Reynolds got to know the family through their father’s collection work for the church on Sundays. The priest visited their home and was made feel so welcome he used take off his shoes and put his feet up.
Neither sister suspected the other was being abused. And he would warn them to tell no one what he did or their mother would be sick.
The abuse took all forms and continued in Martha’s case until she was 12 and in Mary’s until she was 13. He frequently used force. Sometimes it could happen up to five nights a week. The abuse always took place after prayers.
The sisters found out about each other’s abuse while undergoing therapy in the late 1990s. They are in recovery since about 1995. Their histories are of drug abuse, homelessness and serial relationships. Martha attempted suicide.
Also in June 2003, the Dublin archdiocese told this reporter that as it was not a legal entity, no claims could be made against it where the allegations of abuse by Fr Reynolds of Martha and Mary were concerned. It denied it was the priest’s employer or had any supervisory role in relation to him. It claimed Cardinal Connell was not responsible in law for any alleged wrongdoings by the priest. It said the wrongs alleged against Fr Reynolds were criminal acts and were not a part of his duties.
During all of this, Bishop Martin Drennan was part of the governance of the Dublin archdiocese.
Was he aware of information available to the archdiocese about Fr Reynolds while he was chaplain at the National Rehabilitation Institute in Dún Laoghaire up to July 1998 and which was located within his area of the archdiocese? If so did he do anything about this?
Was he aware of the allegations of the abuse of Martha and Mary made by their mother in February and November 1998? If so, did he do anything about these?
Was he aware of the meeting attended by priests of his own area of the archdiocese in 1999 concerning Fr Reynolds? If so, did he do anything relevant following that meeting?
Was he aware of the legal stance adopted by the archdiocese against Martha and Mary after they initiated legal action in 2001? If so, did he do anything about it?
We should know.