Cloyne priest to be laicised over abuse complaints

Five women abused by priest in 1970s and 1980s

St Coleman's Cathedral, the main church in the diocese   of Cloyne

St Coleman's Cathedral, the main church in the diocese of Cloyne

Sat, Mar 23, 2013, 07:03

An elderly priest in the Diocese of Cloyne is facing laicisation after a church inquiry upheld a series of complaints by five women that they had been sexually abused by the priest while minors in 1970s and 1980s.

Yesterday the diocese confirmed its canonical court had found in favour of the women in relation to the priest, who had been the subject of complaints from the women that he abused them when they were under 18.

“A number of complaints of sexual abuse of minors against a priest of the Diocese of Cloyne have been upheld by a canonical penal trial. The priest has been dismissed from the clerical state,” said the diocese.

Denied impropriety
The priest, who denied any impropriety, has 15 days in which to appeal the ruling to the apolostic signature in the Vatican which, as the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church after the pope, oversees the administation of justice in the church.

Yesterday’s ruling follows a hearing at the Nano Nagle Centre in Cork, which began in 2010 and was suspended for a period but resumed in 2012 during which time the women gave evidence.

The priest, who had a canon lawyer as his advocate, denied the allegations but the three priest judges were satisfied to a standard of “moral certainty” and found him guilty of the complaints.

The penalty of laicisation is suspended pending an appeal by the priest who has already featured in a number of high profile inquiries into the handling of allegations of child sexual abuse in the diocese by the former bishop, Dr John Magee.

Yesterday, the women who testified at the court were briefed on the verdict. Afterwards they spoke of their relief at the verdict which saw the judges unanimously find the priest guilty of all charges.

“Having gone through the canonical process and knowing how stringent and rigid it was, I feel relieved and vindicated,” one woman said. “No one would go through this process without having had to live the nightmare, but it’s such a relief to be finally believed.”

Another woman said: “I feel vindicated in so far as we can be. I’m glad the church held this hearing and made the findings that they did, but I wonder would they have gone this far if it wasn’t for us being so relentless in our quest for truth.”

In 2008, the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church had criticised how the diocese and then Bishop Magee had handled complaints againt the priest. The complains against him also figured in the Murphy report.