Dominican priest jailed for sex abuse

Mercer pleaded guilty to to 39 counts of sexually assaulting the boy at locations in Cork and Limerick and other unknown locations.

Mercer pleaded guilty to to 39 counts of sexually assaulting the boy at locations in Cork and Limerick and other unknown locations.

Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 00:00

A Dominican priest has been sentenced to three years in jail with the final 18 months suspended after he admitted subjecting a young boy to eight years of sexual abuse at various locations in Munster around 20 years ago.

Fr Vincent Mercer (66), c/o the Black Abbey in Kilkenny, pleaded guilty to 39 counts of sexually assaulting the boy at locations in Cork and Limerick and other unknown locations on various dates between January 1st 1986 and February 22nd 1994.

Today at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, Garda Caroline Keogh told how the abuse took place when Mercer, who is out of ministry but remains a member of the Dominican Order, was attached to St Mary's Church on Pope's quay in Cork city.

The victim's parents trusted Mercer to the extent that he would have been a weekly visitor to their home and the abuse happened when Mercer took the boy in his car to prayer meetings as well as on overnight stays at religious centres.

The abuse began with Mercer touching the boy’s genitals outside his clothing but he graduated to fondling the boy's genitals inside his clothing and over time, it escalated to masturbation and oral sex, the court heard.

Mercer had gone for treatment to the UK and in 2003, he voluntarily went to gardaí in Kildare and admitted abusing boys while teaching at Newbridge College for which he received a three year suspended sentence for 13 counts at Naas Circuit Criminal Court in 2005.

Mercer's victim told how he had been "robbed of his childhood" when he was just 11 when Mercer began abusing him and he told how was afraid to tell anyone what was happening to him because he didn't think he would be believed.

"For over 20 years, I have had to live with the mental torture, pain and anguish that Fr Mercer imposed on me. It is something I will never forget and will remain with me for the rest of my life," said the man who is now in his late 30s.

"At the outset when the abuse began, I felt confused and in some ways I suppose I normalised it. Fr Mercer was a very close family friend and I presumed then what he was doing was normal and probably happens to everybody.

"As I was getting older, I knew what he was doing to me was wrong but again terrifying fear, embarrassment and 'would I be believed?' set in," said the man, adding that he believed the abuse led him to become introverted and lacking in self-confidence and self-worth.

Mercer took the witness stand and turning around to face his victim apologised unreservedly to him and his family for the breach of trust while he also apologised to his own family and to his order for the shame and embarrassment he had brought to them by his actions.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin acknowledged that Mercer had gone for rehabilitation and was at low risk of re-offending and he also accepted that Mercer was genuine in his remorse and he commended the Dominicans for their close supervision of him.

However Mercer had committed a grave breach of trust given he was a family friend and his role as a priest and his age relative to his victim and while Mercer had received a suspended sentence in 2005 for similar abuse, he believed he had to treat this as a new case.

Judge Ó Donnabháin said he had to mark the seriousness of this offence and also provide a deterrent as he imposed a three year sentence on Mercer but suspended the final 18 months while he also ordered that his name be placed on a sex offenders register for 10 years.