Abuse victim says official of archdiocese became angry and threatened to sue her


A victim of child sex abuse said yesterday that an offical in the Dublin archdiocese was "angry" with her for reporting the abuse.

Ms Marie Collins, whose abuser, Father Paul McGennis, was jailed for 18 months in 1997, said the Diocesan official to whom she formally reported the abuse threatened to sue her for passing a letter from him to her on to the gardaí.

Ms Collins has outlined in more detail her experience of the Dublin archdiocese between 1995 and 1997 in a statement to The Irish Times.

This is given, she said, because Cardinal Desmond Connell commented at the weekend that he would have "liked to hear more from Mrs Collins, a little more of the care that was given her by the archdiocese" after she had reported the abuse.

She said she made her initial statement to the chancellor of the Dublin Archdiocese, Monsignor Alex Stenson, on October 1995 "and he promised to get back to me as soon as he had spoken to Father Paul McGennis.

"During the following months I was in an extremely vulnerable and confused state. I was full of doubts," she said, and heard nothing from church authorities over the next five months.

In February 1996, Ms Collins said she asked a curate in her parish, Father James Norman, to contact the archdiocese "as by now I was too anxious to contact them myself".

"When he did do this he was told, as he had no official status in my case, he couldn't be given any information and I would have to telephone them myself.

"I had to make the call, only to be told by Mgr Stenson that he couldn't give me any information on the telephone.

"I would have to make an appointment to go and see him in the Archbishop's House. This was very difficult for me to do."

Asked why he had not contacted her over the previous five months, Mgr Stenson told her, she says, that "he had so many other things to do he just hadn't got around to getting back to me.

"This answer seemed to show a lack of care or concern for me."

The following months entailed a struggle to get the church to co-operate with the gardaí.

In April 1997 she passed to the Garda a letter sent to her by Mgr Stenson which said Father McGennis had admitted the abuse. Mgr Stenson, she said, threatened to sue her for this.

"Can you imagine how much this upset me, to be threatened by a high Diocesan official?"

When she, her husband and Father Norman met Mgr Stenson later that month she asked him why he had made this threat. His reply "was that he was very angry with me at the time."

"I find anger and care incompatible.

"How could the archdiocese have shown me care when they were angry with me because I was trying to bring my abuser to justice?"

She made further approaches to Dr Connell voicing concern that Father McGennis might still be abusing children, and expressing her own distress.

Father Norman was appointed as her official "Support" by the archdiocese and in December 1997 she met Dr Connell.

Although the meeting was "very unsatisfactory" as regards convincing the then Archbishop to hand Father McGennis's file to the gardaí, she says he showed concern for her personally "and did express concern for my hurt.

"I thanked him for that and it did mean a lot to me at the time."

The archdiocese offered to send her for counselling and agreed that she should not have to attend the same centre Father McGennis was attending.

"In these last ways the archdiocese did show me care. If I have omitted any other acts of care on the part of the archdiocese I apologise," Ms Collins says.