Accused priest 'refusing to leave home'

 

A priest at the centre of abuse allegations has refused to leave his parochial house in a diocese recently praised for having the best child protection measures in the country.

The elderly cleric, who has stepped down from his duties in the Diocese of Kilmore, has flouted repeated requests from Bishop Leo O’Reilly to move to alternative accommodation

The diocese was recently commended for having child protection measures that were a model of best practice within the Catholic church.

Bishop O’Reilly said when the allegations against the priest came to his attention in September he immediately informed the civil authorities.

“I spoke to the priest who voluntarily agreed to stand aside from sacred ministry,” said Bishop O’Reilly in a statement.

“I informed the parish council that complaints had been received and I addressed local Masses so as to directly and personally inform parishioners.”

Neither the cleric, who is subject to a criminal investigation and legal proceedings, nor the parish where he served are being identified by the church as no charges have been brought.

However the controversy is said to have divided the local community, with some members of the church withdrawing from church activities while the priest remains in the parochial house close to the church.

Several alternative addresses where the priest could reside have been provided by the diocese.

Bishop O’Reilly, who is based in Cavan, said: “I am very much aware of my leadership responsibility to safeguard children in the diocese, and I am absolutely determined to discharge those responsibilities fully.

“In doing so, and in responding to this case, children are placed first and I am committed to achieving justice for all concerned.”

Just three weeks ago an audit by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland found Kilmore had child protection measures that were a model of best practice.

Bishop O’Reilly said his diocese applies the standards of good practice in safeguarding children proposed by the latest Church and State guidelines, but warned ongoing vigilance and cooperation is required to make them work.

He called for any one with concerns to contact diocesan officials, gardaí and the Health Service Executive.

Meanwhile Fr Seán McDonagh, of the Association of Catholic Priests, said clerics are appalled at any abuse, particularly by a priest, but have concerns over the emotional well-being of those accused.

He said when a priest steps down and is asked to leave his house to go somewhere, possibly with no friends, it may be presumed that he is guilty until proven to be innocent.

Fr McDonagh also criticised the practice of announcing at Mass that priests are standing aside from duties as a result of complaints.

“The association is very much opposed to the public nature at which priests are being stepped down at the moment,” he told RTE radio.

“It doesn’t happen to guards, to teachers and it doesn’t happen to nurses. We think this shouldn’t happen.

“A mass is a place where you come to listen to the word of God to receive the Eucharist, to be in communion with anyone else and for a bishop to use the Mass, we think is a misuse of the Mass.”

PA