Bishops to issue 'brief statement' following Maynooth meeting

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The Irish Bishops' summer meeting which has been dominated by the clerical child sex- abuse scandal ends at St Patrick's College, Maynooth, today but there will not be a press conference.

Instead the bishops' spokesman, Father Martin Clarke, will be issuing "a brief statement" this afternoon. It is understood this will be a holding statement, pending a more complete one in the near future. It is also believed the trustee-bishops of St Patrick's College met yesterday.

Meanwhile Father Gerard McGinnity, senior dean at St Patrick's until 1984, attended a dinner at the college last night to mark the 30th anniversary of his ordination class.

Last week Father McGinnity said he had been "demoted and humiliated", ending up a curate, after he made representations on behalf of seminarians who complained about the sexual harassment of junior colleagues by then college vice-president, Mgr Micheál Ledwith.

The six seminarians had come to him for protection, fearing for their clerical futures after their representations to nine bishops on the issue in 1983-'84 were ignored.

Responding to comments on Monday by the current college president, Mgr Dermot Farrell, one of the six said last night that it amounted to "the same old smokescreen really".

Another said it was "past time for the truth to come out and to stop this shadow-boxing."

"There were many good and holy priests in Maynooth at the time, and there still are. The bishops have a duty to such men to come clean," he said. He also said they must clarify what funds in each diocese supplied money to Mgr Ledwith's pension fund. "Was it a case of parishioners contributing to pay off a man they themselves were investigating?" he asked.

Another of the six found it "strange that the current president of Maynooth seemed not to be concerned that the six former seminarians might be hurting still". He would have thought Mgr Farrell might have wanted to meet them. He had no doubt the authorities at Maynooth had by now identified all six, but there had been no contact.

Similarly if a bishop wished to speak to them they would be more than happy to do so. He rejected Mgr Farrell's comment that Father McGinnity's account of events at the college in 1984 was "his view".

It was also the view of the six. "And I would feel (it is) the view of the great majority of Gerry's classmates and co-diocesans" who "would be aware of the kind of derogatory spin put on events of that time, emanating from Maynooth."

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