Cardinal Connell apologises for handling of sex abuse case

 

Cardinal Desmond Connell has issued an apology to Mrs Marie Collins, who had accused the archdiocese of not co-operating with a 1996 Garda investigation into her complaints of child sexual abuse by Father Paul McGennis.

 Cardinal Connell
Cardinal Desmond Connell
In a statement released today, Cardinal Connell said that Mrs Collins had been justified in "the most fundamental" of the criticisms she levelled at the diocese.

"Our failures became an additional burden to Mrs Collins and I wish to offer her my heartfelt apology," said Cardinal Connell.

However, Cardinal Connell denied that the then chancellor of the diocese, Monsignor Stenson, had been trying to protect Fr McGennis by not telling the Gardai that Fr McGennis had admitted to abusing Mrs Collins.

He said Monsignor Stenson had felt bound by confidentiality under canon law, which is why he did not voluntarily disclose what he had learned.

Cardinal Connell acknowledged in his statement today that the case would have been better served if the information about Fr McGennis’ admissions had been given to the Gardai.

Cardinal Connell also accepted that issues of child protection arose over the case, and were not raised with the relevant health board until over a year after the initial complaint had been made by Mrs Collins.

"We were too slow in recognising that, although Mrs Collins’s complaint related to events in 1960, immediate child protection questions arose in late 1995 about his [Fr McGennis’] more recent parish appointments."

He apologised for the delay of four months between when Mrs Collins lodged her complaint in October 1995 and Fr McGennis’ removal from his house in Edenmore parish in February 1996.

On RTÉ's Prime Time programme on April 2nd, Ms Collins accused the archdiocese of not co-operating with a 1996 Garda investigation into her complaints of child sexual abuse by Father Paul McGennis.

The priest later pleaded guilty to charges arising from the abuse at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin in 1960. He was jailed for 18 months.

Ms Collins also said the cardinal had told her at a meeting in 1996 that clerical child sex abuse guidelines, issued by the Irish bishops earlier that year, had no force in canon or civil law.

On Monday last the cardinal said the archdiocese felt unable to co-operate with the Garda inquiry concerned, as an admission of guilt to a diocesan official by Father McGennis had not been preceded by a warning that the admission could be used as evidence against the priest.

He also said what he told Ms Collins was that the bishops' 1996 guidelines superseded both canon and civil law.