Criticism likely for Raphoe bishops on child sex claims


THREE HEADS of Raphoe Catholic diocese, which includes most of Co Donegal, are believed likely to be criticised for their handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations in a report on child protection practices there to be published this morning.

They include the incumbent, Bishop Philip Boyce; his immediate predecessor Bishop Séamus Hegarty, who retired as Bishop of Derry last week for health reasons, and his predecessor, Bishop Anthony McFeely.

Bishop Hegarty succeeded Bishop McFeely in 1982 and became Bishop of Derry in 1994. Bishop Boyce became Bishop of Raphoe in 1995.

Last August, in Knock, Bishop Boyce urged Catholics not to lose confidence. “The moment of history we live through in Ireland at present is certainly a testing one for the church and for all of us,” he said.

“Attacked from the outside by the arrows of a secular and godless culture, rocked from the inside by the sins and crimes of priests and consecrated people, we all feel the temptation to lose confidence,” he said.

The report on Raphoe is by the Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog, its National Board for Safeguarding Children. It is one of six such reports to be published today as part of an all-island review of child protection practices in all Catholic institutions on the island of Ireland.

Reports will be published this morning following similar board reviews of Derry diocese, Dromore (Down), Kilmore (Cavan), Ardagh Clonmacnoise (Longford, Leitrim, Offaly) dioceses as well as on Tuam archdiocese.

Meanwhile, Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor has said few things “deserve more shame than the failure to respond to the abuse of children and the vulnerable among us in an appropriate way”.

He has acknowledged “the profound challenges that confront us as a church as a result of revelations of the abuse of children and the dramatic failure to respond to that abuse in an appropriate way”.

He said “few things could be more inimical to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ than the harm of those Jesus himself put before us as ‘the little ones’, those who are most vulnerable among us and often the most trusting of us”.

While “immense strides have been made to address the failings of the past”, he said on “the second anniversary of the publication of the Murphy report , I want to acknowledge the impact of the findings of such reports on the wider church community.”

Bishop Treanor was speaking to the annual joint meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Council for Justice and Peace with the Northern Ireland Catholic Council for Social Affairs, which took place in the Ballymascanlon House Hotel near Dundalk, Co Louth at the weekend.

He wanted to acknowledge that for those “who give so generously of your time, talents and expertise to the work of the Bishops’ Conference, such reports have presented real and often very personal challenges to motivation and confidence”.

He added: “I want to thank you for staying with us through these very challenging times.”

It was critical “that we continue to dialogue, reflect, pray and discern together, as a community of faith, from the very place of our anger, disappointment, disillusionment and pain if we are to travel the long road of purification, healing and renewal”, he said.

It was “also important to state that as bishops, as human beings, we too know and experience that anger, that disappointment, that bewilderment and pain in our struggle to provide listening and leadership through this time of enormous challenge”.

“So thank you again for your perseverance and commitment.”

Fr Eugene Greene: Jailed For 12 Years In 2000

ONE OF the most notorious priest abusers to come to public attention in Ireland was Fr Eugene Greene of Raphoe diocese. He was jailed for 12 years at Donegal Circuit Court in 2000 when he pleaded guilty to 41 sample charges of sexual assault against 26 children in Donegal parishes between 1965 and 1982.

He had been charged on over 100 counts. The trial heard that many of his victims were altar boys, who suffered repeated assault and buggery. Sentencing him, Judge Matthew Deery noted some of his victims had turned to drink to try to erase the pain of their childhood abuse which he described as “horrific”.

In 2001 Greene sought a reduction in his sentence at the Court of Criminal Appeal on grounds of advanced age and a drink problem; the appeal was dismissed. He was released in 2008 after serving nine years.

A native of the Annagry parish in Co Donegal, Greene had served 10 years with the Kiltegan Fathers in Nigeria when he returned to Ireland in 1965. He then served in Scotland and Cork.

In 1970 he was curate in Gweedore, thereafter serving in Killybegs, Lettermacaward, Gorthahork (where between 1976 and 1981 he abused 16 boys) Glenties, Kilmacrennan and Annagry.

His abuse came to light when he reported a man for trying to blackmail him. In the subsequent investigation, the Garda uncovered the abuse.

In their 2008 book Breaking the Silence retired garda Martin Ridge and journalist Gerard Cunningham revealed that Greene’s criminal activities “were known to Raphoe clergy at least as early as 1976”.

Bishop Séamus Hegarty, who was bishop of Raphoe from 1982 to 1994, has said Greene was sent to the Stroud treatment centre in England because of alcoholism but that he was unaware while he was bishop of the diocese of any allegations of sexual abuse against the priest.

Dr Hegarty became bishop of Derry in 1994 and resigned last week for health reasons.