Former priest speaks of shame of being among ‘the most despised’

Patrick Crowley is jailed for 12 months for abusing two altar boys in Cork over 20 years ago

A former priest who pleaded guilty to abusing two altar boys over 20 years ago yesterday spoke of the shame of being among the most despised people in Irish society as he apologised to his victims for what he had done to them.

Patrick Crowley (62), a former priest of the diocese of Cork and Ross who was laicised in 2002, said it pained him to listen to the effect of his abuse on his victims.

Crowley took the stand at Cork Circuit Criminal Court yesterday to apologise after pleading guilty to three counts of sexually assaulting one boy and six counts of sexually assaulting the other boy on various dates between September 1st, 1989, and May 31st, 1990.

“As a convicted paedophile I live with the reality that every day of my life I am among probably the most despised people in society. It is very hard to forget what I have done. I cannot pretend I did not know what I was doing was wrong,” said Crowley.


"But until the whole scandal of sexual abuse broke in the church, I did not appreciate the long-term emotional consequences of the abuse.

“That is something I have to live with. I realise the terrible scourge sexual abuse was and the terrible effects it had on people’s lives.

“I wish I could change the past but I can’t.

“I want to acknowledge it was a terrible betrayal of trust on my part.

“It was criminal behaviour and there is no hiding from that. I have to live with that but I am so so sorry for the damage and hurt that I caused to the victims.”

Det Garda Donal O’Connell said both complainants were abused while serving as altar boys in a parish where Crowley was a curate.

One was aged 10 and the other was aged 11 and both were abused in the same manner when each was alone with Crowley, the court heard.

Crowley would send the boy to a local shop to get a paper after Mass and when he returned all the other altar boys would be gone and Crowley would engage the child in horseplay in the sacristy during which he would put his hand down the boy’s trousers and fondle his private parts.

“One of the injured parties wrote a letter to the Cork diocese in 1999. A number of years later, that letter was passed on to the gardaí when inquiries were ongoing into clerical sexual abuse in Cork and Ross diocese,” said Det Garda O’Connell.

A second injured party went to his local Garda station several times to make a complaint against Patrick Crowley but he lost courage to follow through and left without making the complaint until 2011 when he finally went to gardaí.

Det Garda O’Connell read out victim impact statements on behalf of both men in which they spoke of living with the secret and shame of the abuse even though they were innocent children who had been preyed on by Crowley and had done nothing wrong.

Defence barrister John Devlin said Crowley had served an eight-month sentence in 2003 for similar offences from the same period and he had undergone counselling and had done a lot of voluntary work with Sr Consilio Fitzgerald of the Sisters of Mercy.

Judge Patrick Moran said Crowley appeared to appreciate the impact of his abuse and it was to his credit that he had spared his victims a trial by pleading guilty to the abuse, but it was clear both men had suffered as a result of the abuse and he jailed him for 12 months.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times