Priest completes walk of atonement over child abuse


A priest who began a walk eight days ago to atone for the sins of clerical sex abuse has arrived at his final destination at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin. Fr Michael Mernagh has walked about 300 kilometres from Cobh Cathedral in Co Cork to Dublin since starting out on December 30th.

Fr Mernagh (71) said his decision to undergo the walk of atonement was taken spontaneously just before Christmas as a result of the Cloyne Diocese’s handling of allegations of sex abuse and particularly the role of Bishop John Magee.

The Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin embraced Fr Mernagh as he arrived at the Pro-Cathedral at 1.19pm, 11 minutes before his scheduled arrival time of 1.30pm.

Archbishop Martin said: “He’s a man of principal. I respect anybody like that. I appreciate very much his gesture, but it’s his day and it’s a credit to him.”

Earlier, the priest had set out from the Augustinian Novitiate in Templeogue at 10am in the company of about a dozen supporters including a traveller couple Mick ‘The Man’ Connors and his wife Nan who Fr Mernagh had helped back in 1984 when he stood in front of a bulldozer to prevent them being evicted from a site.

Along the way he stopped off at the Hospice in Harold’s Cross and also at Christchurch Cathedral. By the time he arrived at the Pro-Cathedral he had been joined by about 50 people, many of whom were sexually abused by clergy including John Kelly, the co-ordinator of Irish Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) and Paddy Doyle the author of The God Squad which chronicled his experiences of life in an industrial school.

Fr Mernagh said he thanked God for the privilege of walking with so many victims and was blessed with fine weather and the support of many people.

“I realise one thing though I’m ending this part of my journey, our journey to give justice and to make atonement is only beginning.

“I have called, as I’ve called in the past, on the priests and bishops for a new heart of atonement. We must recognise that we are all at fault to allow this horrific history of clerical child abuse to go on. We need to come out of our denial, all of us, and ensure that this never happens again.”

He also reiterated his call to Bishop John Magee to resign his position. “For the sake of his own clergy and his people, he has admitted he has been at fault. It is logical for him to step aside on all accounts.”

Later Fr Mernagh was given a standing ovation inside the Pro-Cathedral.