Priest harbours no 'bitterness' after RTÉ apology following defamation

 

THE PRIEST at the centre of false claims that he had raped a woman and fathered her child while a missionary in Kenya has said that he does not carry “anger or resentment” or “bitterness”.

Fr Kevin Reynolds, who was defamed by RTÉ in a Prime Timereport broadcast last May, said yesterday that he was a “little battle-weary and wounded and the scars will remain”, but the apology had “freed” him from “lies, false allegations and baseless accusations”.

He received three standing ovations from a congregation of about 600 people on his public reinstatement to his parish by Bishop of Elphin Dr Christopher Jones in St Cuan’s Church, Ahascragh.

Bunting, welcome-home banners and several hundred handshakes greeted him in the village church, where Dr Jones was chief celebrant for the morning Mass.

Mill Hill missionaries general superior Fr Anthony Chantry and regional representative Fr Michael Corcoran were concelebrants.

Dr Jones and Fr Chantry praised Fr Reynolds’s “courage” and “dignity”over the past five months, while parish council chairwoman Máire Hughes spoke of the delight of parishioners at his return.

Opening the Mass, Dr Jones welcomed the media presence and recalled his address to the parish on May 28th, five days after the Prime Time broadcast.

In a statement issued by the Elphin diocesan office on that date, Dr Jones said that although the information available to him was only that broadcast by RTÉ, he had notified the Garda and the Health Service Executive as a precautionary measure and Fr Reynolds had agreed to stand aside in accordance with procedure.

“When I offered Mass with you and for you on Saturday evening May 28th last, I appealed for prayers that all investigations would be carried out quickly so that the truth regarding the allegations which RTÉ had broadcast about Fr Kevin might be ascertained,” Dr Jones said.

“RTÉ has now accepted that all of the allegations which it broadcast against Fr Kevin are baseless and without any foundation whatever and that Fr Kevin is entirely innocent.”

Dr Jones said that everyone was shocked at the time, not only by the allegations that were made against Fr Kevin but also by the manner in which they were made.

Fr Kevin had “carried his cross with great dignity”, Dr Jones said.

“He willingly stepped aside from ministry and never expressed anger or impatience of any kind . . . I believe that his own deep faith and spirituality have been his greatest source of courage and consolation through this most dreadful experience of his life.”

Dr Jones added that occasions such as this were a disservice to the “validated experiences of so many” through child sexual abuse.

“I reiterate the commitment of our diocese to the safeguarding of children,” he said, and the diocese of Elphin was “committed in its focus and responsibility to protect and value children wherever they are in our church”.

Fr Chantry said he welcomed RTÉ’s statement of apology issued late last week and said that his public reinstatement was the “beginning of a long journey of healing and reconciliation”.

The false claims had been a “source of profound distress to Fr Kevin, his family, friends, parishioners and fellow Mill Hill missionaries”, he added.

Ms Hughes said that Fr Reynolds had offered the national broadcaster “the means of disproving” the claims and had “no choice but to go to law” when this was not accepted.

“Fortunately, that expedited the whole process leading to his total exoneration within three months,” she said. “We will do all in our power to ease him back gently and nurture him as best we can.”

Fr Reynolds’s legal action is still continuing in the High Court.

Last week, he paid tribute to the Association of Catholic Priests for its contribution in helping him to establish his innocence through two paternity tests.