Priest takes leave after allegation of sexual assault on young girl

 

A PRIEST in the Diocese of Cloyne has agreed to take administrative leave from his parish duties pending an investigation into an allegation that he sexually assaulted a young girl over 20 years ago.

The Diocese of Cloyne yesterday confirmed in a statement that the priest, who didn’t say Mass in his parish at the weekend, has agreed to take administrative leave pending “an investigation into an allegation that has been brought to the attention of the diocese”.

The Irish Timesunderstands that a complaint has been made to gardaí in Co Kerry by a woman that she was sexually assaulted by the priest, who is now in his 50s, over 20 years ago while he was in a parish in north Cork.

It was unclear yesterday whether the Diocese of Cloyne had learned of the allegation from gardaí or from the complainant, but once the diocesan authorities learned of the complaint within the past few days, they immediately moved to remove the priest from parish duties. The priest was contacted and agreed to go on administrative leave, which means he cannot carry out any public duties associated with his ministry, such as saying Mass or performing a wedding.

He must also refrain from wearing clerical garb.

Stressing that its focus is on child protection, the Diocese of Cloyne in its statement confirmed the complaint is “being dealt with in accordance with the standards and guidance document Safeguarding Children, of the National Board for Safeguarding Children.

“The rights of the complainant and the accused priest are to be respected and any action taken in the course of an investigation should not be construed as implication of guilt on the part of the accused cleric,” said the Diocese of Cloyne in its statement.

Last December, the chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children, Ian Elliott, criticised child protection practices in the Diocese of Cloyne as inadequate and dangerous in that they potentially exposed vulnerable children to further harm.

Mr Elliott said that meetings held by the diocesan authorities to examine allegations of sexual abuse made by five people against two priests in the diocese appeared to be more “focused on the needs of the accused priest” than addressing the needs of the children.

Mr Elliott’s criticism was based on an examination of how the diocese handled complaints of sexual abuse made against two priests whom he identified as Fr A, who was accused of abusing a young boy, and Fr B, who was separately accused of abusing three young girls. The Irish Timesunderstands that the priest at the centre of the current investigation is neither Fr A nor Fr B, both of whom have been on administrative leave for a number of years following the receipt of complaints about them.

Last March, the Bishop of Cloyne John Magee stepped down from his administrative duties in the diocese to co-operate fully with the Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin Archdiocese after its remit was extended to include allegations of sexual abuse in Cloyne.