Irish priest in conflict with church authorities over child abuse-related case in Florida

An Irish priest who has been serving in Florida since 2000 claims he has been ostracised by the church for reporting abuse-related activities of a fellow priest to local police.

Fr John Gallagher said contact with the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin about the case had been unsatisfactory. Photograph: Collins

Fr John Gallagher said contact with the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin about the case had been unsatisfactory. Photograph: Collins

 

An Irish priest who has been serving in Florida since 2000 claims he has been ostracised by the church for reporting abuse-related activities of a fellow priest to local police.

Fr Jose Palimatton was arrested and charged with possession of pornography and distributing it to a minor. He later pleaded guilty in court, served a sentence, and has been deported to his native India.

Fr John Gallagher (48) from Strabane, Co Tyrone, has since initiated canon law proceedings against Bishop Gerald Barbarito of the Diocese of Palm Beach at the Vatican.

He has also spoken about the case with Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Fr Gallagher was critical of Cardinal O’Malley’s handling of the case, saying the commission should discuss the matter but had failed to do so.

That has been confirmed to The Irish Times by commission member Marie Collins, who said the Florida case had not been discussed, and the commission did not discuss individual cases. It meets in Rome next week.

Papal nuncio

Ireland

In December 2014, Fr Gallagher discovered that Fr Palimatton had shown pornography to a teenage boy. He called in a police detective he knew and together they interviewed the priest, who made many admissions.

When he contacted the diocese about the case, “I was told ‘we are used to this.We normally put people like this on an airplane’,” Fr Gallagher told The Irish Times.

Bishop Barbarito called him a few days later and said he did not want to know the details, he added.

Since then, Fr Gallagher said he had been demoted and that the diocese removed his possessions from a house where he lived and changed the locks. He said he did not know whether church and civil authorities in India had been told about Fr Palimatton’s history.

In a statement, the Diocese of Palm Beach described reports about Fr Gallagher’s allegations as “a completely inaccurate representation of the facts”.

Bishop Barbarito, who succeeded Cardinal O’Malley as Bishop of Palm Beach in 2003, is from Brooklyn.

Previously, as Bishop of Ogdensburg diocese in New York State, he pledged to remove from ministry any priest found to have abused a child but said he saw no need to publicly name accused priests.