Victims speak of anger at church response
REACTION:SOME OF the 11 complainants who allege they were sexually assaulted as teenagers by “Fr Ronat” last night spoke of their anger at the handling of their complaints by Bishop John Magee and the Diocese of Cloyne.
One woman, “Donnelle”, who made a complaint in 2005 that she was sexually assaulted by Fr Ronat between the ages of 15 and 20, said what had shocked her most was the attitude of the church authorities in seeking to downplay Fr Ronat’s abuse.
“Every time somebody came forward with a complaint to either Bishop Magee or Msgr Denis O’Callaghan, they never told them that there had been other complaints about Fr Ronat – they knew there were other complaints and yet they never told any of us,” she said.
“I’m so angry about it, but if it happened today, I would approach it so differently – I was so respectful of Magee and O’Callaghan because they were clergy that I accepted everything they said, but now, if it were to happen again, I just would not accept what they say,” she said.
The first complainant examined in the chapter is given the pseudonym “Ailis”. She died in 2006. Her father spoke of his anger reading the report last night and how the church in Cloyne handled his daughter’s complaint.
“To be honest, I’m upset reading it – all this talk about my daughter being 17 when Fr Ronat abused her – he started abusing her when she was 14-15, and then to learn that a priest tried to pass it off that my daughter was some sort of Ophelia seducing him – it’s so hurtful.
“The report gets it spot on when it says that the church authorities in Cloyne spent more energy on establishing that it was not child sexual abuse than on dealing with the fact that it had priests who, at minimum, engaged in exploitative behaviour. It demonstrates well the entire mindset of the clergy here – not one priest contacted us after we made a complaint, and we would have been very pro-church, but now I’m struggling to hang on to my faith given the way we’ve been treated,” he said.
Another woman, “Fenella”, said she felt the commission report had understated abuse she suffered at the hands of Fr Ronat when it described her complaint against him as “one of serious sexual assault”.
“That man anally raped me, and no one can imagine how degrading that is and there is no point in shying away from it – describing it as ‘a serious sexual assault’ does not convey the devastating impact that being assaulted like that can have on someone’s confidence.”
She was critical of the decision by the Department of Justice to publish the report yesterday at the start of Christmas week and said no one from either the department or the Diocese of Cloyne had contacted her to offer any support in advance of publication.
Another woman, “Keita”, said she was glad the report had been published. She had not been able to sleep in recent days waiting for it to emerge, as it had been hanging over her for three years.
“It’s three years since I spoke up and it’s been hell having this hanging over me – it’s still going to be hell, but at least I can try to move on now. Nothing in the report surprises me in terms of how the church authorities handled things, but at least it’s out there now.”