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Bishop William Walsh

Bishop Willie Walsh

Bishop William Walsh of Killaloe (Co. Clare) has gained a reputation as a great friend of victims of clerical child abuse. He has apologised profusely, gone on a pilgrimage of repentance throughout his diocese etc. After alleged "victim" Gerry Kelly had jostled and harassed Bishops following their meeting in Maynooth in April 2002, Bishop Walsh comforted him.

The Bishop and Gerry Kelly
Gerry Kelly was one of the founders of the "Alliance for Healing of Institutional Abuse" (now "Alliance Support"). Following the June 1999 conviction of Nora Wall for the alleged rape of a child, Gerry Kelly attempted to get a "close family friend" of his to make ANOTHER rape allegation against the former Sister of Mercy. This attempt come to a sudden end after the collapse of the case against Nora Wall in July 1999.

Moreover on Louis Lentin's TV documentary "Our Boy's", (first broadcast in October 1999) Gerry Kelly claimed that, while he was at Artane, he had attended the funerals of boys who had been beaten to death by the Christian Brothers. No boy died of any cause while Gerry Kelly was at Artane.

The Bishop and Patsy McGlinchey
Bishop Willie is less popular with victims of false allegations of child abuse.

Patrick McGlinchey was teaching in a school for mentally handicapped children in the diocese of Killaloe when one mother accused him of child abuse in March 1997. (That was 2 years after Walsh became Bishop). There was an immediate outbreak of hysteria and practically every male teacher in the school was accused. One pupil accused 17 teachers, another accused 31 and McGlinchey himself was accused by 45 pupils. He was physically assaulted by parents and his solicitor was also accused of child abuse. After a 19 day trial in 2002, the jury acquitted him in less than 2 hours. However the school refused to take him back and he had to get an order in the High Court in May 2009 quashing his suspension. The High Court had to order the school to hold an inquiry.

About 40 people took CIVIL proceedings against Mr. McGlinchey. Half of them were struck out in 2000, several more after his acquital and the last ones in January 2010 i.e. 13 years after the initial allegations.

For all these 13 years Bishop Willlie sat on his backside, saying and doing nothing. He is great at taking part in campaigns that the liberal media approve of, but condemning false allegations of child abuse does not come into that categary. After all the school was founded by nuns and one of the originally accused was also a nun. That’s not something that Bishop Willie wanted to get involved in! It remains to be seen if his successor will do any better.

Bishop Willie and Bishop Donal Murray
In November 2009 there was a media led outcry against Bishop Walsh's colleague Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick, following the publication of the Murphy Report. Bishop Walsh initially supported his colleague, saying that the media were looking for heads on a plate. He was immediately critised by journalists and by leaders of "Victims" groups, both of whom had previously aclaimed him as a hero in the fight against clerical sex abuse. He quickly retracted and apologised to alleged victims for any pain he had caused them. The "victims" produced no new evidence but their "pain" was enough to persuade the Bishop to abandon his colleague. Co-incidentally he retained his status as a media hero.

Bishop Willllie and "Exclusion"
Perhaps to compensate for momentarily upsetting his liberal friends, Bishop Willie called for a debate on the subject of women priests, married priests, homosexuals, exclusion of divorced persons and Protestants from the Eucharist etc.

The bishop recalled that Christ deliberately included people shut out by the religious authorities of His time and bravely revealed that he had never suggested to Church of Ireland members that they were not welcome to receive the sacrament in his churches.

Bishop Willie and The Sisters of Mercy
In an article in the Irish Times on 14 November 2009, Patsy McGarry quotes Bishop Willie:
He had been speaking recently to the leadership team of the Mercy congregation’s southern province, “women who have given their lives in the service of the church”, and who were “very broken, very sad”. They felt “let down by us, the bishops”.

The Sisters of Mercy had been a major target for false allegations since the broadcast of "Dear Daughter" by RTE in February 1996. Their policy of apologising to false accusers has had disasterous consequences - and not only for themselves. They appear to believe that a false accuser is a "deeply hurt" person and that an apology will lead to "healing and reconciliation". The outcome of this policy is that no distinction is made between vicious fraudsters and people who may have a genuine grievance. Not surprisingly, their apologies have been met with loathing and ridicule but they have persisted.

In sharp contrast most Irish Bishops were originally prepared to defend the innocent even to the extent of suing newspapers and TV stations that published false allegations of child abuse. The Christian Brothers did likewise - at least to some extent. In 2004 two events combined to end all ecclesiastical resistance to false allegations. These were the appointment of Diarmuid Martin as Archbishop of Dublin in April and a further dramatic apology by the Merciful Sisters in May. After this the Bishops - led by Martin - abandoned any effort to defend their priests; in effect they adopted the policy pioneered by the Sisters of Mercy and by Bishop Willie.

Bishop Willie is a gutless wonder who never condemns false allegations of child abuse. So it is unlikely that the "very broken, very sad" Sisters whom he quotes, are blaming himself. Presumably they are blaming those Bishops who originally defended the innocent! No wonder Bishop Willie loves them!

The Bishop and Falsely Accused Priests
On 7 January 2010 the editor of The Irish Catholic, Garry O'Sullivan wrote in the course of an article that:
Well-liked nationally, Bishop Willie has been shocked that parents in his diocese declared they didn't want him confirming their children, because he had treated, to their minds, a priest too harshly.

I do not know what parish/area in his diocese that this refers to but it may relate to the following story published in the Irish Times in August 2010.

The Bishop and "John's" Life of Pain
In August 2010 the Irish Times published a series of articles about "John" a middled aged man in the midlands who according to one headline lays his "Life of Pain" at the "Door of Three Clerics". Apparantly in the early 1980s when ‘John’ sought advice from a local priest after his relationship broke up at the age of 20, it led to sexual encounters with that priest and two others. "John has been married and had four children before he separated from his wife. He has since had a daughter from a later relationship. He has had “countless” relationships. He has had “38 jobs and has lived in 31 different locations”, mostly around the midlands town where he is based. He has also been homeless. He has attempted to take his own life a number of times, twice in recent months".

Five years ago John contacted Bishop Willie Walsh. Bishop Walsh drove to the midland town immediately. According to John “It was bizarre, surreal. He cried and cried. He also cried for many of the abuser priests, who he said had been abused themselves as children.He encouraged John to go to the Garda, which he had done and has done again recently. .... Bishop Walsh told The Irish Times he believed Fr T was “the worst offender in that he started it. But the other two did worse”, where John was concerned. He has been in contact with John “40 to 50 times” over the years and they had met “about nine times”. Apparantly the diocese of Killaloe has given "John" €40,000 although he never formally applied for compensation and the Bishop has paid out another €25,000 of his own money after the diocesan finance committee balked at giving any more.

This issue was discussed on the website at

While the posters on the site are usually anti-clerical this was too much to swallow. One of them commented:
I broke up a girl when I was twenty. I went to Amsterdam for a break. Whilst there I sought solace from a prostitute who not only used me sexually but also charged me for the privilege. So I went to another, with the same result. And then another. I lay my life of pain at the door of these ladies.

Another comment:
When reading his 'plight', I couldn't help but think of Mae West when she said ...
“I'll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure.”

A comment re Bishop Willie's largesse:
Does Willie have any money left? It's all coming back to me....

And comments regarding the Irish Times and their Religious Affairs correspondent Patsy McGarry:
It reads like the News of the World editor has been appointed to the Irish Times. A very odd story. Hard to take it at face value. AND
Very bizarre article for any newspaper, never mind the Irish Times, was Patsy McGarry drunk ?

The last of the three articles (on 20 August 2010) was not by Patsy McGarry. Perhaps he was on leave or just possibly was embarrassed?

The Bishop is Saddened by Hurt to Gays
At a civic reception held in his honour by Clare County Council on 12 July 2010, Bishop Willie said he has been saddened by the deep hurt caused by the church to homosexuals. The reception was to celebrate his contribution to Clare life in his 16 years as Bishop. He stands down as Bishop of Killaloe at the end of August 2010 following retirement on age grounds.

When asked his views on the Oireachtas passing the Civil Partnership Bill, Bishop Walsh said: “I’ve always been hesitant about asking civil authorities to support a particular teaching of our church. I do place great emphasis on marriage, I have worked in that area all my life and I place great emphasis on marriage and family life.” He added: “It is deeply, deeply important and we would be endangering that at our peril. I know and respect many people who are gay. We should always treat them with the deep respect to which every human being is entitled.

While I do worry about the apparent breakdown of family life, I equally respect the laws of this country. I have always done so and always will do so. I respect people who are of homosexual orientation and I would be always conscious of the fact that very often we in the church have hurt them and hurt them deeply and I am saddened by that and saddened by the lack of respect for any human being. So that is really all I would like to say on that.”

It is difficult to work out what Bishop Willie means by his references to "deep hurt" and "lack of respect"; also by his placing great emphasis on marriage, but equally respecting the Civil Partnership Act. The Catholic Church does not denounce gays from the pulpit but does teach that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. Does Bishop Willie agree or disagree with the teaching of the Church? As Professor William Tighe points out below, this is something we will probably never know. What we do know is that, in every controversy that arose during his period as Bishop of Killaloe, Willie Walsh preferred hunting with the hounds to running with the hare.

The Bishop and the Professor
Professor Willliam J. Tighe has written of Bishop Walsh that:
His two-page Foreward [to the book "Saving Christianity" by Hilary Wakeman] is a masterpiece of obscurity and fence-straddling. ........ Vagueness of phrasing (plausible deniability?) seems to be an ever-present characteristic of Bishop Willie’s mode of discourse, but it looks as though we are dealing with a bishop whose invocations of courage, honesty, and love conceal a dissenting mindset, one which he lacks the ability or the courage to express openly. Perhaps he ought to pluck up his courage and speak his mind.

His successor Fr Kieran O’Reilly will be ordained bishop of the diocese at the end of August 2010.

Interview with the Irish Times in November 2010
The Irish Times published a major article on the Bishop by Kathy Sheridan in their Weekend Review on 6 November 2010. The opening paragraph says it all:
There may not be an afterlife, the causes of paedophilia are uncertain, arguments against women’s ordination are not at all convincing: the unsettling but refreshing thing about the retired bishop of Killaloe is that he thinks aloud, trusting in the listener to respect the many debates he has with himself ...

It is a puff piece that presents the retired Bishop as a man bravely and honestly facing up to doubts and difficulties. The child abuse issue figures strongly but there is no mention of the falsely accused Patsy McGlinchey. Frankly I would not have expected that, but I was somewhat surprised to see that "John's Life of Pain", so prominently highlighted by the Times only a few month's before, is also ignored. It may be, that the torrent of ridicule that descended on the Bishop's head last August, has had a certain effect.

There is one interesting bit:
By now he is wondering aloud, dangerously [!!], whether the true culprit was not celibacy but the formation of the boy priests. “From the time I was 12 years old until my mid- to late-20s, I lived in a totally male environment and I think that has some significance in your growing to sexual maturity. I’m very nervous about saying this – it’s an issue that hasn’t been faced – but practically all the abuse that I’ve come across has been abuse of boys, and boys of 14, 15 years old. Now, that raises some serious questions, and if you really went into them you would be accused of mixing up homosexuality and paedophilia. If a priest abuses a 16- or 17-year old, is that homesexual? It’s certainly not paedophilia. Where does the division come? It is a very hazardous area – and there’s no question in my mind that I’m not equating homosexuality with sexual abuse by priests. No, I’m not. But I’m saying that at a certain point the distinction is not that clear.

Kathy Sheridan's use of the word "dangerously" is hilarious, in the context of the Bishop criticising the Church. However it has an unintended validity when Walsh makes the obvious point, that almost all cases of abuse he has come across, comprise a priest's abuse of adolescent boys. In fact, credible allegations of clerical abuse almost always relate to homosexual encounters between priests and adolescent males. (The case of Colm O'Gorman and Fr Sean Fortune is an obvious example.) At the very end of his career Bishop Willie may finally have said something that is both honest and courageous!

The Irish Times, Nora Wall and Gerry Kelly - July 1999

Cardinal Desmond Connell, Bishop Willie Walsh and Gerry Kelly - April 2002

Bishop Willie Walsh and Patsy McGlinchey - February 2004

Wasting Christianity and Bishop Willie by Professor William J. Tighe, New Oxford Review - September 2004

The Lonely Passion of Willie Walsh, Sunday Tribune - 6 November 2006

Bishop Willie Bravely Seeks Debate on Women Priests, Married Priests, Gays etc - 14 November 2009

Do Not Replace Church as Oppressor, Bishop Tells Media, Irish Times - 14 November 2009

Tearful Bishop Willie Walsh Apologises (Again) - December 2009

Bishop Willie Walsh and the Triumph of Mediocrity - Irish Catholic Nov 2009 and Jan 2010

Bishop Walsh Supports Archbishop's Courageous Comments 11 May 2010

Bishop Willie Walsh and the Archbishop's Speech - The Irish Catholic, 27 May 2010

Bishop Wille Walsh and Patsy McGlinchey (Paul Malpas blog) - 14 June 2010

Bishop Walsh Saddened by Hurt to Gays - 13 July 2010

Bishop Willie and the "Very Broken" John by Patsy McGarry, Irish Times - 13 August 2010

Life of Pain Laid at Door of Three Clerics, by Patsy McGarry, Irish Times - 14 August 2010

Killaloe Diocese Set Up €1.5m Fund to Aid Victims of Sex Abuse, Irish Times - 20 August 2010

The Bishop who Speaks His Mind (but not about false allegations of child abuse), Irish Times - 6 November 2010