Priest Given 18-Month Suspended Sentence
Irish Times, November 13, 2010 by Barry Roche, Southern Correspondent
A 74-YEAR-OLD priest in the Diocese of Cloyne breached not just the State laws but his own religious beliefs when he committed acts of gross indecency while hearing confession, a judge declared yesterday as he imposed an 18-month suspended sentence.
Fr Brendan Wrixon, with an address in Newmarket in Co Cork, pleaded guilty yesterday at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to committing gross indecency with a 16-year-old teenage boy at the Convent of Mercy, Bathview, Mallow, between October 16th, 1982, and February 15th, 1983.
Imposing sentence, Judge Sean Ó Donnabhain said that Wrixon was guilty of a gross breach of trust and had not only “violated the law of the country but also your own religious laws and whatever tenets you believed in as a priest”.
Det Garda Colman Murphy told the court that gardaí received a complaint from the now middle-aged injured party in 2005 and twice interviewed Wrixon in relation to the allegations that he had engaged in sexual acts with the complainant when he was aged just 16.
The complainant told gardaí that he was attending a Diocese of Cloyne workshop at the Convent of Mercy in Mallow and went to confession to Wrixon in a private room and that Wrixon asked him to take off his clothes and then touched his genitals and kissed his lips.
Although the teenager had known Wrixon for some time, it was the first time that the priest had made a sexual approach to him and, in all, the victim reported 20 incidents, including some where he had to perform oral sex on Wrixon, said Det Garda Murphy.
Gardaí twice questioned Wrixon who told them that between Easter and December 1983, he had six to seven sexual encounters with the complainant in which they mutually masturbated each other but he couldn’t recall the locations.
Wrixon told gardaí that the first sexual incident was in the sacristy of the church in Shanballymore in north Cork where he partially undressed the victim to show him his sexual organs and the victim became embarrassed and started to cry and began to hug him.
That was the first time that the victim had responded to him and he recalled another occasion where they were walking together on a quiet country road and began to touch each other’s genitalia though he couldn’t remember if it ended in mutual masturbation.
Defence counsel Tim O’Leary SC said that his client had resigned from the priesthood and had gone for counselling to the Granada Centre in Dublin when the first complaint was received in 2005 and he had since seen psychotherapist Eddie Hogan.
Mr O’Leary pointed out his client had no previous convictions nor was he being investigated for another complaint and he had also pleaded guilty to the offence while he was also facing devastating consequences in his own community from the exposure of his actions.
Judge Ó Donnabhain said Wrixon was guilty of a huge breach of trust both because of the huge difference in age between himself and his victim but also because it happened “between a confessor and a penitent during what you, as a priest, then regarded as a sacrament”.
“You are no longer a priest and rightly so, you don’t deserve to be a priest,” said Judge Ó Donnabhain before recognising that Wrixon’s guilty plea had both spared his victim the trauma of a trial while also providing public acknowledgment of how he had wronged him.
“I hope the exposure of the offence and all the evidence in open court will be a vindication to the victim,” said the judge, adding that Wrixon’s decision to go for treatment prior to the initiation of any prosecution was unusual and something that merited credit.
He also noted that both the Granada Institute and Mr Hogan believed that he was at a low risk of reoffending and that the State had confirmed that there were no further matters out there as he imposed an 18-month sentence which was suspended on condition of good behaviour.
Victim Impact Statement: 'Today Is About Truth'
Irish Times, November 13, 2010
TODAY IS about justice, today is about truth. It has taken me over 20 years to break the silence, such was the deep sense of shame I felt about the abuse.
From the time of the initial reporting of the abuse, another period of almost five years has elapsed. All these years have been filled with struggle and pain on a number of levels. In important ways, my life has been on hold.
The truth is that I was sexually abused by Brendan Wrixon when I was a teenager. I was wronged in a very serious way. He was the adult and I was the young teenager. He should have known better.
As a priest, his role was to be a guide and a witness to Christian values. It was made all the more difficult because he was a family friend.
This process has been very painful and difficult for me and for my family. It has taken me many years to face up to what happened to me as a teenager. I and my family have felt deeply hurt and impacted by his behaviour.
We have also felt deeply hurt and let down by our clergy, especially those in positions of responsibility who were unwilling to understand or listen to me or respond in any meaningful way to what I needed for my healing and wellbeing. Their response was about protecting the institution rather than the individual. I believe that the Gospel message and its values were ignored. I had to fight for the truth to be heard. The Church that stood for truth didn’t help me. There are some people even today who still refuse to believe what happened to me – such is the power of denial around issues of sexual abuse.
The abuse has cast a dark shadow over my life, it has affected my confidence and my emotional wellbeing. It has taken me a long time to find my own voice again.
The experience of abuse has affected my concentration, made me feel isolated and has left me with an awful sense of shame about what has happened.
Close personal relationships continue to be a problem area in my life.
I have been attending a counsellor for the last five years and continue to do so; deep hurt and broken trust takes a long time to recover from.
Finally, I would like to thank my family, close friends, my counsellor and the gardaí for all their support and help over the years.
I would never wish for anyone to go through the events that I have experienced but thank God, the truth is heard, witnessed and acknowledged in this courtroom here today.
Apology: Archbishop Clifford
Irish Times, November 13, 2010
Archbishop Dermot Clifford, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Cloyne, yesterday apologised to Wrixon’s victim and he urged anyone who may have been a victim of child sex abuse to report the matter to the Garda and the HSE.
“I am deeply sorry that the trust of a young person was betrayed by one of our priests and I wish to apologise and express to him and his family my sincere regret,” said Archbishop Clifford in a statement regarding Wrixon, whom the archbishop described as “a retired priest”.
“Fr Wrixon has not held a diocesan appointment since 2005. He is restricted to the celebration of Holy Mass in private in his home without a congregation and he may not engage in priestly ministry in public.
“He is also not allowed to wear clerical dress or present himself as a priest,” said Archbishop Clifford.
He added that in addition to contacting the Garda and HSE regarding child sexual abuse, victims or anyone with concerns also have the option of contacting him or the diocesan child protection designated officer, Fr John McCarthy, directly.