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Inside the Murphy Report: Fr Ivan Payne

The Irish Catholic, 25 Feb 2010

Chapter 24 of the Murphy Report deals with Fr Ivan Payne. He was appointed as chaplain to the hospital in February, 1968. In October 1970 he started studies in University College Dublin and was appointed as assistant priest in Mourne Road parish. He was appointed curate in Mourne Road in August 1972 and continued his involvement with the hospital. He left there in August 1974 and studied abroad for two years.

He was appointed as parish chaplain in Cabra in 1976 and subsequently in Sutton in 1983.

Extent of abuse
''The Commission is aware of a total of 31 people who have made allegations of child sexual abuse against him; 16 of these people allege they were abused during his time as chaplain in Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, and the vast majority are male. He was convicted of indecent assault in respect of ten victims and he served a prison sentence.

First complaint to the archdiocese - 1981
The first complaint to the archdiocese about Fr Payne was made in November 1981. The complaint concerned the abuse of Andrew Madden and was made by Madden's school guidance counsellor to Msgr Alex Stenson.

Msgr Stenson compiled a comprehensive contemporaneous written account of the allegations being made. Fr Payne was also working in the Regional Marriage Tribunal at the time. The abuse started when Andrew Madden was about 12 years old (about 1976) and continued until 1981. Fr Payne described the abuse (in 1993) as ''going as far as was necessary to get satisfied without unnecessary violation''.

Msgr Stenson then told Archbishop Ryan who instructed him to ask Bishop O'Mahony to deal with it.

However, Bishop O'Mahony ''never received any instructions or brief to act on behalf of Archbishop Ryan other than to deal with Fr Payne''. Bishop O'Mahony described his role as that of a ''priest helper'', that is, he was required to ''express the pastoral care of the diocese rather than to be involved in the process of the case either civilly or canonically''.

''This absence of clear lines of authority is one of many reasons why this case was badly handled at the time.'' (Murphy)

Bishop O'Mahony met the school guidance counsellor who had made the complaint. He then spoke to Archbishop Ryan.

Bishop O'Mahony met Fr Payne in December 1981. Fr Payne admitted guilt. ''It is clear that Bishop O'Mahony knew the extent of the abuse and the age of the victim at the time of the abuse.'' (Murphy)

Bishop O'Mahony went to see Professor Noel Walsh, Professor of Psychiatry in UCD and a consultant psychiatrist. (He later told the Commission that he ''thoroughly briefed'' Professor Walsh about ''the nature and circumstances of Andrew Madden's allegations against Fr Ivan Payne''.)

Fr Payne was then sent to Prof. Walsh for assessment. In his report, Prof. Walsh described Fr Payne as having ''successfully overcome the crisis in question''.

When Bishop O'Mahony received Prof. Walsh's report, he informed Archbishop Ryan of its contents, gave his view that the report was positive and recommended that Fr Payne's position be kept under review.

Bishop O'Mahony made no contact with Andrew Madden or his family at the time the complaint was made. (He described this in 1996 as ''a definite pastoral omission and hard to understand as it ran contrary to diocesan policy even at that time''.)

Prof. Noel Walsh
Giving evidence to the Commission in July 2007, Dr Walsh said he ''was given no data as far as I can recall by any of the bishops. They didn't send me letters from parents who had complained or anything. So I did not have the data which presumably led the bishop or whoever to refer these patients to me''. As far as he can remember, he did not get any written brief. Words like paedophile or child abuser were never used; the priest ''might have crossed a boundary'' was a likely expression.

He is adamant that he did not hear the specific allegations against the priests. Bishop O'Mahony and/or Canon McMahon would say: ''We are concerned about this priest, there have been certain complaints against him and we would like you to assess him. The communication to me would have been minimal'' There was no such thing as a specific statement Fr 'X' has been accused of this, that or the other.''

Bishop O'Mahony agreed that psychiatrists were not generally given written briefings. In the case of Fr Payne, he told the Commission that he went to Professor Walsh's rooms and briefed him on the ''actual nature and circumstances of the case''. He told the Commission that oral briefings were preferable as ''I can be much more nuanced''. He imagined that any psychiatrist would have taken notes of what he was being told.

''It is clear to the Commission that Prof. Walsh cannot have been told the precise nature of the complaint against Fr Payne.'' (Murphy)

It seems that Bishop O'Mahony was the only person who read Prof Walsh's 1982 report. ''It must have been obvious to him that Prof. Walsh was making a report based on false information. Such reports are, of course, useless.'' (Murphy)

In September, 1982, Fr Payne was appointed to Sutton parish as parish chaplain. No supervisory arrangements were put in place.

Sometime before September, 1984, Msgr Gerard Sheehy (Chancellor of the archdiocese 1965-1975) asked Archbishop Ryan to appoint Fr Payne as Vice Officialis (a diocesan bishop's judicial vicar). The archbishop refused.

In June, 1985, Msgr Sheehy wrote to Dr Connell's successor, Archbishop McNamara, suggesting that Fr Payne be appointed Vice Officialis. Fr Payne was appointed

In 1989, Andrew Madden rang Bishop O'Mahony and asked to meet him. He raised the question of Fr Payne's presence in Sutton. Bishop O'Mahony told him that he had no reason to believe Fr Payne was sexually abusing children in Sutton.

In 1991, Fr Payne first came to the attention of Archbishop Connell (in October) when a question arose about promoting him from the Dublin Regional Marriage Tribunal to be the President of the National Marriage Appeal Tribunal. Archbishop Connell consulted the auxiliary bishops and was told by Bishop O'Mahony to look at Fr Payne's file in the secret archive. Having discovered what had happened in 1981, Archbishop Connell decided not to agree to his promotion. ''He considered he could not agree to the promotion as he would have to inform the other members of the Bishops' Conference about the complaint. This would, Cardinal Connell told the Commission, involve ''defaming'' Fr Payne.

Bishop O'Mahony again sent Fr Payne to Prof. Walsh for assessment.

In March 1992, Andrew Madden wrote to Fr Payne looking for compensation; he did not seek compensation from the archdiocese. The diocesan solicitors were instructed by Archbishop Connell to offer Fr Payne financial assistance in disposing of the case. A settlement was reached between Mr Madden and Fr Payne in May 1993.

Mr Madden began speaking to a number of journalists and the first media references to the payment began to appear. Mr Madden was angry that the Church continued to deny that anyone had received a payment as a result of clerical child sexual abuse.

Fr Payne was sent for a third assessment to Prof. Walsh.

In November, Andrew Madden wrote letters to the papers under a pseudonym describing how his case had been handled. Archbishop Connell discussed this development with Msgr Sheehy (judicial vicar) and suggested Fr Payne be sent for treatment.

''Msgr Sheehy wrote, unsolicited, what can only be described as a tirade about anonymous letters and the unjust treatment of priests. Msgr Sheehy's concerns, as expressed in letters to Msgr Stenson and Archbishop Connell, were entirely related to the rights of the priest and the autonomy of the Church. He considered that sending Fr Payne for treatment was unwise and unjust and ''a manifest invasion of his rights under the law of the Church''. (Murphy)

He wrote: ''It is my opinion that there is a gross over-reaction on the part of many of our Church authorities to this whole paedophile crisis''.

Fr Payne was sent to a therapeutic facility in the USA for a further assessment. A lengthy report showed, among other things, that Fr Payne: was sexually attracted to adolescent boys but was also sexually attracted to adult men and women. It recommended that he undergo residential treatment.

Cardinal Connell did read this report but Fr Payne was not sent for residential treatment; he did attend the Granada Institute in Dublin. He was continuing to work in Sutton parish (until June 1995) and in the Marriage Tribunal.

In April, Andrew Madden told his story on the Gay Byrne Show on RTÉ Radio.

The archdiocese issued a statement following this and other media reports.

''As reported in recent days, a priest settled a claim in respect of such abuse. It has been suggested that this settlement was made by the diocese. It is not and never has been the practice of the diocese to accept responsibility for any such settlement by a priest. The priest did receive financial assistance from the diocese to enable him to meet such claim, on the basis that this would be repaid, and a substantial portion in fact has already been repaid. The amount of the assistance is actually less than amounts donated to the diocese by the Archbishop himself out of his personal resources''.

In May, Archbishop Connell said on RTÉ television: ''I have compensated nobody. I have paid out nothing whatever in compensation. It is my policy that if a priest is guilty and he wishes to make an out-of-court settlement that is his responsibility. The diocese does not pay for that.''

Msgr Stenson heard reports from Sutton of inappropriate behaviour by Fr Payne and told Bishop O'Mahony. There is no evidence that this was followed up.

In June 1995, Fr Payne was released from Sutton and appointed chaplain to a convent.

''It would appear he had an agreement with Bishop O'Mahony not to say Mass in public.'' (Murphy)

However, Msgr Sheehy said he was doing supply work, including some arranged by Msgr Sheehy himself. Msgr Sheehy continued to campaign for him to be appointed to a chaplaincy.

In July, Andrew Madden went public under his own name. Another complainant then came forward.

He claimed to have been abused while in Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin. He was advised by Bishop O'Mahony to report the matter to An Garda, but he did not do this.

Msgr Stenson interviewed the complainant and compiled a comprehensive report. He then met Fr Payne who said he did not remember the alleged incidents but ''it's not impossible that there was some contact which was misinterpreted''.

Also in July, two boys from Sutton made statements to gardaí alleging abuse by Fr Payne.

In August, a meeting of the archbishop and auxiliary bishops considered removing Fr Payne from the Marriage Tribunal. In letters to Archbishop Connell, Msgr Sheehy argued strongly against this: ''It would be disastrous not only as a public act - which it would obviously be, and at once portrayed to be - but, far worse, as an act which would very likely be the final destruction of a good priest of this diocese.''

In September, Fr Payne resigned as Vice Officialis ''but seems to have remained working for the Marriage Tribunal''. (Murphy)

Also in September another man who alleged that he had been abused while a child in Crumlin Hospital complained to the archdiocese.

In October 1995, other former Crumlin patients came forward alleging abuse by Fr Payne.

Another complainant from Sutton complained that he had been abused over a number of years by Fr Payne in Sutton and in a children's holiday home.

''Msgr Sheehy continued to support Fr Payne's position in the Marriage Tribunal and railed against Archbishop Connell's proposal that he be removed: ''I could not but regard such a precipitate and so-called public opinion-motivated decision as a grave mistake, pregnant with the possibility of even more grave injustice.''

''Msgr Sheehy was very critical of a trip to the USA undertaken by Msgr Stenson and 'some civil-law associates'. This was a trip undertaken in 1994 to find out more about how the American bishops were dealing with cases of child sexual abuse.'' (Murphy)

In October, Fr Payne resigned from the Marriage Tribunal.

Another Crumlin patient made a complaint followed soon afterwards by a Cabra complainant. ''It is clear from the various statements made to the gardaí by children abused in Crumlin that other children may also have been abused in their presence.'' (Murphy)

In November, another person from Crumlin complained to the archdiocese, followed by another former Crumlin patient in December.

''Msgr Sheehy continued to argue against the way the archbishop was handling the allegations. His main concerns were: The public naming of priests against whom allegations had been made; the priest could take an action for defamation against the Church authorities; the public impression that the bishops were being media driven.

Fr Payne was questioned by gardaí in February 1996.

Another former Crumlin hospital patient complained to gardaí.

Bishop O'Mahony resigned as an auxiliary bishop in 1996; he was ill for much of the period 1996-1998 and was abroad for treatment for some of this time.

''Cardinal Connell told the Commission that he did not know what was being done about Fr Payne in the period 1996-98: 'It was a matter for the Chancellery.' It is quite clear that it was not a matter for the chancellor as the chancellor has no powers to reprimand or sanction a priest.'') (Murphy)

Another former Crumlin patient complained in early 1997.

In March 1997, Fr Payne was charged with 13 counts of indecent assault on nine of the complainants. Later he was charged with 29 counts of indecent assault on Andrew Madden.

In January, Fr Payne pleaded guilty to charges of indecent assault on ten victims and was sentenced (in June) to six years' imprisonment. He was released in October 2002.

The archdiocese asked Fr Payne to apply for laicisation. Fr Payne eventually agreed. He was laicised in 2002. More allegations continued to emerge up to 2008.

The Murphy Commission concludes that ''Archbishop Ryan and Bishop O'Mahony were particularly culpable'' in the case of Fr Ivan Payne.

''When Archbishop Connell first became aware of the problem, he did not inform himself properly. He took a very hands off approach to this case.

''Msgr Sheehy (an influential background figure) believed in Fr Payne's innocence even when it became abundantly clear that there was no basis for such a belief. He wrote eloquently on the subject of the rights of priests without ever managing to refer to, or consider, the rights of children. He acted in an entirely irresponsible manner in arranging supply work for Fr Payne when Archbishop Connell had effectively, but not formally, removed him from ministry.''

Overall, Murphy states, the failure to deal properly with the initial complaint against Fr Ivan Payne meant that ''many other children were abused or potentially exposed to abuse''.