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Bishop Willie and the "Very Broken"

Man Says Three Priests Took Advantage of Him

The Irish Times - Friday, August 13, 2010 by Patsy McGarry Religious Affairs Correspondent

A MAN has claimed he was taken advantage of as a vulnerable young adult in the 1980s by three Catholic priests who had been classmates at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

Bishops from three dioceses in which the priests were based have had detailed discussions with the man who has outlined the circumstances to the Garda.

On June 14th last “John” (his chosen pseudonym) met the Bishop of Killaloe, Willie Walsh, the Bishop of Killala, John Fleming, and Bishop Gerard Clifford, auxiliary bishop of Armagh archdiocese, to discuss what might be done to help him.

The meeting took place at a hotel in the midlands town where John lives.

A father of five, with four children from his marriage which ended in 1996 and a daughter from a more recent relationship, John received €40,000 from Killaloe diocese in 2008 and an additional €5,000 in 2009. He also received an estimated €20,000 from the personal funds of Bishop Willie Walsh. He has not issued legal proceedings against the dioceses involved.

He claims he has met Bishop Fleming three times and that his only contact with Bishop Clifford was at the meeting on June 14th last.

Bishop Walsh confirmed he has visited John in the midlands town “40 to 50 times” in recent years. He described John as “a decent person”, saying “I don’t think I have given as much time to anyone as much as him [John]. . He is very broken.” In a statement, Bishops Fleming and Clifford said: “We acknowledge our Christian responsibility to respond to all allegations of abuse while maintaining due regard for the rights of all concerned.”

John made a lengthy statement to the Garda in recent weeks about his dealings with the three priests.

Bishop Walsh said he believed that Fr T, a priest of Killaloe diocese who engaged John in a gay relationship for about a year (and who, as with the other two priests concerned cannot be named for legal reasons), “was the worst offender”. Fr T has since left the priesthood.

John was 18 and lived in the same parish where Fr T had recently been appointed. John was sent to the priest by his father to seek help because he was concerned at how distraught John was following the break-up of a relationship with a girl.

Over time, Fr T made advances and a sexual relationship developed. John claims Fr T took him to visit a former Maynooth classmate of his, Fr U, in the diocese of Killala. John alleges he was raped by Fr U during that visit.

His relationship with Fr T lasted a year, John says, and included a six-month stint in London. John went to live with his sister in the midlands town which has been his base since. He married in 1986 and had four children but he could not hold down a job.

Depressed and anxious, he sought help from local priests and his doctor. He also claims he sought help from Fr V, a priest in the Armagh diocese who had been another Maynooth classmate of Fr T. John said Fr V asked him to visit. When he did so Fr V promised help but later that night, John claims the priest sexually assaulted him when he was in bed.

Speaking to The Irish Times, John said he still felt justice had not been done.

In their statement, Bishops Fleming and Clifford said John’s complaints “are now the subject of police investigations”.

The Catholic Communications Office said last night Fr U and Fr V were now out of ministry.