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Diocese Did Not Report Priest to Gardaí Despite Allegations

Irish Examiner December 20, 2008 by Stephen Rogers

DESPITE three separate allegations of sexual abuse, the Diocese of Cloyne did not report the priest at the heart of the allegations to gardaí and even considered returning him to full ministry.

According to a report by the Catholic Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC), the first complaint against Father B was received in 1995 from a girl identified as PSP.

After she and her father reported the abuse to Bishop Magee he directed his delegate Monsignor O’Callaghan to conduct an investigation.

On completion the papers on completion of the investigation were to be placed in the secret archive maintained by the diocese.

The matter was submitted to the Diocesan Child Protection Management Committee in early July 1995 and was further discussed later that month and in November.

According to National Board for Safeguarding Children, the committee raised doubts about the "quality of the alleged abuse" and the victim’s age. As the victim did not want to report the matter to gardaí, the diocese did not report it.

The next report of abuse was made by ZW in September 1996. She was concerned about the relationship that B had with her 14-year-old son, identified as V.

"Fr B was described as overly affectionate to him and would give him expensive gifts," said the national board’s report.

"He was observed kissing him on one occasion. Also, V and B would kiss each other goodnight. ZW also reports that she had a sexual relationship with B for about a year which gave B frequent access to her house."

Then in December 1997, another complainant DB wrote to the bishop alleging that B sexually abused her during a young people’s retreat.

"She alleged that the abuse took place during the hearing of her confession which was conducted in a bedroom at the retreat house.

"She was instructed to lie on the bed for her confession to be heard. B then abused her," said the NBSC report.

Three months later Bishop Magee wrote to B telling him: "Pending the pastoral decision which may eventually take in your regard, I require you do not engage in the visitation of schools or have young people under the age of 18 alone in your house."

The priest was placed on restricted ministry but was able to continue to wear priest’s clothing.

However, in May 2002, Monsignor O’Callaghan raised the possibility of a return to "full ministry" for Fr B.

"This would involve an approach to complainants to secure their agreement," said the report.

Monsignor O’Callaghan and B had a telephone conversation in which a number of alternatives were raised including retiring on sick leave, or taking action to clear his name.

"The option of transferring to a diocese in America was considered not viable because of the allegations," the report said.

In January 2003, ZW and her son V, who was then aged 21, returned again to complain about B and further detail of an alleged abusive sexual relationship was presented.

At that point the matter was referred to gardaí for the first time and a possible withdrawal from ministry was considered.

Finally in November 2005, NM, a new complainant, alleged serious sexual abuse by B to the diocese. She said the abuse began when she was 13 years old, involved full sexual intercourse and lasted until she was 18 years. That was also reported to the gardaí for investigation.

It is clear from the papers contained in the file that the policy of the diocese in their contacts with the gardaí was to give "minimal" information.

"In particular, it is indicated that no information was to be volunteered in respect of any previous complaints involving this priest," said the NBSC.

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Saturday, December 20, 2008