Email Us My Blog



Sister Claims Priest Sexually Abused Her at College Grotto

Fermanagh Herald, 5 May 2010

FOLLOWING the break for the May bank holiday, the case against Father Eugene Lewis, resumed on Tuesday at Omagh Crown Court. The seventy five year-old priest faces eleven charges of indecent assault against three Fermanagh sisters in the 1960s and the 1970s while he was a senior figure with the White Fathers Order which, during the period in question, had a college in Blacklion.

A fourth sister, whom it is understood, has not taken a complaint against the priest in her own right, gave evidence throughout Tuesday.

She said that her parents would have revered the priests as people who would further enable their children's education. She said that the accused would have been considered as somebody important and intelligent and that her parents would have had huge respect for him. She said that the priests from Blacklion would have frequented the family home and that students from the college would also have come to the house and that Father Lewis would have called at the family home 5-6 times per year.

She said that Fr Lewis would read or tell her and her sisters stories at bed time but that she was easily bored and not much interested by the stories and would probably have continued reading her book.

"Our names had been put in the stories, I thought this was a bit silly. My attitude was to just continue reading."

The witness said that she and her family would have visited the Blacklion College on occasions, including the occasion of the pantomime.

When asked by the Crown counsel, "Did anything happen regarding Fr Eugene Lewis?", she said she recalled an incident when she and her family were visiting Blacklion and went to the grotto along with her elder sister and the priest.

She said that while all three were sitting on a rock, one sister on either side of the priest, Fr Lewis began one of his stories.

"I remember wanting to see this grotto...after a few minutes I could feel his hand under my dress. He put his hand in and began massaging my breast."

She said that she had presumed she was seven or eight but now believes that she may have been a little bit older, as she was conscious of her development.

"I didn't like what was happening so I got up and walked away. She said that she had been wearing a cotton dress with short sleeves.

"I had very little tolerance for priests after that. I developed a healthy disrespect and also resented the fact that these people had such power in the house." She said she began to disregard Fr Lewis and the other priests that came to the house.

She said that she recalled a huge row with her parents when she was 15 and refused to go to confession. "After that I was considered a bit of a rebel in the house."

She went on to say that when she'd finished her studies at Trinity College Dublin, she got some teaching work at the Templeogue college of the White Fathers teaching European priests English. She said that Fr Lewis was the superior during that period.

When asked by the Crown if there was anything out of the routine during this time she said that she recalled that on the occasion of having passed her final exams, she asked Fr Lewis if she could use the phone in his office to phone home. He acquiesced and after she had made the call, he suggested a celebration and poured her and himself a glass of Southern Comfort whisky. She said she pretended to sip it and made her excuses to leave.

"As I got up he attempted to kiss me. I pushed him away and left."

The witness told the court that she had no compensation claim against the witness in this or any other jurisdiction.

Defence counsel, when he began his cross-examination began, "Let me make it quite clear on behalf of Father Lewis, he denies that any indecent assault ever happened.

Witness had no recollection of when Father Lewis stopped telling stories in her home.

Referring to the fact that the witness, in her direct evidence, changed her approximate age (from that in her statement to police) at the time of the alleged incident in Blacklion the defence counsel pressed the witness as to what age she actually was. She replied, "When I was approached to make this statement I thought about this , as to why I was embarrassed. It was because I was developing I was 9 or 10."

Witness had indicated that it was in her character that if she didn't like something that she would walk away from it. She added that she may have walked off back to the college and left her sister with the priest

Defence asked, "Is it in your character that if you didn't like something that you would tell someone?"

The witness said that that was not necessarily what she would have done because the person in question was a priest. "I think there was a sense of 'I won't say anything - this is a priest' - I removed myself from the situation."

Defence responded, "But you can't say where you removed yourself to?" He continued, "Father Lewis says he never took you or you sister to the grotto...and that nothing indecent ever happened."

The court heard that in later years the witness helped Fr Lewis in relation to helping exhibit the works of an African artist, and that Fr Lewis had had a meal in her home and stayed the night around that time.

She denied that she had invited him there as an intermediary between her and her estranged husband, and when it was put to her that it must have been difficult to bear the presence of someone whom she had alleged indecently assaulted her as a child, she said that he had long since ceased to be a threat to her. That he was an insignificant person to her and she knew how to deal with him. She also said that she and he slept in opposite wings of her large house.

Defence suggested that had the incident happened as she recalled she would have been loath to take the teaching position at the school at which he was the senior figure.

She replied , "I would have accepted the position because I wanted to teach. Father Lewis would have been insignificant in my life. The chance of earning some money was important to me."

The case continues tomorrow.