Belfast Telegraph

Church and gardai slated over abuse

A cardinal, several bishops and gardai face damning criticism over revelations a serial paedophile priest was free to abuse for 16 years.

A previously censored report revealed the Vatican wanted "Fr Filth" Tony Walsh sent to a monastery for 10 years, while Dublin's Catholic hierarchy wanted him ordered out of the church in the early 1990s.

At one stage Cardinal Desmond Connell made an unprecedented plea to late Pope John Paul II to sack the showman abuser and Elvis impersonator.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said: "The report chronicles a frightening moment in the history of the church in Dublin."

Another damning finding by the state inquiry revealed the archdiocese was more concerned about a Garda investigation into Walsh than the gardai were themselves. It branded Walsh as probably the most notorious child sexual abuser to have come to its attention, and likely to have assaulted hundreds of children.

Officers had been alerted to his attacks as far back as 1991 but a criminal investigation was effectively shelved because the Catholic Church was running its own inquiry. Walsh, who performed as Elvis on his Holy Show tour, was last week jailed for a third time for child abuse. He got 16 years.

Archbishop Martin, who has pushed for openness to address paedophilia scandals in the church, said Walsh was as bad a serial abuser as the notorious Brendan Smyth.

Controversy over Smyth's stalled extradition brought down the Government in 1994 and has also damaged Cardinal Sean Brady, Primate of All Ireland, who secretly took statements from two of Smyth's victims in 1975 without telling the authorities.

Archbishop Martin said: "As I have said on other occasions, in many aspects the church in Ireland had allowed itself to drift into a position where its role in society had grown beyond what is legitimate. It acted as a world apart. It had often become self-centred and arrogant. It felt that it could be forgiving of abusers in a simplistic manner and rarely empathised with the hurt of children."

In total three archbishops, Cardinal Connell, Kevin McNamara and Dermot Ryan, several bishops and seven priests were alerted to Walsh.

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