Belfast Telegraph

52 allegations against 14 Catholic priests uncovered

Bishops made 'significant errors of judgment'

By Brendan McDaid

A staggering 52 allegations against 14 Catholic priests dating back to 1975 were uncovered by the audit of alleged child abuse in the Raphoe diocese.

Four priests have been convicted and eight have now either left the priesthood or have been deemed “out of ministry”.

The notorious Fr Eugene Greene, who raped or sexually abused at least 26 boys, was not removed because of the abuse but due to alcohol problems.

Not a single piece of correspondence between clergy and victims or their families was among the documents handed over by the diocese to the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) review team.

Bishop of Raphoe Philip Boyce said his predecessor Seamus Hegarty, whose resignation as Bishop of Derry was accepted by the Pope just days ago, had shown him the child abuse files kept in a safe when he took over the diocese in 1994.

He said that there was no correspondence with victims among the documents on file.

The NBSCCC said it had no “powers of compellability” which would have forced key individuals to co-operate.

Acknowledging rumours that files had been destroyed, he said he would have been “very disappointed if that would be the case”.

It has also emerged that while around 600 priests and lay people currently working with children within the Raphoe diocese were vetted by gardai, some 20 have never returned the forms.

It states that “significant errors of judgment were made by successive bishops when responding to child abuse allegations”.

Former bishops in the period since 1975 include Seamus Hegarty (1982-94) and Anthony McFeely (1968-82).

Dr Boyce was challenged at a press conference in Letterkenny yesterday by a man abused for six years while a choir boy.

John O’Donnell (55), from Falcarragh, said the abuse started when he was just nine and was perpetrated by a lay member of the choir but that he had made Church authorities aware of it.

He called for a public inquiry into the abuse.

When Bishop Boyce said he had been doing his best to help victims, Mr O’Donnell replied: “Your best is not good enough. Too little too late. Too many people committed suicide including relations of my own.”

Bishop Boyce said he would have nothing against the holding of a public inquiry.

The report concludes that the diocese has initiated all required procedures to safeguard children, going further in some instances.

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