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Derry man who says priest abused him hits out at church probe

Bishop found there was 'insufficient evidence' to support claims dating back 28 years

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Upset: Denis Cairns has criticised the Catholic Church’s probe into his alleged abuse

Upset: Denis Cairns has criticised the Catholic Church’s probe into his alleged abuse

Upset: Denis Cairns has criticised the Catholic Church’s probe into his alleged abuse

A man who alleges he was abused by a priest in Londonderry 28 years ago has criticised the Catholic Church's investigation.

Denis Cairns was just 13 years old when he claims he was abused by a priest attached to the Nottingham diocese.

He has now received a letter from the Bishop of Nottingham, Patrick McKinney, in which the Bishop said he was "unable to reach the required moral certainty" demanded of him after considering the evidence from Mr Cairns and the priest at the centre of his allegation.

Bishop McKinney said: "It is the case that it was impossible to discern the degree of proof that is required, therefore I have decreed that due to insufficient or conflicting evidence no penalty can be applied to (named priest)."

Mr Cairns reported his alleged abuse to the then RUC in 1997, when a file was sent to the PPS. It did not pursue a prosecution on the grounds that it was Mr Cairns' word against that of the priest he alleged abused him.

He reported his allegation to the Derry Diocese and in 2002 to Nottingham Diocese, when the priest was "monitored" and "supervised" for two years but not removed from his church duties.

Mr Cairns was never interviewed by anyone from the Nottingham Diocese as part of this investigation, nor was he even aware of it until years later.

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He raised his allegation with Nottingham Diocese again in 2019, when a preliminary investigation was carried out by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. The investigators concluded there was grounds for a full canonical investigation.

Mr Cairns said this should have been completely independent from the Diocese of Nottingham and now wants the matter referred to the Vatican.

Mr Cairns said Nottingham Diocese had been vocal in its public support for the priest at the centre of his allegation.

"This priest left his Nottingham parish a few months before the start of the canonical investigation because he was diagnosed with cancer," he said.

"In a letter to the priest's congregation in Nottingham informing them of this investigation, Bishop McKinney said that 'it may seem cruel' to begin an investigation of a priest who is seriously ill. He also allowed a request to parishioners to pray for my abuser to appear in the church newsletter every week despite me telling him many, many times how much anguish this caused me.

"I told my story to the Bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown, who then recommended me as the perfect person to represent victims of clerical sex abuse to speak to Archbishop Eamon Martin ahead of his attendance at a summit in Rome on clerical abuse. I did that and after talking to Archbishop Martin, he told me he would personally deliver a letter I had outlining my abuse and all the pain, anguish and trauma I have lived through since that time that I wrote to the Pope.

"It is documented on a file held by the Derry Diocese that Bishop McKeown believes me and that Archbishop Eamon Martin believes me and yet the Bishop of Nottingham is unable to come to a conclusion because of insufficient evidence.

"To me that is proof enough that this matter needs to be taken out of Bishop McKinney's hands and taken to the Vatican."

Belfast priest Fr Paddy McCafferty, who has been supporting Mr Cairns, said the investigation should have already been referred to the Vatican under an Order put in place in 2001 by Pope John Paul II.

Fr McCafferty said: "Since April 2001 an Order known as the Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela Edict instructed that all allegations of abuse of minors were to be referred to Rome so it wasn't just Bishops making decisions.

"Generally Rome's test will be 'semblance of truth' which I believe Denis has clearly shown.

"He has been consistent all these years since he first reported it when he was 18 - whether he was telling his story to me, Bishop McKeown, Archbishop Martin, Bishop McKinney and the canonical lawyers who took his evidence for the investigation. This investigation should have been referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome for a final decision - not left to the Bishop of Nottingham."

In a statement to this paper, a spokesman for Nottingham Diocese said: "The investigation has now concluded, and the case has been examined by the Bishop of Nottingham, Rt Rev Patrick McKinney, with the assistance of two assessors, canon lawyers who have many years of experience in examining these matters.

"Having carefully examined the allegation and all the evidence before them, both lack of evidence and conflicting evidence meant that they were unable to reach moral certainty that the priest had done what he had been accused of, and so he was found not guilty."

Belfast Telegraph


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