Kevin Lunney: Colleagues back priest after Sean Quinn complains to Vatican
A group representing over 1,000 Catholic priests in Ireland has praised the courage shown by Fr Oliver O'Reilly, whom businessman Sean Quinn has complained about to the Vatican.
The show of support by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in Ireland comes as it was revealed Mr Quinn has complained to Church leaders about comments made by the Co Cavan priest in a homily following the savage kidnapping and torture of Quinn Industrial Holdings executive Kevin Lunney.
The former billionaire businessman from Co Fermanagh wrote on October 21 to Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, as well as Cardinal Marc Ouellet, a Canadian prelate, and Cardinal Beniamino Stella.
He sent a copy of the letter to Fr O'Reilly and to the administrator of the Diocese of Kilmore, Monsignor Liam Kelly.
In the letter, Mr Quinn described himself as "a lifelong practicing Catholic and a native of Ballyconnell" and said he and his family were now victims of "a campaign of public vilification in our own locality on entirely false allegations in our own locality on entirely false allegations".
He wrote: "Fr O'Reilly has referred to the 'paymaster or paymasters' and 'godfather', making clear and false references to me. In subsequent media interviews, Fr O'Reilly stated that 'the dogs in the street' knows who the paymaster was to whom he referred."
The letter continued: "I have spoken in person both to Fr O'Reilly and to Monsignor Kelly to ask them to end and correct this campaign of vilification against me from the public and in the media.
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"But a culture of clericalism and clerical unaccountability seems to stand in the way."
Mr Quinn reiterated his condemnation of the attack on Kevin Lunney, saying he had "no hand, act or part, no knowledge of or gain from the attack."
"However, beyond the shock and disgust that I felt after learning of the attack, I and my family have also been frightened and intimidated by my being falsely accused of complicity in the attack from the altar in public, by my own local priest."
He appealed directly to the Papal Nuncio and the cardinals to "protect me as a member of the people of God from the misuse of the liturgy and priesthood to make false charges against me."
In a statement on Sunday night, the SCP said its leadership supported Fr O'Reilly "and the position he has adopted in relation to the recent attack on Mr Kevin Lunney".
"We admire his courage in speaking the truth in a very difficult situation," it said.
Fr Roy Donovan of the ACP leadership added: "Priests feel for Oliver; they feel he has been attacked totally unfairly.
"They feel for somebody like him given his age and that he lives alone - this makes him extra vulnerable.
"He should at this stage be enjoying the good will of so many parishioners and not drawing all this extra trouble on himself.
"He works very hard like many priests and lives a full life.
"He could have kept quiet and said nothing but announcing the Gospel requires prophetic stances - doing the truth as one's conscience demands.
"It is a heavy burden to carry - speaking out and doing the truth.
"I think he has the support of every priest in the country."
Another prominent priest, Fr Tony Flannery said he "greatly admired Oliver O'Reilly for the stand he had taken" and he had been in contact with the priest to express his solidarity.
The attack on Mr Lunney had marked a violent escalation in a campaign of intimidation and violence waged against Mr Lunney and four other QIH directors who are living under police protection because their lives are at risk.
Meanwhile, a mother and son along with a man in his 40s - were arrested last Friday in locations across Republic in connection to the attack on QIH director, Kevin Lunney.
They were later released without charge. A file will now be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions, gardai said.
Further arrests are expected in the coming weeks.