Belfast Telegraph

Priest accused of raping pregnant woman pays out

A Catholic priest in the Republic of Ireland accused of raping a pregnant woman has paid the alleged victim a five-figure sum to settle a High Court civil action.

The Catholic Church also intends for him to undergo a "specialist assessment" before a decision on his suitability to return to public ministry will be taken.

His superior, the Archbishop of Tuam Dr Michael Neary, asked the priest to step aside after the Irish Independent revealed in October 2005 that the accused priest was continuing to carry out his full range of parish duties, despite the rape allegation.

His alleged victim said she went to the curate for advice when she became pregnant at 24.

She alleged he raped her on two separate occasions.

Dr Neary had previously stated that he believed he was "not putting other people at risk'' by allowing the accused priest to continue to work in the parish.

He also stated it was "not a child protection issue".

After a public outcry the priest was asked to step aside while a garda investigation was being carried out.

As part of the inquiry they investigated allegations that the alleged victim was paid €10,000 by the priest and was offered a further payment of €5,000.

The DPP decided not to bring charges against the priest, and the woman -- who is now in her forties -- brought a civil claim against the priest, Dr Neary and Archbishop Joseph Cassidy, who was Archbishop of Tuam from 1987 to 1994.

In a letter to the archbishop, solicitors acting on her behalf had detailed the "loss, damage and expense" their client suffered as a result of "assault, battery, rape, trespass to the person, sexual abuse and the infliction of emotional harm" perpetrated upon her by the priest.

The Irish Independent has learnt the case was settled in the High Court recently.

It is understood the rape allegations were withdrawn as part of the settlement agreement and a sum in the region of €30,000 -- which included the claimant's cost -- was paid to the claimant by the priest.

"Archbishop Neary and Archbishop Cassidy have borne their own legal costs in this matter," a diocesan spokesman said.

"Archbishop Neary wishes to be satisfied that (the priest) will maintain the ministerial boundaries which are appropriate to his relationships as a priest.

"It is intended that (the priest) will now undergo a specialist assessment and that a decision will be taken thereafter regarding his future ministry," the spokesman added.

He refused to say if an internal investigation was carried out into the priest's alleged conduct. The church's own guidelines state that it is "best practice" for a priest to step aside if accused of misconduct so that an investigation can be carried out.

However, Dr Neary argued in 2005 that this case was "not a child protection issue".

When the matter came into the public domain he said he asked the priest to step aside to protect the reputation of other priests in the diocese who would otherwise be "under the shadow of suspicion".

The church's child protection policy leaves it up to the bishop or religious superior to decide whether or not the priest should stand aside while an allegation is investigated.

Source Irish Independent

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