Belfast Telegraph

Priest denies wrongdoing as Ferns hit by new sex abuse claim

A senior cleric has denied any wrongdoing after a complaint of child sexual abuse was made against him by a woman two weeks ago.

Fr John Sweetman has taken leave from parish duties in Riverchapel in Wexford pending garda and HSE investigations.

The incident allegedly took place 30 years ago when he was a young priest in his 20s in Wexford town.

Bishop of Ferns Denis Brennan, who is on an annual pilgrimage to Lourdes, was un-contactable for comment yesterday.

In 2005 the Ferns Inquiry ordered by the Government identified more than 100 allegations of child sexual abuse between 1962 and 2002 against 21 priests in the small Wexford diocese.

Last Saturday, Fr Sweetman returned to tell parishioners that the allegation was "completely untrue", and to explain that under church child protection procedures he would stand down.

At Sunday Masses, which Fr Sweetman did not attend, Monsignor Denis Lennon, parish priest in Clonard and the Episcopal Vicar for Clergy, read a statement.

"When the diocese receives a concern about a priest that relates to safeguarding children, it immediately notifies the gardai, the HSE and the church's National Office for the Safeguarding of Children," a spokesman for the Diocese of Ferns said yesterday.

A garda spokesman confirmed that a "historic" complaint had been made and was being investigated.

Belfast Telegraph


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