Abuse victims hit back after priest claims ‘vendetta’ against him

Victims of Father Ronat, the Cloyne priest who is to go before a canonical tribunal that can recommend he be defrocked, have reminded him they have letters of apology from the diocese for the abuse they suffered.

Eleven complaints were made to gardaí about the priest, who used to minister in North Cork.

In comments made to a newspaper this week, the priest claimed a “deliberate vendetta” had been waged against him, that victims had harassed him and that he had received “vulgar and distressing” texts and calls from the women.

Fr Ronat also said he will argue in the upcoming Church tribunal that there were significant contradictions in victim accounts made to inquiries and to the media.

The victims have described his comments as “pathetic” and “hurtful”.

The diocese’s handling of complaints against Fr Ronat was investigated by the Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children and by Judge Yvonne Murphy as part of the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation. He has never been convicted in court.

One victim, Fennella, last night said: “Let him do whatever he wants to do. Let him question my letter of apology. I don’t have to paint myself as a victim and I have never painted myself as a victim.”

In a direct response to Fr Ronat, she said: “Bring on the tribunal. I’m not afraid of you. We’re not giving up the fight.”

Another victim described the priest as “pathetic and clearly demented”.

“The Church didn’t compensate us to find him not guilty,” she added.

Last night, a spokesman for Cloyne’s Apostolic administrator Archbishop Dermot Clifford said he would not comment as there “was a process under way at the moment”.

A canonical tribunal against Fr Ronat was started by the diocese in 2009 but was suspended when Barry Andrews, the former children’s minister, requested that Judge Murphy investigate the handling of abuse complaints in the diocese.

While the wider report was published last summer, the chapter pertaining to Fr Ronat was not published in full until December due to earlier court proceedings.

In the aftermath of the publication of chapter 9, the victims have been offered further counselling by Towards Healing.

Sole survivor at summit

An Irishwoman is the sole abuse victim at the Vatican’s first summit on the issue.

But Marie Collins said the conference appeared to be “a step in the right direction” and said she had decided to take part despite initial hesitation because she believed the initiative could help prevent future abuse.

However Ms Collins, who was raped by a priest in a hospital in Dublin when she was a child, criticised the Vatican for failing to take responsibility for a systematic cover-up of abusers stretching back decades.

Pope Benedict XVI urged “profound renewal” of the Catholic Church to prevent child abuse.

“Healing for victims must be of paramount concern in the Christian community, and it must go hand in hand with a profound renewal of the Church at every level,” the Pope said in a Vatican statement.

In a message to participants at the conference, the Pope also called for “a vigorous culture of effective safeguarding and victim support” and said children’s human and spiritual growth should ne nurtured.

Bishops from 100 countries and the leaders of 33 religious orders took part in the four-day meeting, as well as the Vatican’s top anti-abuse prosecutor Charles Scicluna and just one abuse victim, Ms Collins.

The closed-door conference will also launch a child protection centre in Germany to fight sex abuse by the clergy worldwide and includes a church service in which Catholic leaders will plead for forgiveness.

But victims’ groups were not invited and slammed it as PR: “You don’t need a jolly in Rome to learn what the right thing to do is,” said Sue Cox from Survivors Voice, a coalition of victim support groups covering Ireland, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and the US.

“This is just a PR stunt. It’s just theatre really. It’s no use,” said Ms Cox, herself a victim of abuse.

The Vatican has requested that by May all national bishops’ conferences must submit a set of comprehensive guidelines on how to combat paedophilia, stressing that abuse is not only a problem for Western churches. Officials say some countries are having trouble formulating these rules because of “cultural differences” over what exactly constitutes child abuse as well as major differences between local laws in different countries.

Victim groups say the measures lack any real enforcement powers.

Bishops have been asked to hold “listening sessions” with victims before travelling to Rome to help them understand.

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