Abuse victims give evidence to canonical court

Victims of a north Cork priest, named in the Cloyne report as Father Ronat, have given evidence to a secret canonical court which can recommend his defrocking.

Eleven complaints have been made to gardaí about the priest who is now retired yet has never been convicted in court of sexual abuse.

Complaints against him constituted the biggest chapter in the archdiocese’s commission of investigation into the handling of abuse in the diocese.

It is understood that the tribunal is hearing evidence at the Nano Nagle Centre outside Mallow.

Three priests — two clerical canon lawyers and a notary — are assessing evidence given by both victims and the priest.

The priest and the victims are entitled to have canon law advocates to represent them at the tribunal.

Unlike a court trial, the witnesses could not be compelled to participate in the tribunal. Instead they were invited to attend.

Once it has heard all evidence from both sides, the canon law court will draw up a report and make recommendations to the Vatican.

Archbishop of Cashel and Emly Dermot Clifford, the apostolic administrator of the Cloyne diocese, reconvened the secret court after Easter.

The process began in 2009 but was suspended because victims wanted to wait until after the publication of the Dublin archdiocese commission of investigation’s report into the handling of abuse in the diocese.

Chapter nine of the report, which related to Fr Ronat, was published last December. It was published later than the original report due to ongoing legal proceedings.

In 2005, Bishop John Magee wrote to Fr Ronat withdrawing fully his faculties for ministering in Cloyne diocese. This was after a fifth complaint was made against him.

He was told not to engage in any public or private ministry and he could only say Mass in his house privately.

However, it was another three years before he was asked to stop wearing clerical dress.

No public announcement was made in 2005 or 2008 about Fr Ronat and the commission said this allowed “Fr Ronat to continue to present himself to the general public as a priest in good standing”.

In 2006, a victim, called Donelle in the report, raised further questions about the supervision of Fr Ronat, pointing out that he was in theUS at the time of the meeting.


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