Priest admits sexual assaults

A 79-year-old priest who got a suspended jail term last month for sexually assaulting a girl throughout her First Confession in West Cork pleaded guilty yesterday to carrying out similar assaults on three other girls in the mid-1970s.

John Calnan who is now living at The Presbytery, Roman St, Cork, was formally arrested and charged yesterday by Detective Garda Maurice Shanley.

As soon as Calnan was charged and cautioned by the detective, he replied “guilty” to each of the charges.

Inspector Daniel Coholan then told Judge Olann Kelleher at Cork District Court that the DPP had directed that all cases should be dealt with by indictment at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

Joseph Cuddigan, defence solicitor, said there would be no requirement for the preparation of a book of evidence as the accused was prepared to enter signed pleas of guilty to the charges.

Judge Olann Kelleher then sent the cases forward for sentencing until the county sessions of Cork Circuit Criminal Court on April 24.

It will then be a matter for the accused to be sentenced on that date or adjourned until later in the sessions for sentencing.

No background details to yesterday’s cases were given in Cork District Court yesterday.

The accused was remanded on bail to the circuit court.

At the last sessions of Cork Circuit Criminal Court last month, the same defendant pleaded guilty to carrying out the indecent assault on a communion girl in the late 1980s.

Calnan was sentenced to three years in 2015 for a similar assault and a concurrent year for another sexual assault.

The following year, the next complainant came forward and made her complaint to gardaí about what the priest had done to her.

Last month, Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin noted the two previous jail sentences for similar crimes and said that there was no point in re- committing him to jail at this point in his life, so he imposed a suspended sentence.

Calnan was ordained in 1964, serving most of the time in West Cork.

In 1992, he stopped ministering as a priest and went to the Gracewell clinic in Birmingham to deal with his offending behaviour.

The full background to the three sexual assaults — to which Calnan pleaded guilty yesterday — will be given at the sentencing hearing.

It is anticipated that victim impact statements will also be given if the victims chose to make them.

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