Priest who sought prayers for not guilty verdict apologises

The priest who asked mourners at a funeral Mass to pray for a not guilty verdict in a high-profile sex assault trial has apologised to the deceased man’s family.

Fr Martin Crean, 72, an Augustinian friar based in Fethard, Co Tipperary, telephoned the family of John (Seanie) Cotter in Cork yesterday and apologised profusely for the hurt and upset his comments caused.

A source close to the family said they have accepted his apology and hope the matter will now be closed.

Fr Crean, who knew Mr Cotter, concelebrated his funeral Mass in Togher, Cork, last Thursday.

Fr Crean is also a friend of the family of former lord mayor of Cork, John Murray, who was on trial last week accused of sexually assaulting a teenager in 1996.

But the friar sparked outrage when he used the prayers of intercession during Mr Cotter’s funeral Mass to ask people to pray that Mr Murray, who had denied the charges, would be found not guilty.

The following day, a jury in the case returned a guilty verdict in five of the six charges.

Murray, a former Labour party representative who served as lord mayor of Cork in 1993/94, was remanded in custody for sentence next Monday.

Yesterday, one of Mr Cotter’s daughters, Michelle, spoke of the pain and trauma the family has been going through since news of the friar’s comments went public.

“We put up a hell of week last week,” she told Neil Prendeville on Cork’s 96fm.

“We were in CUH for a full week, hoping and praying my father would pull through. The upset this has caused is unbelievable.”

Despite her grief, she said her thoughts are very much with Mr Murray’s victim, who is now in her 30s, and with her family.

“Imagine the devastation it caused to the victim and her family. It was appalling,” she said. “It was inappropriate and it caused an awful lot of upset to my family and to the people at my father’s funeral.”

Bishop Buckley described the comments as “offensive and entirely inappropriate”.

The head of the Augustinians in Ireland, Provincial Fr John Hennebry, apologised on Monday night for the hurt and distress caused by their friar’s comments.

He said the prayer was wholly inappropriate, that the intervention had caused great distress, and that following a discussion with Fr Crean, he now understands that too.

Fr Crean made his apology at around lunchtime yesterday.

Born in Limerick, Fr Crean entered the Augustinian Novitiate in Templeogue, Dublin, in Aug 1960.

He was solemnly professed at Ballyboden on Sept 16, 1964, and studied theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He was ordained on Mar 11, 1967.

He travelled to work as a missionary in Nigeria the following year where he remained until July 2001.

He returned to Ireland and lived in the Order’s Cork community before his transfer to Fethard in Sept 2009.

The Augustinians are conducting their own inquiry into the matter which could lead to Fr Crean facing possible sanctions as laid down in the order’s own internal procedures.


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