Letters are to be sent to abuse victims in the Diocese of Cloyne in the coming weeks asking if they would like to participate in a secret church trial that will hear evidence against a North Cork priest accused of 11 counts of abuse.
This canonical trial, which is likely to be held after Easter, could lead to the defrocking of the priest, known as Fr Ronat in the Cloyne Report.
Eight garda files against the priest were sent to the DPP’s office but he has never been convicted of sexual abuse in court. The complaints against him, and the diocese’s mishandling of them, constituted the largest chapter in Judge Yvonne Murphy’s report.
Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dr Dermot Clifford said Fr Ronat was suspended from all ministry in Cloyne in Nov 2005 and has not been allowed to minister to the public since. He was also told not to wear clerical dress or present himself as a priest.
Dr Clifford decided after Chapter 9 was published to reconvene the church trial which had begun in 2009 but was suspended, at the request of victims, when the former children’s minister, Barry Andrews, asked Judge Murphy to investigate the handling of abuse complaints in Cloyne.
A spokesman for the diocese said contact will be made with victims shortly.
The court will consist of two clerical canon lawyers and a notary. Fr Ronat will be represented by an advocate qualified in canon law. The complainants who allege he sexually abused them will also be invited to give evidence.
One of Fr Ronat’s victims, known as Fenella in the Murphy report, said: “I’m very interested to see how long we’ll be waiting for this to be completed. I can imagine he’ll be claiming to be sick again. This could take years but I will participate in anything which could lead to him being proved guilty or defrocked.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved