Bishops accused of obstructing assault case

TWO bishops have been accused of obstruction in a case of alleged sexual assault by a deceased priest in their diocese.

Former Bishop of Ferns Dr Brendan Comiskey and his replacement, Bishop Eamonn Walsh, were yesterday criticised for not filing sworn affidavits as ordered by a court last July.

Wexford woman Fiona Gahan is suing Bishop Comiskey, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Attorney General and Bishop Eamonn Walsh for an alleged sexual assault by the late Fr James Grennan in her parish church in Monageer during a pre-Confirmation ceremony in 1988.

Counsel for Ms Gahan, Stephen Lanigan O’Keeffe told Judge Pat McCartan at Wexford Circuit Court yesterday that Bishop Comiskey and Bishop Walsh were ordered in court last July to make discovery of documents relating to the alleged sexual assault by Fr Grennan. But neither had fulfilled the order.

Only an unsworn affidavit had been faxed to his office on the eve of the case, Mr Lanigan O’Keeffe said.

“We have been obstructed in every procedural step in this case,” he said.

Mr Lanigan O’Keeffe added that Bishop Comiskey, the then Bishop of Ferns, knew what was happening and had been present at the confirmation ceremony. That is why he is listed in the proceedings and is being sued for intimidation, Mr Lanigan O’Keeffe said.

He added that the Church was listed because of the behaviour of the deceased priest. The State was listed, he said, because no garda file reached the Director of Prosecutions.

Judge McCartan referred the matter to the High Court and ordered discovery of the documents sought. He refused an application by counsel for the Church, Marguerite Bolger, for an order restricting the reporting of the matter. He referred the matter to the High Court.

“The business is to be conducted in open court. I have no jurisdiction to make an order. What is conducted in public should be in public,” he added.

Neither the Church nor the State opposed the transfer of the case to the High Court. Further medical reports have been sought to assess the impact of the matter on the alleged victim.

Counsel for the defence claimed there had been no disimprovement in Ms Gahan’s health since previous reports came before the court.

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