Cloyne silent on ‘secret trial’ claims

THE Catholic Church has refused to comment on reports that a priest is to be tried by a secret clerical court over allegations of child sex abuse in the diocese of Cloyne.

Director of the Catholic Communications Office Martin Long said he had no information on the report the “trial” would be held later this month, adding “as the issue is also the subject of other investigations we would not be commenting on the matter anyway”.

The priest, referred to as Father B in the Cloyne report conducted by the Church-funded National Board for Safeguarding Children, is scheduled to attend a canonical hearing in Cobh this month. It was reported yesterday that the court is being established under the auspices of Dermot Clifford, the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly.

The hearing process is similar to a court trial, but witnesses can only be invited to give evidence not compelled. It may result in a priest being defrocked.

The Cloyne report found that the first recorded complaint about Father B was sent to Bishop John Magee in 1995 alleging he had molested a schoolgirl.

In September 1996, an adult woman expressed concern about his relationship with her 14-year-old son. She had also had a sexual relationship with Father B.

In December 1997, a complaint was received by Bishop Magee alleging Father B had sexually abused a woman during a young people’s retreat and, in November 2005, a woman claimed she was abused by Father B when 13.

The Cloyne report concluded the diocese pursued a policy of giving “minimal information” to gardaí, concerning the assaults.

Since the report’s publication last December, there have been fresh Garda investigations into allegations against Father B by five new female complainants. So far, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has returned three of those investigation files with instructions that no charges be brought.

Father B will be represented at the tribunal by an advocate qualified in canon law. The court will consist of two clerical canon lawyers and a woman notary. The complainants who allege he sexually abused them have been invited to give evidence.

Father B has been on “restricted ministry” for over a decade, continuing to officiate at weddings and funeral Masses.

Meanwhile, following a meeting of the leaders of clerical abuse survivors groups yesterday, a joint statement condemning the Church hierarchy’s approach was released.

Delivered “on behalf of all Survivors of the Industrial Schools,” it called for “any future financial contributions that may be forthcoming from the 18 religious orders, by way of restitution, should first and foremost be used for the purpose of Direct Redress to the victims.”

It continued “We also demand that the Catholic Hierarchy quit giving lectures to the CORI 18 and remember its own historical role in keeping the Industrial Schools functioning.”

The statement condemns the redress board instituted to adjudicate on victims compensation as psychologically traumatic, “bitter and confrontational”.

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