But after interviewing the man, named in the report as Fr Corin, in January 1995, Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan dismissed the admissions as cases of “over-familiarity” and judged that there was “no evidence of sex abuse”.
The commission said it could not understand how Msgr O’Callaghan could come to such a conclusion. It said it was “clearly and unequivocally child sexual abuse”.
The self-confessed abuser was allowed to continue in his ministry for at least another 15 months before another allegation, reported to the then Mid-Western Health Board, led Msgr O’Callaghan to pass the allegations on to gardaí.
However, the commission found that gardaí in Macroom and Limerick, independent of each other, failed to properly investigate the abuse.
The Cloyne diocese was first alerted to the man’s abuse when a woman, given the pseudonym Nia, approached Bishop Laurence Forristal of Ossory because she did not wish to talk to Bishop John Magee.
She clearly recounted experiences when, as a nine-year-old, she went over to Fr Corin’s house and he put her hands up her clothes, she had vague recollections of being naked in front of him.
Fr Corin admitted fondling and touching his two accusers and volunteered that he also did something similar to another child who was aged between nine and 10.
But when he was interviewed by Bishop Magee, Fr Corin was told by his boss that he should get a spiritual advisor to help him deal with deep trauma suffered by him when the allegations were made.
And the bishop recommended Fr Corin take a month off while an investigation was carried out.
Following further discussions, and an inquiry about his pension entitlements, Fr Corin retired.
None of the man’s admissions to Bishop Magee or Msgr O’Callaghan were delivered to gardaí, who themselves were criticised for failing to act on allegations of child sexual abuse.
The commission flatly rejected the assertion of the then superintendent in Macroom, who it said is now a chief superintendent, that a proper investigation took place in 1996.
It said there was no documentary evidence in Macroom or elsewhere that a file was opened. Mgr O’Callaghan had written to Macroom garda station to alert it to one complaint, by Nia. There was not evidence of a formal follow-up.
The only traces of an inquiry were two entries in the superintendent’s personal diary which record speaking to Nia on the telephone and waiting to see if she would make an official complaint.
The commission said it was “surprised that the gardaí persist in maintaining that there was an investigation into Nia’s allegations when she never made a formal complaint to gardaí”.
The second woman did make a statement to gardaí in Limerick but there is no record of this statement in the police force’s files.