A dual Irish Examiner and Australian-based Irish Echo investigation has confirmed that authorities in Brisbane made three payouts to alleged victims of a priest named “Fr Rion” in the Murphy Commission report, in addition to another Cloyne-related payment.
The Irish-born priest, who was ordained in Australia from 1933, retired to north Cork on “health” grounds in 1971.
Despite having no official link to the diocese, Fr Rion, who died in 1976, was given permission by then bishop of Cloyne John Ahern to visit schools and say Mass at his home. While there, he allegedly abused at least one altar boy, “Andrew”.
When Cloyne Diocese was informed of the incident in January 2005, Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan contacted his Australian counterparts about Fr Rion’s background.
Despite the fact the Brisbane archdiocese was contacted in 2002 and 2003 by two alleged Australian victims — relating to alleged abuse between 1937-44 and 1950-55 — it failed to reveal this information.
This, the archdiocese argued, was because it was “never asked” directly during lengthy correspondence, felt the cases were historical and were not properly investigated at the time — an attitude described as “astonishing” by the Murphy Commission.
After the Brisbane archdiocese acknowledged it was partially responsible for Andrew’s abuse in Cloyne, it paid $20,000 towards the cost of his counselling in 2006. Until now, it has failed to confirm that it also gave the 2002 and 2003 complainants, and another in 2009, an identical sum.
The 2002 complainant was contacted in July 2010 and after Brisbane Church officials met the man, a $20,000 payment and apology was made to him that August.
The 2003 complainant was contacted in January this year. Brisbane Church officials also met this man and provided another $20,000 payment and an apology in March.
A third payment to an alleged Australian victim — and fourth in all — was agreed after another man came forward in July 2009, concerning an incident in 1952. This complainant was also paid $20,000 by the archdiocese.
The Church authority said the 2002 and 2003 complaints were handled “in accordance with the Australian Towards Healing protocols”, the programme established by the Australian Catholic Church in 1996 to help victims of clerical sexual abuse.