Priests criticise RTÉ for going ahead with Reynolds broadcast

THE Association of Catholic Priests has called on RTÉ to explain why it proceeded with a defamatory broadcast against Galway-based priest Fr Kevin Reynolds despite the priest’s constant denials of sexual abuse.

ACP spokesperson Fr Seán McDonagh yesterday criticised the station’s failure to operate normal editorial controls in the making of the programme.

RTÉ agreed to pay an undisclosed amount — believed to be in excess of €1m — in compensation to Fr Reynolds on Thursday in settlement of a High Court action for defamation.

It arose out of the broadcast of an edition of RTÉ’s Prime Time Investigates programme in May which falsely accused the 65-year-old parish priest of Ahascragh, Co Galway, of raping a teenage girl while working as a missionary in Kenya and fathering her child.

Fr Reynolds repeatedly denied the allegations and offered to undergo a paternity test in advance of the programme’s transmission as proof of his innocence.

Last night, a RTÉ spokesperson said no comment would be made on the making of the programme until a review by the Press Ombudsman, Professor John Horgan, was completed in a few weeks.

“Clearly, serious errors were made in this case,” he added. The spokesperson said RTÉ was conducting its own internal review in addition to Prof Horgan’s report.

The ACP has also expressed concern at the Church authorities’ decision to get Fr Reynolds to stand aside from his ministry after the broadcast of the programme.

Fr McDonagh said Fr Reynolds’s human rights had been transgressed by his superiors, given that the Bishop of Elphin, Dr Christopher Jones, could have waited two weeks for the results of a paternity test to see if the allegations were true before requiring Fr Reynolds to leave his parish house.

Meanwhile, victim support group One in Four also welcomed the vindication of Fr Reynolds.

One in Four chief executive Maeve Lewis said it was very regrettable that the allegation had not been verified before the programme was broadcast.

She said such false allegations were damaging for the many genuine victims of sexual crimes, as they could increase the scepticism and disbelief of both the civil authorities and the general public towards those making truthful complaints.

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