21 October 2005

Ferns priests named in litany of shame

Irish Independent

TWENTY priests are indicted and two bishops castigated in the explosive Ferns report on child sex abuse.

The report, by Judge Frank Murphy, details hundreds of child sex claims made against the 20 priests from the diocese.

It also contains stinging criticisms of two bishops, the late Donal Herlihy and Brendan Comiskey.

Ten of the priests cited have died, six have retired, three have been defrocked and one is described as old and infirm.

The gardai are also slated for their handling of the Fr Jim Grennan case in Monageer. He abused ten girls over a number of years. But otherwise the force comes out of the inquiry relatively unscathed.

The other priests named include Fr Sean Fortune, probably the most notorious of the abusers, Fr Donal Collins and Fr James Doyle, who were both defrocked last year.

The South Eastern Health Board is also condemned for its failure to act properly on reports of abuse.

Dr Herlihy, bishop from 1963 to 1983 when many of the worst abuses were taking place, is singled out for for his responses.

The report acknowledges that Bishop Comiskey did take some action. But this mainly involved moving the abusers from one parish to another.

He resigned in 2002 after the BBC documentary, Suing The Pope, which led to the Ferns inquiry. The Murphy report, which went to the Government on Monday, is being vetted by the Attorney General.

It will be presented to the Cabinet by Junior Health Minister Brian Lenihan on Tuesday.

That afternoon the five Wexford TDs - John Browne, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Liam Twomey and Tony Dempsey - will be briefed by the minister.

Wexford senator Jim Walsh and MEP Avril Doyle have also been invited.

It is understood Mr Lenihan has assured TDs that Judge Murphy's recommendations will be implemented in full.

It is expected the report will be published next week.

Ferns diocese is preparing its response.

At a meeting earlier this week at Ballyvalloo Retreat Centre, Blackwater, Co Wexford, around 60 priests were told how the Church would respond to victims, clergy and parishioners.

Priests were addressed by clinical sports psychologist Tom Moriarty.

He helped prepare them for likely fallout from the report. Mr Moriarty worked with the 1995 All-Ireland winning Dublin football team.

David Quinn
Religious Affairs Correspondent

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