Thursday 21 September 2017

Bishop failed to contact gardai

Willie Walsh admits 'sadness, regret and shame'

Breda Heffernan, Pat Flynn and Gordon Deegan

A SENIOR bishop has admitted he failed to contact gardai while investigating sexual abuse allegations against two priests in the Dublin archdiocese 20 years ago.

Bishop Willie Walsh was one of three 'judges' who were asked to handle the investigation into notorious serial child abuser Fr William Carney and a second, as yet unnamed, priest.

The Killaloe bishop, due to resign soon because of his age, said yesterday that although he did not contact gardai at the time, he would do so today if he was in a similar position.

In a statement yesterday, Bishop Walsh said that before the canonical process got under way, the diocese had already been in communication with gardai.

"I did not understand it as part of my role therefore to liaise with the gardai in relation to the matter. If I were dealing with the case today, I would do so," he said.

Bishop Walsh stressed that -- unlike in the controversy surrounding Cardinal Sean Brady -- the complainants, who were accompanied by their parents, were not asked to sign confidentiality agreements.

Accountable

He said: "In the first case, that of William Carney, our judgment was that the most severe penalty in church law -- laicisation from the priesthood -- be applied.

"I am not aware of any further abuse by the priest after the canonical process was completed," he said. The Murphy Commission described Carney as one of the most serious serial child abusers that it had investigated.

It heard of complaints or suspicions regarding him in respect of 32 children. However, it said there was evidence to suggest that he had abused many more.

In 1983, Carney pleaded guilty to two counts of indecently assaulting two altar boys and was given the Probation Act.

He was kicked out by the Catholic Church in 1992 after being found guilty under canon law of child sex abuse.

The now 60-year-old is believed to be living in the Canaries.

Bishop Walsh said the second case in which he was involved was also examined by the commission.

"The relevant chapter is as yet unpublished for legal reasons. I am precluded by law from revealing anything related to this case until that chapter is published," he said, adding: "I will then be accountable for my role when that occurs."

The bishop said that since his appointment in 1994, he had tried to treat every victim with "sympathy, kindness, and the deep respect to which they are entitled.

"I have reported all cases to the statutory authorities -- gardai and the HSE -- and co-operated fully with them. My primary concern has been to try to bring healing to victims."

The bishop admitted that as a young priest he too was part of that "oppressive culture of secrecy and undue deference to ecclesiastical authorities".

He continued: "For that part and for the disastrously inadequate response of our church to the heinous crime of child sex abuse, I will always carry a sense of sadness, regret and shame.

"I again apologise to all victims of abuse, but especially to any victim who may have suffered through any failure on my part."

A secret ballot of priests is under way to decide who will succeed Bishop Walsh, who turned 75 in January. He will remain as Bishop of Killaloe until a successor is appointed.

The top three names to emerge from the poll will be submitted to the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Leanza.

Irish Independent

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