Saturday 22 July 2017

Priest said 'God would approve' alleged assault, victim tells court

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A WOMAN wept yesterday as she claimed a priest whispered to her that God would approve, as he sexually assaulted her as a teen.

Fr Dan Duane (73), denied a charge of sexually assaulting the now-middle aged woman at an address in Cork in the summer of 1980.

Fr Duane of the Presbytery, Cecilstown, Mallow, Co Cork, pleaded not guilty to the charge which is alleged to have occurred when the woman -- who cannot be identified for legal reasons -- was aged 14.

The woman repeatedly broke down as she recalled the alleged incident to the Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

She said she had met Fr Duane at a school retreat she had attended after joining the Legion of Mary. He had offered to meet youngsters at his home if they had problems or issues they wanted to discuss.

"This was a safe place to talk," she added, as she described herself as feeling like "a black sheep" in her family.

She went alone to his house on a summer day in 1980 -- although she said she could not recall the precise date.

The woman -- who said she was wearing a white summer dress and sandals -- sat on a sofa in the living room with Fr Duane to her left.

"He put his arm around me. There was nothing urgent or panicked in his behaviour. It was very calm, very slow, very deliberate."

"He urged me into a lying position. I felt his hands on my legs and on my chest. I remember feeling mortified and shocked," she said.

"I felt his hands. . . He kept whispering that it was OK, that it was OK with God. That God would approve," she wept.

"I felt pain. I felt ashamed and I felt dirty. I was in shock. I remember just wanting to die -- I wanted to die," she added.

When she left the house, she realised that her white dress was badly stained. She went home and locked herself in the bathroom and tried to wash the stains using soap.

"From that time my life changed. My father was a very religious man -- his belief was that the family that prays together stays together."

Defence counsel, Jim O'Mahony, said Fr Duane vehemently disputed the woman's claims.

He also challenged details of her accounts of meetings she sought with Fr Duane when she was 21, and then 26 years old.

Mr O'Mahony claimed one meeting was arranged because a former boyfriend of the complainant had sought out Fr Duane and said she "wanted to apologise for an intrusion to (his) life".

The woman -- who described priests as "scum" -- said she had sought the meetings because she simply wanted closure over what had happened.

"I wanted to put closure to this -- to these memories. What was so special about me as a child of 14 that he would do this to me?" she asked.

The trial continues today.

Irish Independent

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