Saturday 29 April 2017

Dismissed priest says clerics are now 'guilty until proven innocent'

Retired priest Fr Dan Duane at Cork Circuit Criminal Court. Photo: Daragh McSweeney
Retired priest Fr Dan Duane at Cork Circuit Criminal Court. Photo: Daragh McSweeney
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

An elderly priest dismissed by his diocese over abuse allegations claimed that clerics are now "guilty until proven innocent".

Fr Dan Duane, who served as a priest for 42 years in Cork, said he now faced losing his Church-provided home and had also had his retirement income slashed.

But he has vowed to defend his good name and is hoping a last-ditch appeal to Pope Francis can halt his dismissal as a priest in the Diocese of Cloyne.

"The lies against me are now threatening to destroy my life," he said.

"I am an innocent man and yet I face penury and homelessness.

"There has also been a campaign of vilification waged against me in the media despite the fact I have consistently protested my innocence of these appalling allegations."

Fr Duane has vehemently protested his innocence since 1985 when complaints were first lodged against him.

"I have been found innocent twice by courts of law on the basis of these allegations," he said.

"Other allegations the Director of Public Prosecutions even refused to take action over because there were so many contradictions, errors and blatant falsehoods in the claims."

But the 78-year-old has been dismissed by the Diocese of Cloyne following consideration of his case by the Church's powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF).

He maintains that his dismissal from the clergy is illegal and insists he remains a priest until Pope Francis rules on a last-ditch appeal.

However, the Diocese of Cloyne wrote to him on October 19 last asking him to vacate his Church-owned property.

When he declined, the diocese wrote saying his weekly income from the Cloyne sick priests committee was being reduced by €100 per week.

He now has until the end of the month to quit his Church-owned home.

"I am tarred with being one of 'the evil men of Cloyne' to use the phrase of Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald," he said.

"But I am an innocent man. The prosecutions against me were shocking enough. I had to go through the stress and distasteful nightmare of the Cork trial.

"But I am at least grateful that the bubble of lies was shattered."

Unless the Pope personally overturns the CDF recommendation, his clerical dismissal is final.

"My experience of canon law over the past six years is a joke. It is not the law itself but the way it can be manipulated because of the secrecy and non-transparency," he said.

"My family know and believe that I am innocent.

"So do most of the priests in the Diocese of Cloyne together with the majority of people that I served in my 45 years of active ministry."

The Bishop of Cloyne, Dr William Crean, said in 2015 that Fr Duane had been dismissed from the clergy.

Fr Duane appeared twice before Cork Circuit Criminal Court on indecent assault charges and was found not guilty on both occasions in 2011.

However, a canonical trial four years ago recommended he be dismissed.

"On January 7 last I stated that Daniel Duane had been dismissed from the clerical state following a canonical trial for the crime of abusing minors and that his appeal of this penalty was rejected by the CDF in Rome," Dr Crean said.

Irish Independent

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