Saturday 25 February 2017

'Fr X' assaulted student priest but hierarchy took no action

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

SERIOUS concerns were raised almost 20 years ago about the suitability of a priest who was later at the centre of two separate sexual abuse allegations, the Irish Independent has learned.

The priest, who can only be named as 'Fr X' for legal reasons, was ordained despite being the subject of complaints by a fellow seminarian.

Cardinal Sean Brady admitted last week that he was also sued by a young woman who accused 'Fr X' of raping her in 1997. The case was only settled in January, with the woman receiving €50,000.

A day after being quizzed by police, 'Fr X' was suspended by Dr Brady from his ministry, banned from saying Mass, hearing confessions and having access to minors.

The priest was also tried in a Northern Ireland court for the sexual assault of another teenager, but was acquitted.

The same priest had been at the centre of a controversy in the early 1990s when complaints were made by a young fellow seminarian that he had been subjected to "bullying, threats" and a "very serious" incident of a sexual nature.

Despite both the seminary authorities and senior church officials, including the late Cardinal Cahal Daly, being made aware of the matter, the accused priest was subsequently assigned to an Irish parish.

Blackmail

The victim's family said last night that they remained "absolutely baffled" at how the man was ever allowed become a priest in the first place, despite the hierarchy being aware of the alleged assault.

"We just couldn't believe it -- he was such an unsuitable person," said a family member.

The young seminarian who made the complaints later suffered a mental breakdown. He has since made a full recovery.

However, his family said they were appalled to read accounts of the latest abuse allegations against the same man who had first targeted their relative.

"This guy was a sexual predator -- the most scary individual you could ever have anything to do with," said a family member.

At one point, the young seminarian was told by 'Fr X' that he would be killed if he brought the incident to the notice of the church authorities.

"We felt the idea that he could ever have been ordained was bizarre," said the victim's relative. "Unfortunately, nothing now surprises me at this stage.

"The assault was sexual in nature. All I want to say is that there was a very serious incident -- it was brought to the attention of the seminary authorities and all the relevant stakeholders.

"It was very serious -- it involved threatening behaviour, blackmail, bullying and all kinds of things like that.

"You had a very sensitive young man of 18 or 19 years of age -- and this other guy was in his late 20s.

"He definitely caused serious damage to him."

Irish Independent

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