independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Priest at centre of sex claims appeals his dismissal

THE elderly cleric at the centre of the Cloyne Report into child-abuse allegations is appealing his dismissal from the priesthood to Pope Francis and a top Vatican court.

The priest, known only by the pseudonyms 'Fr Ronat' and 'Fr B', faces being defrocked after a church canonical court upheld abuse allegations lodged against him by former minors in the diocese of Cloyne.

A relative of the cleric, speaking to the Irish Independent, confirmed that an appeal has been lodged within the stipulated 15-day period.

"We are very disappointed with the negative outcome. But there will be an appeal, particularly in respect of the fact we believe that a full defence against the allegations was not properly taken into account," he said.

The man stressed that 'Fr Ronat', who continues to vehemently deny the allegations, was deeply upset by the canonical court decision.

The cleric, who now suffers from a number of health problems, has never been convicted in a criminal court of any offence.

But the canonical court, comprised of a notary and three priest-judges, upheld the allegations against the elderly priest to the church's moral standard.

Their recommendation leaves the priest facing "dismissal from the clerical state".

However, he is appealing the ruling to the Apostolic Signature and Pope Francis, the two highest authorities on canon law within the church.

Until a decision is made on his appeal, the proposed dismissal from the priesthood remains suspended.

However, long-standing restrictions on his ministry remain in place. For over a decade 'Fr Ronat' has been forbidden by the church from saying Mass in public. He is also not allowed to wear priestly clothing in public

One of the complainants described the canonical court ruling as "a total vindication" and welcomed the dismissal recommendation.

"It is an enormous relief to finally have been believed after all these years," she said.

Devastating

The canonical probe was re-launched two years ago following the publication of Judge Yvonne Murphy's devastating report into how the Cork diocese mishandled clerical child abuse allegations.

The Cloyne Report was published in July 2011 but the chapter involving 'Fr Ronat' was withheld from publication for a further six months for legal reasons.

Immediately after the final chapter was published, the church signalled that it was resuming the suspended canonical trial.

'Fr Ronat' was the focus of 11 separate abuse complaints.

Taken in total, the allegations against him formed the largest single chapter in the report.

Irish Independent

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