THE elderly cleric at the centre of the Cloyne Report's worst child abuse allegations now faces an internal church investigation that could result in him being defrocked.
The man -- known by the pseudonym 'Fr Ronat' -- will face a formal canonical review early in the new year.
This is an internal church investigation in which canon lawyers will interview all those who lodged complaints of sexual abuse against the cleric -- and will then hear his version of events.
The Irish Independent confirmed last night that, while the canonical review will take "several months" to conclude, it will have the power to recommend to the Vatican that 'Fr Ronat' be laicised or defrocked.
Several victims have signalled their willingness to participate in the review, though others remain reluctant given criticism of the church's handling of the original abuse complaints.
The decision on whether the elderly priest is forbidden from all future priestly duties will rest entirely with Vatican authorities.
The canonical process was started several years ago but was suspended once Judge Yvonne Murphy was asked to formally probe how the Diocese of Cloyne handled clerical child abuse allegations between 1996 and 2009.
Judge Murphy's probe was launched after Cloyne was rocked by the findings of the church's only child protection watchdog body, the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children (NBSC), which published its damning report in December 2008.
The NBSC report prompted then-Bishop Dr John Magee to step aside from diocesan duties in January 2009.
Since then, the sprawling Cork diocese has been run by the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dr Dermot Clifford.
Dr Magee tendered his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI in March 2010.
Complaints against a total of 19 clerics were examined as part of Judge Murphy's review but her report's largest section -- the 42-page Chapter 9 -- was devoted entirely to abuse complaints lodged against 'Fr Ronat'.
A total of 11 children made complaints against him.
'Fr Ronat' -- who continues to live in Ireland -- has never been convicted of a sexual offence.
It remains unclear what stance he will take over the impending canonical review.
'Fr Ronat' was suspended from all ministry in November 2005 and has only been allowed to celebrate Mass in his own home and without a congregation present.
He has also been forbidden from wearing priest's clothing.
The Vatican has the power, on foot of a canonical review, to defrock a priest and ban him from all forms of ministry.
This week's publication of Chapter 9 -- which could not be published last July on the orders of the High Court -- revealed that Dr Magee was himself threatened with a law suit by 'Fr Ronat'.
'Fr Ronat' -- who had an interest in hypnotism -- threatened to sue the bishop for defamation at one point during the wrangle over abuse complaints and his promised promotion to parish priest.