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How the Church is airbrushing abuse out of its sacred history

A new reference book on the Archdiocese of Dublin which lists every priest who served there up to 2011 leaves out some important names.

The 400-page book, The Archbishops, Bishops and Priests who served in the Archdiocese of Dublin 1900-2011, gives the names and CVs of the nearly 2,000 priests who have served since 1900 -- except those guilty of sex abuse, who have been airbrushed from history.

The book is written by Fr J Anthony Gaughan, author, historian, former UCD chaplain and retired parish priest in Blackrock, Co Dublin. It includes a foreword by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, praising the work as giving due recognition to the ordinary priests who would not otherwise be recorded in the annals of history.

To date, the Dublin Archdiocese has paid out over €13.5m in compensation to victims of abuse, well over 500 victims have been identified, at least eight priests have faced criminal cases and civil actions have been brought against 35 priests, all of whom were part of the archdiocese.

The shocking figures show that sex abuse by priests in the Dublin Archdiocese was proportionately even higher than the catalogue of horrors found by the investigation into the Diocese of Ferns.

Given the history of the archdiocese in the last 50 or 60 years, it might have been expected that a book like this would deal with the number of priests who were guilty of sex abuse in Dublin. But although the book is an exhaustive record, it leaves out that aspect of the story.

The book covers all kinds of priests who served in the archdiocese, whether they were Dublin diocesan priests, priests from other dioceses who came to work in Dublin, or priests in religious orders in the city.

Date and place of birth, education, ordination, and details of all parishes or institutions where each priest worked are given. The entries for most priests are an extended paragraph, although some entries take several paragraphs. Despite all this detail in the book, however, there is no reference to sex abuse.

A search through the book for the following priests, all of whom were named in the Murphy Report into the Dublin Archdiocese as serious abusers, produced no listings for them:

• Fr Tony Walsh, Ballyfermot's "singing priest", identified by the Murphy Report as "probably the most notorious child sexual abuser" who is likely to have abused "hundreds of children".

• Fr Bill Carney of Ayrfield parish, described in the Murphy Report as "a serial sexual abuser" who preyed on children in homes and institutions, on school trips and at swimming practice.

• Fr James McNamee, a long-time abuser, who invited children to the private swimming pool at his parish house in Crumlin and abused children from various parishes

• Fr Noel Reynolds, who admitted to gardai that he had abused more than 100 children in eight different parishes in the archdiocese.

• Fr Ivan Payne who became a household name in 2002 when it was disclosed that Cardinal Connell had given him a loan to pay compensation to victim Andrew Madden. Payne was convicted of abusing eight boys who were patients in Crumlin children's hospital, where he was chaplain; he also abused altar boys in Cabra.

None of these, or any of the other abusers in the Dublin Archdiocese identified in the Murphy Report, is listed in the book, despite its claim to be a complete list.

The massive reference work is one of four projected volumes which, according to the author and Archbishop Martin, eventually will provide a detailed list of all the priests who served in the Dublin Archdiocese since 1600. The first volume, listing priests in Dublin in the 17th century was published in 2010.

This new book is the fourth volume, covering the last century and continuing up to 2011. Volumes two and three on the 18th and 19th centuries will be published in the future.

Indo Review