Thursday 18 January 2018

From rising star of Church to defrocked priest plagued by allegations of sex abuse

Profile: Micheál Ledwith

Micheál Ledwith in 1985. Photo: Tom Burke
Micheál Ledwith in 1985. Photo: Tom Burke
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

The current crisis at St Patrick's College seminary is not the first time it has been subjected to controversy and allegations of sexual misconduct.

Micheál Ledwith, a former president of the institution, was defrocked as a priest by the Pope in 2005.

It came just over a decade after he suddenly stood down from his role at the college, amidst allegations against him of sexual abuse of a minor.

Mr Ledwith, who in recent times has lectured for a religious cult group in the US, was a rising star of the Catholic Church when he was appointed at the age of 42 as president of St Patrick's in 1985.

He had served as its vice-president, a professor of dogmatic theology, written its history, and was due to celebrate the college's bicentenary when he unexpectedly stood down in June 1994. At the time, there were rumours of allegations made against him.

In 2002, the 17 trustees of the college confirmed that before his departure, there was an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against Mr Ledwith - an allegation he strenuously denied.

The college also confirmed a settlement had been made with the claimant, without any admission of liability.

In addition, the trustees said a second allegation was made against Mr Ledwith in 2000 by a former student, who studied there between 1992 and 1994.

Mr Ledwith officially resigned from his personal professorship in 1996. He got a pension top-up of about £100,000 (€127,000).

The process of laicising Mr Ledwith began some time after his resignation, but was only completed in 2005.

He was named in the Ferns Report, which specified that he asserted his innocence of all allegations made against him.

In detailing one allegation made against Mr Ledwith, then a monsignor, the report said a man called Raymond alleged he was abused by him in the early 1980s when he was 13 years of age.

It alleged this continued until after the man's 15th birthday.

Mr Ledwith said he only become acquainted with this family after Raymond was 15 years old.

The inquiry also detailed another allegation against Mr Ledwith by a seminarian at Maynooth, which was withdrawn.

He told the inquiry the allegation was without foundation and made by a person he did not know and was alleged to have occurred when he was not in Ireland.

After he left Ireland, Mr Ledwith was a part-time lecturer at the New Age Ramtha's School of Enlightenment in Yelm, in Washington State.

The group was established by a woman who claims to channel a being called Ramtha the Enlightened One.

Irish Independent

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