A former pupil of Fr Joseph Marmion has criticised the Jesuits in Ireland for “harbouring a paedophile” and failing to report allegations of his abuse to the gardaí which were made to them decades ago.
‘Michael’, who did not want to be identified, told the Irish Independent that Fr Marmion, who had a reputation for bullying and meting out harsh physical punishment on the pupils in his care, continued to have access to vulnerable children even though a Jesuit had been informed about his sexual abuse in 1974 or 1975.
Marmion, who died in 2000 aged 75, taught in Belvedere College, Clongowes Woods College and Crescent College, Limerick.
Allegations against the priest came to the public’s attention in March of this year when he was named as an abuser by the Jesuits at the behest of one of his victims.
Though confronted by a Jesuit about the allegations of abuse in the 1970s, Marmion never acknowledged he had sexually abused children.
However, he was removed from his teaching role in Belvedere in 1978 on foot of the allegations.
“He targeted children with health issues, children who didn’t have brothers in the school, kids whose families wouldn’t have been wealthy, children who weren’t physically strong,” Michael said.
Calling on the Jesuits to establish a redress scheme, he said facilities were also needed for victims who have not been able to come forward thus far.
He believes that there are many more than the 40-plus men who have made contact with the Jesuits since they issued their statement in March 2021 acknowledging that Marmion had abused boys sexually, emotionally and physically while he was a teacher in Belvedere College between the years 1969 and 1978.
Michael also believes a report into Marmion’s abuse conducted by the Jesuits this year, which was sent to former pupils in recent weeks, is incomplete and contains serious gaps in relation to abuse perpetrated by the priest during school trips to the Austrian capital of Vienna in the 1970s.
“The report is light on his activities in Austria which was the peak of his offences. It was criminal what he got away with. It needs to be investigated.
“He brought individual boys up to his room where they were drugged and left with no memory of what took place. Why isn’t there a concern for those boys in the report?”
The Jesuits undertook the report, ‘Joseph Marmion – The Jesuit Response’, in order to meet victims’ requests for accountability and answers.
The 50-page document, which has been seen by the Irish Independent, contains an apology from the current Jesuit provincial, Fr Leonard Moloney, who says the sexual, physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse inflicted by Marmion “fills me with sorrow and shame”.
Fr Moloney admitted that while Marmion’s actions inflicted severe trauma on individual pupils, it was “magnified by the failure of the Jesuits to recognise the danger he posed to schoolboys in our care and in later ministries or to understand and respond to your needs as his victims. We did not grasp the destructive effects of his abuse”.
“Decisions that should never have been made were made. And decisions that should have been made were not made. There is no excuse for that,” the Jesuits’ report acknowledges.
One witness statement sent to the Jesuits, which the Irish Independent has seen, recounts how an allegation of sexual abuse against Marmion was brought to the attention of the Jesuits by a member of the teaching staff in Belvedere, Riocard Ó Tiarnaigh.
Mr Ó Tiarnaigh’s son told him what boys in the school said had happened in Vienna during a school summer trip in the 1970s when Marmion was in charge of 20 boys.
At the start of the new school year, “The word going around was that at least one of the boys had been kept drugged in Marmion’s room for I don’t know how long and had had to be rescued by some of his classmates in an act of supreme valour,” Riocard Óg Ó Tiarnaigh’s testimony recounts.
Belvedere’s principal at the time, Fr Noel Barber, was told by Mr Ó Tiarnaigh that “something dreadfully untoward had taken place in Vienna involving Fr Marmion and one or other of the boys”.
Fr Barber, who is now 85, contributed to the Jesuit report. However, he said he had no recollection of meeting the teacher or of his complaint.
He did recall a conversation with the Rector, Fr Paul Andrews, in 1977 who said he had received a phone call in relation to Marmion’s behaviour towards boys who were on the Vienna school tour.
“To the best of Fr Barber’s recollection, the incidents described by Fr Andrews involved the touching of boys’ genitalia. This was said to have happened in Vienna, and there was also a suggestion that it could have happened in the course of the school opera.”
The school opera was a reference to Marmion’s infamous ‘costume fittings’ for which he got the children to undress in front of him.
Fr Barber spoke to six or seven students at the time who confirmed the allegations.
He never spoke to the students’ parents.
Former students have alleged a series of inappropriate and sexually abusive behaviour by the priest.
They have also alleged that students were given medication in Vienna after which they would wake in the priest’s room with no memory of the night before.
The priest would claim in front of other pupils on the Vienna trip that the student had been sick the previous evening and had therefore slept with him.
Despite being made aware of this behaviour, it is understood that no complaint was ever made to the gardaí by the Jesuits in regard to Marmion and so he was never the subject of a criminal investigation, though he was permanently removed from Belvedere in 1978.
He subsequently served as a chaplain at St Vincent’s Private Hospital, Dublin, but the hospital was never informed of the concerns around his behaviour.
The Jesuit report notes a paucity of documentation on Marmion and admits it reflects a culture that, “out of a misguided notion of respecting the institution and the perpetrator rather than the victims, regrettably did not record the concerns expressed about his behaviour”.
Though there is an absence of records around the reasons for his removal from Belvedere in 1978 and the concerns raised about his behaviour in Vienna in September 1977, the Jesuit Superior General in Rome wrote to the Irish provincial and recommended that Marmion be removed from the list of candidates for admission to profession, “For reasons emerging from the informations”.
No record of this information was found in the Jesuit archives in Rome or in the Irish Jesuit archives, although on September 17, 1977, Fr Paddy Doyle wrote to the General Superior and told him that his doubt concerning Marmion’s suitability for profession was now “a certainty” and that he was taking “action concerning his work in the school and probably will be removing him entirely from school work at the end of the current year.”
The publication of the ‘Irish Catholic Bishops’ Advisory Committee on Child Sexual Abuse’s by Priests and Religious Report’ in January 1996 recommended that, “In all instances where it is known or suspected that a child has been, or is being, sexually abused by a priest or religious the matter should be reported to the civil authorities”.
However, the Jesuits did not heed the recommendation and report Marmion to the gardaí. Nor was he removed from priestly ministry or his role at St Vincent’s Private Hospital.
In 2001, a glowing obituary of Marmion was published in the Jesuit publication, The Clongownian.
The Marmion report admits the obituary is “misleading” and an “incomplete record of his life”.