I am the victim, says priest at centre of abuse claim
A PRIEST at the centre of the Cloyne Report will attempt to paint himself as a victim as he fights to stay in the priesthood, the Irish Independent has learned.
The cleric, known as Fr Ronat, was the subject of 11 separate child sex abuse allegations, and was questioned over his interest in hypnosis.
The complaints included claims of inappropriate contact and sexual intercourse.
But now he is set to question those claims, becoming the first priest to challenge allegations published in last year's Cloyne Report.
This paper understands Fr Ronat will go before an internal church investigation and insist he be allowed to remain a priest.
He insists "a deliberate vendetta" has been waged against him, and is questioning the motives and actions of some of those who made complaints.
It is a move that will dismay the victims, several of whom have signalled that they will participate in the investigation.
The elderly priest has been banned from saying Mass publicly or wearing the collar for a decade but has never been convicted of any offence.
Confidential correspondence reveals that he plans to fight any attempt to defrock him.
If the canonical trial, due to take place in the near future, finds Fr Ronat guilty of inappropriate actions he could be dismissed from the priesthood.
Documents seen by the Irish Independent outline the defence Fr Ronat is likely to put up at any canonical tribunal:
He is to claim that:
• One complainant harassed him to the point where he contacted gardai for protection;
• He received "vulgar and distressing" contacts including texts and phone calls;
• Significant contradictions were offered in accounts by the complainants to the media and various inquiries;
• Three different ages were given for one complainant when she was alleged to have called to his home;
• The Director of Public Prosecutions ruled that, in relation to two complainants, "there was no evidence of criminal/sexual behaviour";
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.
Complaints against a total of 19 clerics were examined as part of the Cloyne Report but its largest section was devoted to abuse allegations lodged against Fr Ronat.