Friday 22 March 2019

Irish priest says he was pushed out of US parish for reporting abuse by cleric

Fr John Gallagher: Reported abuse to police
Fr John Gallagher: Reported abuse to police

Sarah Mac Donald

An Irish priest who claims he was pushed out of his US parish because he refused to cover up for another priest's sexually inappropriate behaviour with an under-age boy is taking his case to the US Supreme Court.

Fr John Gallagher (51), from Co Tyrone, alleges that Bishop Gerald Barbarito and the Diocese of Palm Beach ruined his reputation and career as a priest because he reported the sexual misconduct of another cleric, Joseph Palimattom, who had come to serve in his parish, the Holy Name of Jesus, in December 2014.

The Indian priest showed child abuse images to a 14-year-old parishioner, who complained about the cleric's actions in January 2015.

Police believe Palimattom was grooming the teenager. The priest was later convicted of showing obscene material to a minor and served a six-month sentence. He was then deported to India.

Church officials in India did not tell Fr Gallagher that Palimattom had been previously accused of sexually abusing children in his home country.

Fr Gallagher claims he was "frozen out" for being a whistle-blower by the diocese and for passing information on the paedophile priest to the police in Florida.

He alleges he was placed on medical leave by the diocese, the locks on his parochial home were changed and his belongings moved while he was in hospital.

He also claims that when he contacted the diocese to report the abuse incident the morning after it had been reported to him, the diocesan official told him, "We've dealt with this before, we normally put them on a plane and send them back."

When he told the official he was co-operating with the sheriff he was told: "Well, you don't have to give them all the information."

The Diocese of Palm Beach has rejected his claims in the past.

Fr Gallagher told the Irish Independent that while there have been other priests who have been whistle-blowers, "to my understanding I am the first to bring a case of this nature to the US Supreme Court."

Investigating police in Palm Beach have written letters of support for the Irish priest to Cardinal O'Malley but so far, they have had no response.

Irish Independent

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