Monday 18 December 2017

Predator still living in denial about the damage he caused

Connell faced strong church opposition in his efforts to have Walsh defrocked

Right up to the end, Tony Walsh, the defrocked, predatory priest who may have abused hundreds of children, remains in denial about the staggering scale of his paedophilia.

Just before he received a 16-year sentence for abusing three young boys, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that he denied ever abusing John**. John, now 38, was just seven when he met Walsh in 1978.

Walsh, newly ordained, had just been installed as a parish priest in Ballyfermot, Dublin.

For five years John was raped by Walsh, an Elvis impersonator in the Holy Show, an all-singing, all-dancing priest entertainment outfit.

On one occasion, Walsh tied John's wrists to his ankles in order to rape him over a table and turned up an Elvis recording to drown out his cries.

Walsh's conviction and sentence this month paved the way for the publication of Chapter 19, a key excerpt from the Murphy Report which had been redacted by court order to facilitate the new charges against him.

It is impossible to determine when Walsh's abuses began: he admitted to church officials that it began when he was 24 and a trainee priest.

But the Murphy Report has revealed that the church was first warned about his "osculate, amplexus and tactus modesti" -- kisses, embraces and shameless touching -- of children, just two days after he was appointed to Ballyfermot in July 1978.

The Dublin Archdiocese's awareness of Walsh's problem grew in tandem with its frequency and gravity, but the full dossier of complaints was not handed over to gardai until 1995, following his conviction for molesting a young boy at his grandfather's funeral.

Cardinal Desmond Connell, surprise appointee as archbishop in 1998, has been the lightning rod for much of the public's ire at the handling of paedophile priests.

The diocese, particularly Connell's predecessors, deserves much criticism over its handling of known and suspected paedophile priests, including Walsh, who was moved from Ballyfermot to avoid any further scandal in the parish.

Once moved Walsh, unforgivably, was free to abuse again.

But the Murphy Report also reveals the strong opposition Connell faced within the church.

He faced opposition by powerful canonists, from fellow bishops reluctant to involve the civil authorities and from Walsh himself who minimised the scale of his abuse, thwarted a diocesan contract designed to keep him away from children and challenged -- at every step -- Connell's efforts to have him defrocked.

Following the 2002 'Cardinal Secrets' programme on RTE, a dedicated "God squad" unit was set up within the gardai to deal with complaints against Walsh and other priests in the diocese.

Walsh, who has never accepted his dismissal, is now serving the biggest ever jail term meted out to a clerical sex abuser.

** Name has been changed to protect identity

Irish Independent

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