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Saturday 16 December 2017

Priest at centre of Cloyne 'to sue' over text abuse

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

THE cleric at the centre of the Cloyne Report's largest chapter has threatened to sue several people who he says have levelled abuse claims against him.

The cleric -- only known by the pseudonym 'Fr Ronat' -- has contacted gardai and has now threatened to take civil action over what he complained was a two-year campaign of personal abuse.

But one alleged victim has challenged the priest with the warning: "See you in court".

The complainant -- speaking to the Irish Independent -- confirmed sending text messages to the priest, who was the focus of abuse complaints from 11 different youngsters, but has denied that these were threatening or intimidating in nature.

The complainant said one text was only sent because the cleric had been "smirking" at her in public.

Fr Ronat has vehemently denied all the abuse allegations -- and claimed he has been the target of deliberate harassment.

He has never been convicted of a sexual offence.

But he now faces a church-ordered canonical tribunal, which has the power to defrock him or dismiss him from the priesthood. He has been forbidden from saying Mass in public for almost a decade -- and is not allowed by the church to wear priest's clothing.

Gardai have now contacted a number of individuals in relation to the telephone calls to the priest and urged those involved to desist. Some of the texts and phone calls were made to the elderly cleric in the early hours of the morning. He has also complained that "paedophile" was shouted at him in public.

Calls have also been made to members of his family who supported him.

"When the gardai traced the sources of the obnoxious texts and warned (those involved) to cease, the texting resumed immediately. This was the last straw for us and we decided something had to be done," a source close to Fr Ronat said.

"We intend to pursue it legally but that will take time. Meanwhile, he (Fr Ronat) is most anxious to get on with whatever little life is left. He doesn't want to cause any hurt to others -- only what is necessary to clear his name."

The Irish Independent has seen the texts, which include claims the cleric is: "a derelict soul", "evil", that he "faces Hell" and that "justice is coming".

Neither Fr Ronat nor any of the 11 people who levelled claims against him can be identified.

The Cloyne Report was compiled by Judge Yvonne Murphy after she was asked to formally probe how the sprawling Cork diocese handled clerical child abuse allegations between 1996 and 2009.

The probe was launched after Cloyne was rocked by the findings of the Church's National Board for the Safeguarding of Children (NBSC), which published a damning report in December 2008.

The NBSC report prompted then-Bishop Dr John Magee to step aside from diocesan duties in January 2009 and to resign in March 2010.

Complaints against a total of 19 clerics were examined as part of Judge Murphy's review but her report's largest section -- the 42-page chapter nine -- was devoted entirely to abuse complaints lodged against Fr Ronat.

The complaints included claims of inappropriate contact and sexual intercourse.

Chapter nine also revealed that Fr Ronat had an interest in hypnosis.

Irish Independent

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