Priests 'need legal support to fight false sex claims'
THE Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland has hit out at the lack of financial and legal support for priests falsely accused of child sexual abuse.
A spokesman for the association, which represents more than 1,000 Irish priests, told the Irish Independent that the ACP was aware of at least a dozen priests against whom false allegations had been made in the past few years.
Fr Tony Flannery said there were now sufficient numbers of false allegations to "cause concern" and that the ACP had been directly involved in three recent cases where priests were cleared of wrongdoing.
These relate to Kerry priest Fr Liam O'Brien, Louth priest Fr Oliver Brennan and missionary priest Fr Kevin Reynolds (pictured), who was falsely accused by RTE's 'Prime Time Investigates' in 2011.
The ACP spokesman said one of the difficulties facing priests when an allegation was made was that the only way to clear his name was by legal recourse.
"Most priests don't have the financial resources needed to defend themselves and in a great many cases, the church authorities are not willing to supply them with the money."
However, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin recently told the Irish Independent that the archdiocese of Dublin provides priests against whom an accusation is made with financial, legal and pastoral support as well as housing.
Responding to the Archbishop , Fr Flannery said the level of financial support available varied from diocese to diocese. "In some cases, a certain amount of legal advice is funded, but if it comes to taking a case – in other words, 'big money' – I am not aware of any diocese willing to give that sort of money," he said.