Sunday 25 March 2018

Vatican wanted 'Fr Filth' to serve monastery sentence

Convicted paedophile and former priest Tony Walsh. Photo: Courtpix
Convicted paedophile and former priest Tony Walsh. Photo: Courtpix

The Vatican wanted a dangerous paedophile priest to serve 10 years in a monastery rather than force him out of the Catholic Church, an inquiry revealed today.

Irish clerics wanted to dismiss Tony Walsh - jailed for 16 years last week on 17 counts of child abuse - but Rome urged that he be allowed to remain in the clergy.

Nicknamed Fr Filth, he attacked a young boy in the toilet of a pub in Dublin in May 1994 after attending the funeral of his victim's grandfather as the Catholic hierarchy in Rome debated how he should be dealt with.

Pope John Paul II dismissed Walsh in 1996 after a direct appeal for action by Cardinal Desmond Connell.

A previously censored chapter of a report by the Commission of Investigation into the Dublin Archdiocese, the Murphy Report, was released today.

It described the defrocked priest as probably the most notorious child sexual abuser to have come to its attention, and who was likely to have assaulted hundreds of children.

Dublin-based clerics investigated Walsh in the early 1990s and asked Rome to laicise him in 1993. Walsh appealed in October 1993 and the Vatican called for the penalty to be reduced in June 1994.

The Pope was asked to intervene after the attack on the boy in a pub.

The Commission stated: "This option of dismissing a priest directly by the Pope is reserved for grave and clear cases and is regarded as an extraordinary remedy, even when the normal penal process is inadequate."

Forty people complained of being abused by Walsh and he admitted to "using children for sexual gratification" once a fortnight over an eight-year period.

The report stated that Archbishop Dermot Ryan, head of the Archdiocese from 1972-1984, failed to properly investigate complaints against several priests including Walsh.

The Commission hit out at Rome's handling of the case - listed in the report under the randomly selected but seemingly inappropriate pseudonym Fr Jovito.

"The handling of that appeal in Rome was unsatisfactory," it said.

"The fact that the original decision of dismissal was replaced with a sentence that would have confined Fr Jovito to a monastery for 10 years suggests that after the 10-year period, Fr Jovito might have been entitled to resume his clerical ministry.

"The whole process was unduly cumbersome and at one stage it was suggested to the Archbishop that he should start all over again and initiate a new canonical process."

The report went on to say that a major factor in Rome's decision to push for monastery service appears to have been an inability to charge him by reason of paedophilia.

Walsh was posted to Ballyfermot Parish in west Dublin in 1978.

Two days after he arrived he was accused of a sex attack on a young boy.

Press Association

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News