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Church trial for Father B

A CLOYNE priest, referred to as Father B, is to be put on trial behind closed doors by the Catholic Church for alleged child abuse.

The process of a trial behind closed doors is similar to a court trial, but, witnesses can only be invited to give evidence, rather than compelled.

It is understood the canonical hearing will take place in Cobh before the end of the month. It was reported in the media that the court is being established under the auspices of Dermot D Clifford, the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly.

The Corkman understands that files on the same priest have been sent to the Directer of Public Prosecution (DPP) though no charges have as yet been brought. The priest was re-interviewed by gardai in Mallow in recent months.

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The controversial Cloyne Report found that a complaint regarding Father B was sent to Bishop John Magee in 1995 alleging he had molested a school girl. The woman behind this claim has since died.

In September 1996, a woman expressed her concern about the relationship between her then 14-year-old son and Father B. She claimed she also had a sexual relationship with Father B, for about one year, which gave him frequent access to her house. In December 1997, a further complainant wrote to Bishop Magee alleging that Father B had sexually abused her during a young people's retreat. In November 2005, another woman claimed she was abused by Father B when she was 13-yearsold.

The Cloyne Report concluded the Diocese pursued a policy of giving "minimal information," to investigating Gardai concerning the allegations of assault. Since the publication of the Report in December, there has been fresh investigations against Father B by five new female complainants. To date, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has returned three of those investigation files with the instructions that no charges are to be brought. A decision on the two remaining files has yet to be made public by the DPP.

Father B has been on "restricted ministry," for over a decade, but he continues to officiate at weddings and funeral masses. The priest will be represented at the closed door trial by an advocate qualified in canon law, and the court will consist of two clerical canon lawyers and a woman notary. Father B has continued to protest his innocence in privacy.

The complainants — who allege he sexually abused them using alcohol and hypnosis when they were school children, including one who alleged she was raped while she was a postulant nun — have been invited to give evidence. If the trial behind closed doors finds Father B answerable to the allegations, then he is likely to be defrocked.

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