independent

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Priest was abused as St Peter's seminarian

SUPERIORS 'SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN IN CHARGE OF PIGS, NEVER MIND STUDENTS', COURT TOLD

CONOR CULLEN

A PRIEST who was sexually assaulted by another cleric at the seminary in St Peter's College has said that superiors there 'should not have been in charge of pigs, never mind students'.

Fr Patrick Mccafferty was giving evidence during the trial of paedophile and former priest James Martin Donaghy (53), of Lady Wallace Drive, Lisburn, who was convicted of 23 out of 26 charges he faced, including indecent assault and attempted buggery, at Belfast Crown Court.

The jury acquitted Donaghy of common assault and told Judge Patrick Lynch QC they would not be able to reach verdicts on two remaining charges of indecent assault and attempted buggery.

The three victims were Fr Mccafferty, former altar boy James Doherty and a former trainee priest who cannot be named. Donaghy had denied sexually abusing his three victims on dates between June 1983 and December 2000.

The jury's verdicts came at the end of an almost five-week hearing where they heard 'difficult and distasteful evidence'. This included Fr Mccafferty's account of the abuse he suffered at St Peter's College in Wexford.

During the trial Fr Mccafferty – to whom three of the charges of indecent assault related – said there was no one he could turn to about the alleged abuse.

Under cross examination at Belfast Crown Court, Fr Mccafferty said he was twice abused while a student at the seminary in St Peter's College.

He called it a 'dysfunctional place' and said the superiors at the seminary 'should not have been in charge of pigs, never mind students'.

'I couldn't talk to them, I couldn't. It was a dysfunctional place that produced terrible predators who are known in the public domain... there was nobody that I could talk to,' said Fr Mccafferty.

Fr Mccafferty described to the jury how he became friends with Donaghy while at the seminary in Wexford but that the friendship became 'more sexualised', with the first alleged abuse taking place in one of the libraries after he had been chased by Donaghy.

He described Donaghy as 'very domineering' and said that he he wished he had been stronger mentally and physically at the time.

Fr Mccafferty told the court he could not have gone to his own diocese, Down and Connor, because: 'I knew I would be blamed, that I would be the one who would be kicked out'.

He also suffered abuse at the hands of Donaghy in his own family home in Lisburn the night before they went to Donegal on retreat.

Judge Lynch told the jury that before he proceeds to hand down the 'inevitable' jail term, reports would be compiled both on Donaghy and his three victims.

Despite suffering abuse at the seminary here, Fr Mccafferty, who is now based in Dublin, retains strong ties to Wexford and is a frequent visitor to Barntown, including in recent weeks, where his friend Fr John Carroll is curate.

'This verdict is a watershed moment. It comes after many years of trying to come to terms with the impact of his violent deeds against me,' said Fr Mccafferty in a statement.

'I thank those people – lay, religious and clerical – who helped me along this path towards justice and healing. Their friendship and support have been crucial.

'I also thank those members of the PSNI, the Northern Ireland Judiciary and the Victim Support Personnel, at Laganside Crown Court, who have, at all times throughout this ordeal, shown kindness, professionalism and understanding,' said Fr Mccafferty.

'Deep frustration and pain have been the over-riding features of my engagement – on these matters – with authorities in the diocese of Down and Connor over the past 10 years, when I first raised these issues with them. Today's verdict validates my concerns,' he said.

'I ask the diocese to now present itself – as priority – for audit by the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church.

'In conclusion, with the many good and decent people and priests, who make up our Church and, indeed, with all people of goodwill, I am very mindful, at this time, of St Paul's words: "Love rejoices not in wrongdoing but only in the truth".'

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