independent

Thursday 15 November 2018

Priest swam nude with boys

CHURCH CONSPIRED TO MOVE FR MCNAMEE ON AND HIDE HIM AWAY

John MANNING

THE first accusations of the sexual abuse of young boys by Fr James Mc Namee date back to 1960 and for the next 40 years his church conspired to move him on and hide him away rather making him answer for his abuses. The first complaint in 1960 centred around 'inappropriate behaviour' with two boys from Stella Marris football club. The allegations were investigated by the church with both Bishop Dunne and Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, accepting the priests explanation of events after he said he 'merely permitted the boys to use the showers after returning from the seaside'.

Archbishop McQuaid was convinced of the priest's innocence and told him to 'forget about' the incident, according to the Murphy Report on clerical abuses in Dublin.

Subsequently there were a number of complaints from members of the Stella Maris football club who recalled Fr McNamee 'swimming nude with other team members'.

That was a theme of the priest's abuses that surfaced again when he was serving in Crumlin in the 1970s. The report details 21 complaints against Fr McNamee during this time, mostly relating to abuses in a swimming pool at the priest's home in the parish. Archbishop Dermot Ryan was in power at the time and directed Monsignor O'Regan to conduct an inquiry into the allegations that Fr McNamee was swimming nude with young boys at his home. Monsignor O'Regan, despite finding 'credible' evidence that the allegations were true, refused McNamee's offer to resign and asked him to stay on at the parish a further six months ' in order to avoid any further damage to his reputation', the report details. Fr McNamee admitted to the monsignor at that time that nude bathing did 'occasionally occur' at his swimming pool but said he did not see anything morally wrong with this.

Fr McNamee was still serving in the parish in 1979 when Archbishop Ryan came to town for confirmations. When a local priest made known his increasing concerns over McNamee's behaviour, the archbishop told him to 'leave the matter rest', according to the report. In June of that year, he resigned from the parish and was moved on to Delgany in County Wicklow where he was appointed chaplain to a Carmelite Monastery.

The Carmelites were told the transfer was 'for health reasons' and were not told of the clouds of suspicion over the priest's head. According to the report, the abuses continued in Wicklow, principally with altar boys who he would bring to swim at Brittas Bay. The report said the nuns knew nothing of the allegations against him and the archdiocese failed to monitor his behaviour, allowing abuses to continue. In 1994, after fresh allegations of abuses in Wicklow, Archbishop Desmond Connell initiated an investigation and sent Bishop Donal Murray to interview McNamee.

But again, the bishop accepted the priest's denials that he was now driving young boys around his Wicklow parish and abusing them. During these enquiries, the nuns were still not informed of any previous allegations against the priest. Fr McNamee ended his days in a nursing home in Meath and died in 2002. In the same year, allegations of a catalogue of abuses by the priest began to emerge in the media. Archbishops McQuaid, Murray and Connell were all criticised for their role in the affair. The report the archdiocese should have 'acted immediately' on the information before it and that the nuns in the Carmelite monastery in Wicklow should have been informed of the history of allegations against Fr McNamee.

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