Irish Bishop Was Forced to Quit by Vatican

By Nicola Byrne
The Observer
January 26, 2003

Brendan Comiskey, the former Bishop of Ferns, did not choose to resign last April but was forced out of his job by the Vatican.
The revelation is contained in a follow-up to the BBC documentary Suing the Pope, which precipitated one of the biggest ever crises in the Catholic Church in Ireland when it was screened last March.

The programme documented - in graphic detail - the abuse of several boys by Father Sean Fortune in Co Wexford in the 1980s, and told of the alleged cover-up of that abuse by the Catholic Church's hierarchy, including Comiskey.

Immediately after it was broadcast, the 66-year-old bishop disappeared from the public eye, prompting speculation that he had fled the country. But after 10 days he reappeared and on Easter Monday last year announced his resignation at a press conference in Wexford.

After apologising to the four men whose stories were included in the programme, he said: 'The sexual abuse of children is deeply abhorrent to me. My continuation in office could be an obstacle to healing. For this reason, I have decided to tender my resignation to Pope John Paul II.'

At the time he denied that any of his superiors had attempted to influence his decision. However, an episode of BBC2's Correspondent series, which will be shown on Wednesday night, presents a letter which shows Comiskey was told to go for 'behaviour unbecoming of a bishop'.

Father Tom Doyle, a former Vatican ambassador, says the decision to push Comiskey to go was taken, not because of the revelations of child abuse, but due to a 'fear of bad publicity'.

'I would venture to say that he went, not because children were hurt. The Vatican already knew that ... and it was not enough to get him fired. He went because the Catholic Church fears bad publicity.'

A spokesperson for the Church said yesterday that he knew nothing about the allegation.

'All I know is that Brendan Comiskey resigned, I don't know the intricacies,' he said.

It has also emerged that the four men who blew the whistle on the Church's role in the Father Fortune affair, including Irish Person of the Year for 2002 Colm O'Gorman, were subjected to a barrage of hate mail and abusive phone calls in the following months.

Last April Comiskey, who is now believed to be training as a counsellor in the United States, said that he would write to each of Father Fortune's victims to explain his part in the affair. So far, he has failed to do so.

A former associate of Comiskey's in his Wexford diocese said yesterday: 'He's very bitter about what happened and feels he was made a scapegoat.

'He gave over 40 years to the Church and he feels his contribution hasn't been acknowledged.'

Father Fortune committed suicide in 1999, a week after being charged with 29 counts of child abuse.

Colm O'Gorman, Donnacha Mac Gloinn and Pat Jackman are still pursuing legal actions against the Pope and Brendan Comiskey.




Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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