Defrocked priest jailed in 1998 for child sex abuse dies
By Patsy McGarry
April 10, 2010
Donal Collins, who was dismissed from the priesthood in 2004 after serving a jail sentence for child sex abuse, has died.
A former principal of St Peter’s College in Wexford, he was found dead yesterday at his home in Curracloe. He was in his late 70s.
He was one of the 21 priests investigated by the Ferns Inquiry, which published its report in 2005.The inquiry covered the handling of allegations of clerical child sex abuse in the diocese between 1962 and 2005.
In 1966, diocesan authorities received a complaint of abuse against Collins, then teaching at St Peter’s College Wexford.
The complaint was dealt with by the then Bishop Donal Herlihy as a moral lapse and Collins continued on the school staff. In 1988 he was appointed principal of St Peter’s by Bishop Brendan Comiskey, who had not been informed of Collins’s history.
The Ferns report refers to his abuse of at least 14 pupils in St Peter’s between the mid-1960s and early 1990s. In 1993 he broadly admitted abuse of boys over a 20-year period. In 1998 he was sentenced to four years in prison and served one year.
In 2004 he was dismissed from the priesthood at the direction of Pope Benedict, who was then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and on an application by the then Ferns Apostolic administrator, Bishop Éamonn Walsh.
Collins’s body was removed to Wexford General Hospital, where a postmortem will take place. He had a heart condition.
A spokesman for Ferns diocese said last night it was “mindful of the family of Donal Collins at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are also with those who were affected by his actions in the past”.
He continued: “The diocese has asked that the funeral be conducted with appropriate simplicity and sensitivity to all concerned” but was “not aware” of proposed funeral arrangements.
Altogether, the Ferns inquiry dealt with the handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations against 26 priests but, as five of the cases were not discovered in diocesan archives until the summer of 2005, there was not sufficient time to investigate them fully. They were attached as an appendix to the Ferns report, published in October of that year.
The additional five cases came to light when a woman made a complaint to the One in Four group about a priest not then on the Ferns inquiry team’s list. It led to a trawl of the diocesan archives, which uncovered five cases which had not been passed on by diocesan authorities to the Ferns Inquiry.
The documentary Vows of Silence will be broadcast on RTÉ 1 television at 10.25pm tomorrow night. It looks at how the Vatican dealt with child sex abuse allegations against Fr Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaires of Christ. The programme traces Maciel’s rise to influence at the Vatican, including his friendships with Pope John Paul and the then Vatican secretary of state, cardinal Angelo Sedano.