Irish priest in Argentine sex abuse scandal

The Times (UK)

Eithne Shortall
August 27 2017
The Sunday Times

An Irish priest is at the centre of a sexual abuse scandal engulfing Latin America. Finnlugh Mac Conastair, who died in 1997, has been accused of abusing a 12-year-old boy at a prestigious school in Argentina.

Two other Irishmen are reported to have known of the abuse. The allegations are making headlines across South America and have been reported by English-language news outlets elsewhere.

The claimed abuse happened at the Cardinal Newman school in Buenos Aires, an institution popular with Argentina’s elite and the alma mater of the Argentinian president Mauricio Macri. The school was founded by Irish Christian Brothers in 1948 and the abuse is said to have happened during the late 1970s.

The allegations were made by Rufino Varela, a former student at the school, who said that Finnlugh Mac Conastair, a Passionist priest, removed his trousers, beat him and fondled him. The priest told him what had happened should be kept a secret between themselves and God. Other students have now come forward to say they too were abused by Mac Conastair.

John Burke, an Irish Christian Brother, was in charge of the school the time of the allegations. Burke, currently the Christian Brother co-ordinator for safeguarding children, was not contactable by The Sunday Times this weekend.

However, Burke told the Associated Press earlier this month that he learnt of the abuse in 1980 but the victim’s identity was not revealed to him at the time. Burke said he sought legal advice from a lawyer, who happened to be Varela’s father, and immediately removed Mac Conastair from his post.

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