Bishop declares he co operated fully in sex abuse case

By Alison O'Connor
Irish Times
February 29, 1996

THE investigation into allegations of child sex abuse by a Catholic priest in Monageer, Co Wexford, "was done by the book", Dr Comiskey claimed.

He said he had worked with the Garda and the health board during the investigation.

"I did not obstruct justice, I cooperated as completely as I could with the statutory authorities," he said.

Dr Comiskey confirmed that at no stage had he spoken to any of the girls who had been abused or their parents, and said he "regretted it absolutely".

At the time, Dr Comiskey advised the priest, Father Jim Grennan, to speak to a solicitor. He also referred him to a "very eminent" psychiatrist, who said, in a written report, that as far as he was concerned the priest was completely innocent.

The bishop confirmed that he was aware of the accusations at the time of the confirmation ceremony for the 11 year old girls who were allegedly abused by Father Grennan. Some parents walked out of the church in protest when they saw Bishop Comiskey arrive with Father Grennan behind him.

Dr Comiskey said he had sought legal advice on several occasions about the case involving Father Grennan, who died in 1994, and was told by his solicitor to await the outcome of the Garda investigation. Under no circumstances, his solicitor had advised, was he to get involved, "lest it be interpreted as some kind of cover up".

Dr Comiskey said his solicitor told him he was happy that "everything was being done by the book" and that the statutory bodies were involved in the investigation.

"I have no idea in the wide world, as God is my judge, why that investigation was stopped Dr Comiskey told the press conference. It was a mystery, he added.

Asked if he felt that he had any responsibility for the fact that no prosecution was brought, the bishop replied "If the gardai could not make the evidence stick, I don't know what I could do."

Dr Comiskey said that he had spoken to Chief Supt Jim Doyle about the case. "He asked me would I pastorally, more or less, without any threats, remove the priest for a period to allow the investigation to take place because emotions were running high. He certainly did not give me the impression they were going to lift him or arrest him.

If he attempted to remove the priest forcibly the priest could have appealed to canon law and the process would have taken a long time. Father Grennan had asked if he would be back in time for confirmation. Dr Comiskey said he was under the impression that the investigation would be completed by then.

The chief superintendent had told him they feared that the priest might take his own life so they kept watch on the house. Dr Comiskey then asked the priest if he would go away in accordance with the wishes of the Garda. The priest went to Spain with a friend for three weeks.

He denied that Father Grennan had left the parish on the instructions of the Garda, that the Garda had told the priest that if he did not leave he was going to face arrest and possible charges. "I was not aware of that and I believe it is inaccurate."

Dr Comiskey said that in May 1988, after the abuse was validated by the South Eastern Health Board, the board's director of community care had sought a meeting with the vicar general of the diocese of Ferns because the bishop was absent at the time.

The director of community care Dr Paddy Judge now retired, informed the vicar general that very serious charges were made against the parish priest of Monageer. He asked that the priest be removed. He said he had a programme of treatment for the priest already lined up. The vicar general said he would need to speak with the priest to hear his side of the story.

Afterwards Father Grennan had a meeting with Dr Judge, which Bishop Comiskey described as a "very, very, very stormy and angry meeting". Father Grennan said he had "not been heard".

Another vicar general in the diocese had been informed by the health board, which meant that at least three senior priests knew before Bishop Comiskey did of the allegations.

On his return to the diocese he was given the information by the vicar general. In the last week of May, Chief Supt Doyle visited the bishop and informed him that the investigation was under way.

"I know it has been claimed, in an extraordinary litany of things, that I obstructed justice that I assured the director of community care at the time that I would handle the case myself. That there was no need for Garda involvement. And that the director of community care said, `That's all right but you need to write a letter to the health board.' That I was supposed to have written him a letter. This is all complete fantasy which has, thank God, been verified by both the Garda Siochana and the director of community care," Dr Comiskey said.

He added that he had never in fact met that director of community care at any time in 1988. "This is certainly the most outrageous and hurtful part of all the allegations."



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