Galway priest given four year sentence for sexually abusing boy in school

Irish Times
May 21, 1996

A Galway priest who sexually abused a teenage boy in a boarding school because he felt "entitled to some pleasure in his life" has been jailed for four years by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Father Joseph Summerville was a friend of the boy's family and when they consulted him about their son's secondary schooling he advised them to send him to St Jarlath's College, Tuam, a boarding school where he was chaplain, Det Sgt Seamus Ryan told the court.

Judge Smith ruled that the media could name the defendant and the school in reporting the case. The application was made by prosecuting counsel, Ms Miriam Malone (with Mr Joseph Mathews SC), on behalf of the victim's family. The media had been restricted from giving this information at an earlier hearing.

Father Summerville (41), with addresses at the Parochial House, Cortoon, and Tuam, Co Galway, pleaded guilty to four sample charges out of a total of 15 listed against him. He admitted indecently assaulting the youth when he was aged 13/14 on dates between January 31st, 1988 and December 1st, 1989.

Det Sgt Ryan said that Father Summerville became an adviser to the boy and took a keen interest in his education and sporting activities. He expressed concern about the boy's hygiene and took him to his rooms in the college for baths. From January 1988 to 1989 he regularly undressed the boy and bathed him. He would fondle the boy's genitals and sometimes penetrate his anus with his finger.

After finishing school the victim went to a third level college outside London. In January 1995, when he was 21, he spoke to his mother and aunt and told them what the priest had done to him.

Det Sgt Ryan said that he approached Father Summerville in February 1995 in the parish he was then working in and put the allegations to him. The priest, replied "I won't deny anything.

The priest was "totally shattered" and, fearing for his sanity, gardai removed his legally held shotgun.

Father Summerville then contacted his bishop and told him about his sex offences. He was removed from his parish duties and went to live in a monastery.

Det Sgt Ryan said that before the sexual abuse started, the victim had been a bright, extroverted young man. However, once the abuse began, he became introverted and withdrawn. He had partly blamed himself for the abuse and it had taken years before he could bring himself to tell anyone about it

He blamed himself for not telling the priest to stop when the incidents first started. The abuse came to an end when he told the priest not to abuse him any more. The victim had since received counselling and was coming to terms with the fact that he was an adolescent victim of abuse and was not to blame.

Defence counsel, Mr Patrick MacEntee SC (with Mr Brian Murray), said that Father Summerville deeply regretted the hurt caused. He was undergoing counselling and accepted that he would have to fight his compulsion for young boys for the rest of his life. A programme had been organised by his superiors through which his recovery could be monitored as he continued to receive counselling. At the time of the offending, he had been working very hard in his parish.

A local farmer told the court that the parish church was packed each Sunday by people coming from far and wide to attend Father Summerville's services. The priest had organised a youth club, a golden years club for the elderly, a parish newsletter and a work scheme for young people.

Mr MacEntee said that all this had put his client under a lot of pressure. It was accepted that stress could be a contributory factor to abuse and Father Summerville had used this pressure as an excuse to persuade himself that he was entitled to "some pleasure in his life".



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