Ireland Residents Learn of Priest's Past

By Shawn Pogatchnik
Associated Press, carried in Mercury News [Ireland]
May 12, 2005

THURLES, Ireland - A pedophile priest who served seven years in a California prison - and whose actions continue to haunt both victims and Roman Catholic leaders in America - lives quietly in this laid-back Irish town where residents are just becoming aware of his past.

Oliver O'Grady, 59, was removed from the priesthood and deported to Ireland in 2001 after completing his prison time for sexually abusing two boys, among more than 20 children he admits molesting during a 30-year career in the United States.

His case - one of many for the church in the United States and Ireland - has received continued attention for two reasons: He was once supervised by Cardinal Roger Mahony, now the archbishop of Los Angeles and, this week, a disturbing videotaped deposition surfaced in which O'Grady detailed how he would prey on children.

"'Come here, I want to give you a hug,'" he said at one point, demonstrating how he would approach a victim. "'You are a sweetheart, you know that. You are very special to me. I like you a lot.' She might respond, 'I like you, too.' That would allow me to give a better hug."

O'Grady was questioned in Ireland in March for a pending civil suit brought by an alleged sex abuse victim against the Stockton Diocese in California, claiming it failed to protect children from a known abuser.

Since 2003 he's been living in this Tipperary town by the River Suir, once one of Ireland's leading centers for exporting priests worldwide. The approximately 8,000 residents of Thurles found out more about their neighbor Thursday when The Irish Times, Ireland's newspaper of record, picked up American news reports about the deposition.

"It does take you aback to find out who he is and the fact he's here," said the mayor of Thurles, John Kenehan, who didn't know O'Grady was living here.

The national police force, the Garda Siochana, keeps an internal record of sex offenders, but it's not made public. That's not usually a problem in rural Ireland, where most people know about each others' business.

On Thursday, O'Grady wasn't at his rented two-story, pebble-dashed home on the outskirts of Thurles beside a funeral home. Neighbors said he'd gone to Dublin to evade likely attention because of the California deposition.

At the hotel across the street, staff and patrons described O'Grady as a short, balding, apparently lonely man.

"Of course people around the area know who he is, but just to see him going for walks. He keeps to himself. He doesn't come into the hotel," said an assistant manager named Theresa, who didn't want to give her last name.

In the deposition, O'Grady went into extensive detail about his years of abusing children at various churches in Northern California and the abuse he claims he suffered as a child.

O'Grady said he was molested by two priests and his own brother when he was a child, and admitted molesting his younger sister. He said he preferred girls and boys between 8 and 10 years old, who were slim-built, friendly, affectionate and playful, not those who were "forward and aggressive."

The O'Grady case has shadowed Mahony's career.

In the 1980s, Mahony, then bishop of Stockton, transferred O'Grady to a rural parish.

O'Grady admitted in a therapy session to having "contact of a sexual nature" with a 9-year-old child and "other past behaviors of a similar nature," according to a police report.

But Mahony said police found no evidence of molestation by O'Grady, and that a psychologist signed off on sending O'Grady to the parish.

Two of O'Grady's alleged victims later claimed the molestation continued after the transfer.

In 2002, a humbled and embattled Mahony appeared at his boyhood parish in Hollywood and asked forgiveness for "not taking swifter action" to remove molester priests from the ministry.

In Thurles, Mayor Kenehan said he talked regularly to police about traffic problems, local drug use and other youth crime - but never about pedophiles.

"We've 70 guards (police) in the town. But is he required to report to them? I'll have to ask," he said. "I'll certainly be following this up, because as parents and as a community, we need to know he's being monitored properly."