Exposed: Appalling Horror of Ferns Abuse

By Brian Dowling, David Quinn and Gene McKenna
Irish Independent [Ireland]
October 26, 2005

THE FULL horror of brutal clerical child abuse in the diocese of Ferns finally emerged last night.

The shattering probe into the activities of pervert priests shows that the church lied, deceived, and covered up to protect them.

Former Supreme Court Judge Frank Murphy's damning report which uncovered a systematic and shocking catalogue of abuse is now being sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

More than 100 allegations of child sexual abuse were made against 21 priests in the diocese.

Two bishops were also strongly criticised for their the handling of these allegations.

The 271-page report graphically details repeated sexual abuse of boys and girls.

It reveals that serial abuser, Fr Sean Fortune, left a suicide note claiming that he had been abused by Bishop Brendan Comiskey.

The note was then destroyed by another priest because he believed it was an attempt to discredit Bishop Comiskey.

Last night Bishop Comiskey appealed for "forgiveness". The inquiry delivered a damning verdict that found him negligent.

It also emerged last night that a report was sent to the Vatican about an allegation of "inappropriate behaviour" made against Bishop Comiskey by a woman.

The allegation came to the attention of the South Eastern Health Board in the course of another investigation in 1990.

The claim was made by the parents of the girl who was over 16 years at the time.

The Ferns inquiry said the report to the Holy See concluded an offence had not been committed, but the fact that under the "influence of alcohol," Bishop Comiskey was alleged to have acted in such a manner, "was something that needed to be addressed."

Last night as the Diocese of Ferns was exposed as a haven for priests intent on abusing children the Primate of All-Ireland, Archbishop Sean Brady said the Church was ashamed of its failures to protect children.

He described the betrayal of trust by priests who abused children as "horrendous."

And it was confirmed that Bishop Eamon Walsh, Apostolic Administrator of Ferns, is also considering a day of atonement for the horrors of the past.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern promised Government action on the Report's recommendations adding: "It is a catalogue of serial abuse and gross dereliction of duty."

The allegations in the report covering the period 1966- 2005 range from single complaints against priests in the diocese to 26 allegations of abuse against one individual.

Of the 21 accused priests, 10 are now dead, three have been defrocked, seven are no longer on "normal duties," and another has retired.

However, just six of the priests who have already been convicted in the courts, or are deceased, are named in the report.

They are: Fr Sean Fortune, against whom 40 allegations of sex abuse are made, Fr Jim Grennan, Monsignor Micheal Ledwith, who was defrocked last month, Fr James Doyle, Fr Donal Collins, and Canon Martin Murphy

The identities of the rest - including one priest who is accused of carrying out a litany of appalling abuse against 10 women and young girls - are simply referred to by letters of the Greek alphabet.

Other shocking revelations include claims that:

* Fr Sean Fortune left a suicide note in which he claimed he was abused by Bishop Brendan Comiskey. The note was later found and destroyed by a priest Fr Gerald O'Leary, who thought the claims were a deliberate attempt to discredit the former Bishop of the Diocese.

* Serial abusers Fortune and Doyle were judged "unfit" for the priesthood by a Church psychiatrist, but Bishop Donal Herlihy went ahead and ordained them anyway.

* Fortune organised beach parties in Paulfour for youngsters where he provided them with drugs, alcohol and condoms.

* Former principle of St Peter's College, Fr Donal Collins, consistently abused boys over a 21 year period.

* The Vatican was aware of the allegations of abuse in the diocese, but failed to act on the information.

* Gardai also failed to act on allegations made by children in Monageer, where Fr Jim Grennan sexually abused 10 girls on the altar.

A further five cases came to light after August 31 last, but it was decided by the inquirythat to fully examine them would have led to an unacceptable delay.

Victim's spokesman Colm O'Gorman last night warned that unless there were changes in the law the abuse which happened in Ferns could very easily happen again.


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