Abuse Accused Priests 'Cannot Minister'

By John Cooney
Irish Independent
February 14, 2006

CHILD abuse campaigner Colm O'Gorman last night criticised calls for priests accused of sexual abuse to be allowed to continue in parish work.

At the Galway novena run by the Redemptorist Order, co-ordinator Fr Tony Flannery had questioned the new requirement in the Catholic Church of removing from pastoral duties every priest against whom an allegation of having abused children was made.

Fr Flannery, author of a number of best-selling books, contended the denial of a priest's legal right of being innocent before being proven guilty was at risk under the procedures.

He argued that if the charge proved to be unfounded, a priest's good name would nevertheless be severely damaged.

"Historic" allegations regarding events several decades ago should not mean an accused priest could not continue in ministry, he said, provided he posed no risk to children.

Taking issue last night with Fr Flannery, Mr O'Gorman, director of the One in Four charity which champions the rights of the abused, warned that "no one can determine that 'no risk' exists in such cases".

He questioned Fr Flannery's assertion that an allegation of an "historic" abuse by a cleric meant a lesser current risk to children than a claim regarding more recent abuse.

"Where a credible allegation has been made there is automatically a risk to children. This threat can only be deemed to be of low, medium or high risk following assessment and investigation," Mr O'Gorman said.

Fr John Littlejohn, president of the Conference of Priests, agreed the pendulum has swung from not facing charges - as previously the case - to instant implementation of cautionary procedures, but did not back Fr Flannery entirely.

He agreed it was "quite inappropriate" that priests be removed automatically from ministry. Protection of children was paramount, but a removal of a priest without a full probe could be wrong in principle.

Mr O'Gorman accepted allegations should be probed sensitively before a priest's public removal.


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