Priest Assaulted Me inside Church, Woman Tells Court

By Liam Heylin
One in Four [Ireland]
February 22, 2006

A priest has gone on trial accused of indecently assaulting a woman who helped out in the church.

Canon Denis Forde, aged 73, pleaded not guilty to four charges on the indictment against him at Cork Circuit Criminal Court yesterday.

He denied that he indecently, or sexually, assaulted Mary Morgan in the sacristy of the Church of the Incarnation at Grange, Douglas, Cork, on four occasions almost 25 years ago.

His present address was given as The Presbytery, Dunmanway, Co Cork.

Ms Morgan was a little over 20 years of age at the time of the alleged assaults and she is 46 years old now.

Ms Morgan's mother, now deceased, used to work as sacristan in the church and Ms Morgan used to help her. She said she was always in the church when her mother was there.

She described four occasions when she said the indecent assaults occurred.

In one alleged incident she said that she was kissed by Canon Forde and she said her private parts were level with his.

"I could feel something hard. I thought it was the buckle of his belt at the time," Ms Morgan said.

She said he was rubbing himself off her and she did not know it at the time.

She described another alleged incident: "He put my arms around his neck. His hand went down inside my pants inside my knickers. It was the back of his hand. I remember.

"Then he went back to what he was doing and he'd say, did you see to the vigil lights or did you get the money in the box, as if nothing happened. It was always in the sacristy, always by the safe."

She said he would always go back to what he was doing and carry on as if nothing happened.

Prosecution barrister Marjorie Farrelly asked her: "While the events described by you were occurring what did you do?"

She replied: "I just stood there. I was afraid. You have no idea how I looked up to him. I began to depend on him to be there for us."

She recalled that her late mother used to confide in the defendant.

Ms Morgan said he was very good to the family. She recalled a time when she was helping out at the church and he gave her (the complainant) a present of a bottle of Tweed perfume.

The cross-examination of the witness by defence senior counsel John Edwards commenced yesterday afternoon and will continue today. The trial is being heard by Judge Sean O Donnabhain and a jury of three women and nine men.


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