Priest Admits to Kissing and Embracing Woman

By Liam Heylin
One in Four [Ireland]
February 27, 2006

A retired priest who is standing trial on sex charges yesterday admitted that he had kissed and embraced the complainant once, but denied that there was any sexual element to it.

Canon Denis Forde, aged 73, of The Presbytery, Dunmanway, Co Cork, has pleaded not guilty to four indecent assault charges.

Mary Morgan who helped out in the sacristy of the Church of the Incarnation at Grange, Douglas, Cork, said she was sexually assaulted on four occasions by the priest when she was in her early twenties.

Forde told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that he was totally flabbergasted when gardai arrived at the church in Dunmanway in May 2002 as he was preparing for Mass and arrested him. The priest was then questioned in Clonakilty garda station about the sexual assault allegations, which date back to the early 1980s.

He said that he agreed during questioning that he might have had an erection on one occasion when he was kissing Ms Morgan.

However, he said in the witness box yesterday that he was flustered in the garda station because it was all so strange to him and that when he considered the matter a few days later: "I recall I was not sexually aroused, only minimally."

He added: "I thought we were great friends. It was what I would regard as a normal thing, a simple kiss, like you would do with your relative."

Defence senior counsel, John Edwards said the complainant had alleged that: "It progressed to you placing your hands inside her clothes."

Forde said: "I deny that completely. I never put my hands down inside her clothes. I said to Sergeant (Peter) Quinn, I did not know if my hands were under her clothes or not.

"That sounds suspicious. But what I was saying was when I put my hands around her waist I do not know if my hands were over or under clothes. I never touched her inappropriately.

"There was one occasion when I put my arms around her waist and kissed her one on the lips. There were a few other occasions when I gave her a kiss on the lips."

Marjorie Farrelly, prosecution barrister, asked what distinguished that kiss from other kisses he mentioned.

"That I put my arms around her and embraced her, held her close. But it was not a long drawn out kiss with sticking my tongue in her throat or anything like that.

"A peck is a momentary contact. A kiss takes a bit longer," Forde said.

Ms Farrelly asked, "Do you dismiss it as absolutely noting?" He replied, "No, it is a gesture, an indication, a sign of friendship."

At the end of her evidence, Ms Morgan said she would not have made the complaint against the priest if her mother were alive today. She said she kept it to herself as her burden, even after the death of her mother in 2000, but she became ill and felt she had to talk about it.

"I would have taken this to my grave only I got sick," Ms Morgan said yesterday.

It is expected that the jury of nine men and three women will retire to consider their verdict in the case today.

The defendant told the court he had served as a priest in Farranferris diocesan seminary, Skibbereen, Ballinhassig, Farranree, Glounthaune, Grange, the North Cathedral and Dunmanway and is now retired.

Liam Heylin, Irish Examiner


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