One in Four Defends Killaloe Bishop

By Patsy McGarry
One in Four [Ireland]
January 6, 2007

Bishop of Killaloe Dr Willie Walsh has been defended in his handling of clerical child sex abuse issues by the director of the victim support group, One in Four.

Colm O'Gorman said yesterday: "Our experience of Bishop Walsh is that he has shown tremendous courage in how he has approached these issues in the past."

He added: "In 2002 he became the first bishop to publicly acknowledge that bishops had placed the protection of the institution of the church ahead of the protection of children.

"In any case of which we have knowledge involving a priest from the diocese of Killaloe, Bishop Walsh has behaved with considerable compassion and honesty."

He noted that, where confidentiality was concerned, Dr Walsh had acted in 1995 "way beyond [ the practice of] any bishops" at the time. However, Mr O'Gorman said of the bishop's conversation with Fr Con Desmond in 1995 that "undoubtedly, he didn't handle it as he might have".

Fr Gerard Kenny, Killaloe diocesan spokesman, said yesterday that Dr Walsh would concur with Mr O'Gorman's criticism.

Fr Desmond (71) received a three-year suspended sentence on pleading guilty to six counts of abuse at the Circuit Court in Waterford on December 20th last. A former De La Salle brother, he was principal at the De La Salle national school in Waterford, where he assaulted a boy between January 1st, 1982, and June 24th, 1983.

In 1984 Fr Desmond went to Maynooth to become a priest. He served in Killaloe diocese as parish priest of Kilmaley before moving to Knockerra. In December 2002 he was arrested on the abuse charges.

In 1995 Fr Desmond went to see Dr Walsh to express concern about the general climate where clerical child sex abuse was concerned and began to refer to an incident at the Waterford school.

Dr Walsh told him that should he speak of incidents of abuse, either involving himself or cases he had heard of, then he could not regard their conversation as confidential and would report it to relevant civil authorities. That "ended the conversation", Dr Walsh recalled this week.

But he remained "bothered about it" and advised Fr Desmond to see a psychiatrist at the Granada Institute in Dublin, which treats victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse. Fr Desmond did so and the psychiatrist later told Dr Walsh the priest was not a risk to children.

Dr Walsh recalled this week that there had been no complaint against Fr Desmond at the time and no report of any complaint, and he was further reassured by the psychiatrist's observations. "I felt, in natural justice, he should be left in his position."

Fr Desmond remained in ministry until his removal in December 2002 following his arrest on the Waterford assault charges. "I can definitely say I had no information whatsoever [ concerning Fr Desmond's abuse] before or after his ordination, until I received the complaints from the gardaí," Dr Walsh said this week. "I suppose ... if it came to light now, I probably would have acted differently."


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