Sex Shame of Priest

By Brenda Hickman
Evening Chronicle
November 22, 2007

SHAMEFUL sex sins caught up with a former Tyneside priest who molested altar boys.

Father John Benedict Corrigan is facing jail 40 years after abusing youngsters.

The 71-year-old clergyman, who is retired, dodged justice while his victims kept silent.

But after years of negotiations, Fr Corrigan was extradited from Ireland to face Newcastle Crown Court.

After abusing his position, the pensioner priest admitted seven counts of indecent assault between 1967 and 1972. The boys were aged between eight and 13.

They suppressed their secret nightmare, but one victim made a statement to police and inquiries led to others giving accounts of the abuse.

He abused one boy aged between 12 and 13, another aged eight and a third between 10 and 11, the court heard.

Northumbria Public Protection Unit (PPU) officers, together with the Catholic Church's area safeguarding co-ordinator Fr Dennis Tindall, have helped give the victims their justice.

Two officers from the unit escorted Corrigan from Ireland on October 24 after a hearing in Dublin.

An initial hearing to extradite him failed, but after an appeal another court ruled he should be taken back to the North East.

Silver-haired and wearing a grey sweater, he sat in the dock after pleading guilty to the sex crimes.

Although Judge David Hodson adjourned for reports, he told Corrigan: "All sentencing options will be open to the court."

Corrigan, who quietly answered 'guilty Ma'am' as the clerk read out each charge, was further remanded on conditional bail.

Known as Fr Ben, Corrigan worked in parishes across Tyneside and County Durham.

He was assistant priest at St Robert of Newminster, Fenham, Newcastle, and parish priest at St Wilfred's, Gateshead. He also worked in America and carried on his priesthood at St Cuthbert's, New Seaham, Co Durham.

He moved to Galway and retired in 1994.

Fr Tindall said: "It is a cause of great regret that a priest should appear in court to respond to allegations of harming children.

"We always work closely with police to ensure the safety of children.

"The Diocese continues to give support to those who have been harmed."

"Church communities should be places where everyone can feel safe.

"Harming children is the very opposite of the Church's message and is never acceptable."

Det Insp Shaun Tumelty, head of the PPU unit involved in the case, said: "We have worked with the Catholic Church for a number of years, carrying out reviews.

"Officers have worked to bring a successful conclusion to the inquiry on behalf of the victims."

Corrigan was ordered to register as a sex offender. The length of time he must remain registered will be fixed when he is finally sentenced on December 17.

Attacks ruined my life

A VICTIM of the depraved Fr Corrigan told how his abuser found his number and rang him to try and get him to drop the charges.

Speaking exclusively to the Chronicle, he said he was disgusted. "At that time in the 70s, the Catholic church swept this sort of abuse under the carpet.

"I was too scared to tell my mother about what happened I don't think people believed then that priests could do this sort of thing. He groomed me through the family links. The abuse I suffered left me an emotional wreck. I suppressed my feelings and it took its toll.

"I lost a well-paid job, my partner suffered, we lost our home and got into financial difficulties. I hope they lock him up and throw away the key," he said.


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