Priest Given 18-month Suspended Sentence

By Barry Roche
Irish Times
November 13, 2010

A 74-YEAR-OLD priest in the Diocese of Cloyne breached not just the State laws but his own religious beliefs when he committed acts of gross indecency while hearing confession, a judge declared yesterday as he imposed an 18-month suspended sentence.

Fr Brendan Wrixon, with an address in Newmarket in Co Cork, pleaded guilty yesterday at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to committing gross indecency with a 16-year-old teenage boy at the Convent of Mercy, Bathview, Mallow, between October 16th, 1982, and February 15th, 1983.

Imposing sentence, Judge Sean O Donnabhain said that Wrixon was guilty of a gross breach of trust and had not only “violated the law of the country but also your own religious laws and whatever tenets you believed in as a priest”.

Det Garda Colman Murphy told the court that gardai received a complaint from the now middle-aged injured party in 2005 and twice interviewed Wrixon in relation to the allegations that he had engaged in sexual acts with the complainant when he was aged just 16.

The complainant told gardai that he was attending a Diocese of Cloyne workshop at the Convent of Mercy in Mallow and went to confession to Wrixon in a private room and that Wrixon asked him to take off his clothes and then touched his genitals and kissed his lips.

Although the teenager had known Wrixon for some time, it was the first time that the priest had made a sexual approach to him and, in all, the victim reported 20 incidents, including some where he had to perform oral sex on Wrixon, said Det Garda Murphy.

Gardai twice questioned Wrixon who told them that between Easter and December 1983, he had six to seven sexual encounters with the complainant in which they mutually masturbated each other but he couldn’t recall the locations.

Wrixon told gardai that the first sexual incident was in the sacristy of the church in Shanballymore in north Cork where he partially undressed the victim to show him his sexual organs and the victim became embarrassed and started to cry and began to hug him.

That was the first time that the victim had responded to him and he recalled another occasion where they were walking together on a quiet country road and began to touch each other’s genitalia though he couldn’t remember if it ended in mutual masturbation.

Defence counsel Tim O’Leary SC said that his client had resigned from the priesthood and had gone for counselling to the Granada Centre in Dublin when the first complaint was received in 2005 and he had since seen psychotherapist Eddie Hogan.

Mr O’Leary pointed out his client had no previous convictions nor was he being investigated for another complaint and he had also pleaded guilty to the offence while he was also facing devastating consequences in his own community from the exposure of his actions.

Judge O Donnabhain said Wrixon was guilty of a huge breach of trust both because of the huge difference in age between himself and his victim but also because it happened “between a confessor and a penitent during what you, as a priest, then regarded as a sacrament”.

“You are no longer a priest and rightly so, you don’t deserve to be a priest,” said Judge O Donnabhain before recognising that Wrixon’s guilty plea had both spared his victim the trauma of a trial while also providing public acknowledgment of how he had wronged him.

“I hope the exposure of the offence and all the evidence in open court will be a vindication to the victim,” said the judge, adding that Wrixon’s decision to go for treatment prior to the initiation of any prosecution was unusual and something that merited credit.

He also noted that both the Granada Institute and Mr Hogan believed that he was at a low risk of reoffending and that the State had confirmed that there were no further matters out there as he imposed an 18-month sentence which was suspended on condition of good behaviour.


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