Priest gets 7 1/2 years for abuse of two boys
July 16, 1998
A former director of vocations of the Holy Ghost Fathers who sexually abused two young boys has been jailed for 7 1/2 years by Judge Cyril Kelly at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
One victim was abused by Father Gus Griffin in Kimmage Manor, Dublin - the order's headquarters - after the boy expressed an interest in joining. Griffin had invited him to see what life in the order might be like.
Griffin (76), c/o Kimmage Manor, Dublin, pleaded guilty last May to four sample charges relating to offences on dates from 1976 to 1983 at different places within the State.
Judge Kelly imposed a four-year sentence on a charge of indecently assaulting a then 10-year-old victim between January and May 1976.
He also imposed a four-year sentence for indecently assaulting a teenage boy on a date from June 30th to August 1st, 1981, and one year for committing an act of gross indecency with him on a date between April 30th and September 30th, 1982.
He imposed a 7 1/2-year term for buggery of the same victim on a date between April 26th and September 30th, 1983.
All the sentences will start immediately and run concurrently. The State entered a nolle prosequi on other charges on the indictment.
Ms Mary Ellen Ring, prosecuting, said the victims had no objections to Griffin being named in media reports.
The court was told that media exposure of the late Brendan Smyth led to complaints against Griffin. Both victims were concerned that other young boys had been similarly abused and had never reported it. Neither victim had had professional counselling for the sexual abuse. In one case, the victim's family was unaware of it.
Griffin, from Limerick city, was a former editor of Outlook and former director of vocations for the Holy Ghost Order. He was ordained in 1955 and spent several years as a missionary in Sierra Leone until ill health forced his return.
Garda Margaret Morrell said the first victim had lived near Kimmage Manor and he and other young people played in grounds. He got to know the defendant that way.
Griffin invited him to his room to sort stamps collected to raise funds for the missions. It was here he had been abused. He complained formally of this in 1996.
Garda Morrell said the second victim got to know Griffin through another Holy Ghost priest who gave a mission in his area. A correspondence began with Griffin as the youth was interested in joining.
Griffin invited this boy to Kimmage Manor.
The first offence of indecent assault happened there in summer 1981. Garda Morrell told Ms Ring the gross indecency offence happened in a car park in summer 1982 on the boy's second visit to Griffin. The buggery offence happened when Griffin invited the victim to his home in Limerick and got into bed with him. The victim recalled being sore afterwards and feeling he wanted to die. Garda Morrell said Griffin made a full statement when she met him. He admitted he began interfering sexually with young boys around the early 1970s and this continued to about 1986.
Garda Morrell said Griffin, who had no previous convictions, indicated sincere remorse for his actions.
Mr Michael McMahon SC (with Ms Isobel Kennedy), defending, said Griffin had asked him to express publicly at this first opportunity his sorrow and despair for the damage he had caused.
A consultant psychiatrist, Dr Brian McCaffrey said he believed Griffin would "go rapidly downhill" if sent to jail. Griffin first came to him in January 1995 before charges were preferred against him.
He felt shame in telling of his sexual abuse of young boys which began late in his life.
He said he had had a happy childhood and no trouble growing up in Limerick where he took part in sports and all other things a young boy would engage in.
Dr McCaffrey met Griffin again last April and believed progress had been made. Dr McCaffrey was also satisfied that Griffin no longer had any sexual urges towards boys. With his present living conditions - he was in an enclosed order - and continued counselling, he represented no danger to them.
Judge Kelly said rehabilitation in these cases involved also the rehabilitation of the victims, one of whom suffered "a vile physical invasion and defilement of his body".
Buggery was considered such a heinous crime that the legislature decreed a maximum life sentence for it.
Yet this victim had it in his heart to pity Griffin despite his suffering.
"He feels dirty, guilty and despicable," said Judge Kelly. This victim also noted that priests like Griffin blackened the name of the Catholic Church.
The first victim had also never coped in reality with the sexual abuse.
Rehabilitation was only an aspect of the complex mosaic of sentencing offenders, Judge Kelly said. There was also prevention of repetition and punishment.
Judge Kelly said that despite Griffin's age and his frailty, he could get the necessary medical treatment in custody. He refused leave to appeal severity of sentence.