Former priest in Donegal admits to sex assaults on altar boys

Irish Times
December 10, 1999

A 71-year-old former priest was remanded in custody yesterday at Donegal Circuit Court after pleading guilty to 41 sample charges of indecent assault and buggery, most of his victims having been altar boys.

There had originally been 108 charges brought against the former priest from west Donegal who cannot be named for legal reasons.

The mother of one of the victims told the court how her son had been severely affected.

She said: "My son's life has been brutally taken and destroyed. He has carried this burden from childhood to adulthood alone. I have felt guilty that I sent him out to Mass and didn't know what was awaiting him."

She said her family had experienced extreme grief. Her only wish for her son now was that he would find happiness.

She said her son had attended many counselling sessions over the years in relation to the problem but had always been too ashamed to admit to the abuse. Her whole family had indirectly suffered from sexual abuse as they had been driven apart by her son's troubles.

Det John Dooley said the offences occurred from 1966 to 1982 in five areas in west Donegal. In all, 26 victims, mainly between the ages of 10 and 13, were involved.

He said the matter had come to light on foot of a complaint in December 1997 from the defendant about a man who was trying to blackmail him.

The court heard how Det Dooley had arrested the alleged blackmailer who had approached the former priest demanding payment of (pounds) 5,000. During Det Dooley's investigation into the blackmail allegations, the man claimed he had been sexually abused by the former priest in 1975 when he was 12.

He was then told that this was a secret between God, the defendant and the victim. A similar pattern emerged in many of the cases.

The court heard how the parents of another boy who was subjected to abuse by the former priest in 1977 had been informed of the abuse.

The father of the boy had contacted the defendant's superior parish priest and the defendant had left the area for a while. He later sent a letter to the family asking for forgiveness.

When he returned to the parish, the father of the boy had again expressed his concerns to the parish priest. The reply he got was: "I can't shift the problem from one place to another."

Det Dooley gave evidence about one boy aged 10 who was abused for three years on a weekly basis.

The abuse started after Mass in the winter of 1976 when the boy was buggered by the priest. The court heard that the cleric had then began to visit the family of his victim "who were very holy" and considered the priest "a saint".

In another case, the priest came to a school and removed a boy from class with the teacher's permission to go and visit the sick.

The boy was taken to the parochial house and indecently assaulted. He then accompanied the priest to a number of houses where the defendant received money after telling people that he would make a priest of his victim. The priest carried out oral sex on the boy later the same day.

Det Dooley gave further evidence of an 11-year-old boy who was abused 31 times over a year. He again was told it was a secret with him, God and the defendant.

The court also heard how the defendant had abused a boy aged 14 in the winter of 1978 in the loft of a church which had a bed in it.

The former priest was remanded in custody until the next sitting of Donegal Circuit Court in April to allow time for victim impact reports to be compiled.




Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.