Criticised Over Priest Reference
October 17, 2002
A claim that in 1988 Cardinal Connell gave a "clean" reference to a priest accused of child sex abuse, because there were no records of the allegations in diocesan archives, has been disputed by the victim's solicitor.
The accused priest, Father Patrick Hughes, was given the reference before he moved to a parish in San Diego in November 1988. Cardinal Connell became Archbishop of Dublin in March 1988.
In the reference there was no mention of complaints made against Father Hughes in 1974. The priest had been sent then by the archdiocese to a psychiatrist and moved to a parish in Rathgar.
Archdiocese sources told The Irish Times that there were no records of the 1974 complaints against Father Hughes in diocesan archives and further suggested that details of the case, given in a public statement by the archdiocese in October 1993, may have come from the victim's solicitor. However, last night that solicitor, Mr Julian Deale, said he had supplied no such details, and that when he contacted the archdiocese on the matter in March 1993 "they were fully aware of the case". No solicitor was involved when his client, then 12, made his first complaints about Father Hughes in 1974.
The matter was dealt with then by the boy's parents, who first went to the local parish priest.
When what Mr Deale said was then put to sources in the archdiocese it was indicated that their information about the 1974 complaints - as published in the 1993 statement - may have come from Father Hughes himself, after he was recalled to Ireland by Cardinal Connell on receipt of a letter from Mr Deale threatening legal action.
Mr Deale said the matter was dealt with very quickly then.Father Hughes paid £50,000 plus £6,000 costs to the former altar boy.The archdiocese said this came from the priest's own funds.Some details of the reference first emerged in the Irish Catholic last week and it will come up during an hour-long Prime Time special on RTÉ One television at 9.30 this evening. The programme will look at how clerical child sex abuse has been handled in the Dublin archdiocese. It will be followed by a studio discussion which may involve the Cardinal. Negotiations with him have been continuing since the end of August. Weeks ago he was supplied with details of the content and more recently - the weekend before last - a letter from him on clerical child sex abuse in the archdiocese was read at all Masses in Dublin. It was preceded by briefings for priests of the archdiocese.
Sources have indicated that Cardinal Connell will view the programme before it is broadcast tonight and will then decide whether to take part in the studio discussion.
Doubt has now been cast on the value of the Church's audit of diocesan records to establish how complaints of clerical child sex abuse were handled by Church authorities in Ireland. Possible poor record-keeping is expected to be of major concern to the Hussey Commission, which is conducting the audit. It was set up by the bishops to investigate how all dioceses have dealt with the issue.
Concern had already been expressed about how the confidentiality aspect of the relationship between priest and bishop might inhibit the commission's work. Some bishops have been anxious to dispel such worries.
However, Cardinal Connell raised them again when he said in his recent letter that, where the commission's work was concerned, he was "confident that whatever requirements of confidentiality may exist will be respected in the process".
In 1997 the Cardinal's office refused to co-operate with gardaí in confirming an acknowledgment by Father Paul McGennis that he had abused Mrs Marie Collins, because they said it would be a breach of such confidentiality.
This was not tested in the courts as Father McGennis pleaded guilty. It also emerged then too that there had been records of complaints against Father McGennis in the archdiocese's archives since 1960.
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