Ex-priest jailed for sex assault on altar boy

Irish Times
November 13, 2003

A former Cork priest was jailed for eight months yesterday after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting an altar boy in the sacristy of the church and parochial house 15 years ago.

Patrick Crowley (52), Cardington, Athy, pleaded guilty at Cork District Court yesterday to three counts of sexually assaulting the boy on three occasions between 1988 and 1989.

Det Garda Donal O'Connell told the court the abuse took place while the boy was 10 and 11 years old and a serving altar boy at the defendant's church. The court heard the assaults would usually occur in the sacristy of the church after morning Mass as well as in the parochial house.

The former priest - who admitted the offences after a photograph of his victim was shown to him - would place his hand inside the shirt and trousers of the boy.

The now 26-year-old victim told Judge Dave O Riordain that his life could not have been anymore low over the past 10 years, a period in which he underwent drink and drug rehabilitation.

"I have vivid, clear pictures of the abuse that went on. I know personally that I'm only number one, I know more will come forward. I know it didn't just happen to me," the man said, adding that it was the birth of his son that spurred him into taking action.

"I just felt if anybody was to lay a hand upon him or if what happened to me happened to him, that I wouldn't be able to handle it," he said.

"I had his christening in the same church and had to sign the register in the sacristy afterwards. I wanted to come here today to try to confront him - this man, but he's not a man," the visibly upset young man said.

He also told the court that he continued to receive counselling and would do so until he could get "those pictures out of my head".

The former priest, who was convicted of a similar offence in 1991 and brought to the attention of gardai in 1994 for propositioning a young male for sex, expressed his remorse to the court.

"I think it is horrifically sad and I regret it so deeply. I wish to God I could turn back the clock, saying sorry is so meaningless to him. I'm helpless," Crowley said.

His defence solicitor, Mr Joe Cuddigan, said his client sought help over the past decade for his problems and twice entered a treatment centre for psychosexual addictions in England.

He said Crowley was now residing voluntarily in a treatment centre in Ireland, where he is excluded from the "temptation" of young people.

The District Court judge said that as Crowley was a priest in Holy Orders at the time of the offence, he had clearly abused his position of trust with the young altar boy.

Judge O Riordain said he had to consider the deterrent and rehabilitative factors of the case and that it was not without significance that the defendant's "proclivities" surfaced again in the mid-1990s.


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