Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Church trial of 'abuse cleric' stalled ahead of new report

Church trial of 'abuse cleric' stalled ahead of new report
By John Cooney
Tuesday December 15 2009

Preparations for the Church trial of at least one priest have been suspended until a new report by the Murphy commission is delivered.

This new investigation, into the Diocese of Cloyne, may not be completed until the middle of next year, the Irish Independent has learned.

The trial delay was revealed by Archbishop Dermot Clifford, who is tipped to take temporary charge at the Diocese of Limerick if embattled Bishop Donal Murray is forced to resign.

Archbishop Clifford broke his silence on the state of play in the Cloyne investigation, confirming that it "is ongoing but that it may be mid-2010 before its report is completed".

And he added: "It may not be ready even by then."

Archbishop Clifford confirmed that the canonical trial in Cobh, involving a Cloyne priest alleged to have sexually abused children, has been suspended. "The main witnesses in the canonical proceedings want to wait for the publication of the Murphy report before giving their evidence," said Archbishop Clifford.

"But the trial will take place when the report comes out," he confirmed yesterday.

The priest, if found guilty in the secret ecclesiastical trial, will be immediately defrocked from the priesthood.


This priest was named as Fr B in last year's report into Cloyne by the Irish Catholic Church's own independent watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children.

One woman alleges she was abused for several years by Fr B, and the second woman claims she was abused by Fr B in the early to mid 1970s when she was aged about 14.

The board's chief investigator, Ian Elliott, found the child protection services in Cloyne, operated by Bishop John Magee, were "inadequate and in some respects dangerous" to children.

Bishop Magee left office earlier this year after the publication of that report -- and leading Munster churchman Bishop Clifford was assigned by the Pope to take temporary charge.

Bishop Clifford is now in situ as Bishop of Cashel and Emly, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Cloyne, and could be parachuted into Limerick as papal troubleshooter.

He is also engaged in actively cooperating with the Murphy commission, whose investigative mandate was extended to the Cloyne diocese by the Government.

Bishop Murray is awaiting word of his fate following severe criticism in the Murphy report.

Last night it was unclear whether he had been given a date for a second meeting with the Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.

- John Cooney

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