15 Nov 2010

Catholic advocacy group challenges Irish Bishop to explain failure to identify serial child rapist priest

Irish Times - January 4, 2010

Bishop Hegarty challenged on handling of abuse allegations

by PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent

THE CATHOLIC Bishop of Derry Séamus Hegarty has been challenged to account for his handling of clerical child abuse allegations when he was Bishop of Raphoe from 1982-1994.

The Voice of the Faithful Ireland (Votfi) said in a statement: “On December 9th, 2009, in response to the publication of the Murphy report on clerical child sex abuse in Dublin archdiocese, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference announced: ‘We are shamed by the extent to which child sexual abuse was covered up in the Archdiocese of Dublin and recognise that this indicates a culture that was widespread in the church’.”

Votfi acting co-oridinator Seán Ó Conaill noted that the period referred to in the bishops’ statement covered the years 1975-2004, which was investigated by the Murphy commission.

He said: “During the period 1982-1994 Bishop Séamus Hegarty was Bishop of Raphoe. The prolific child rapist Eugene Greene served as a priest in Raphoe in that period. Gardaí did not become aware of his crimes against 26 young men until 1997.

“However, there is compelling evidence, revealed in 2008 in the book Breaking the Silence (by Martin Ridge and Gerard Cunningham; Gill and Macmillan) that his criminal activities were known to Raphoe clergy at least as early as 1976.”

Mr Ó Conaill asked: “When Bishop Hegarty approved the Irish bishops’ statement of December 9th, was he admitting that the ‘widespread’ cover-up of clerical child sex abuse extended to the diocese of Raphoe during his term of office there? Or does he deny having had any knowledge during that period of Greene’s abusive proclivities and activities?”

In 2002, Bishop Hegarty told Raidió na Gaeltachta news that he never knew of Fr Greene’s crimes during his term.

Mr Ó Conaill said “Bishop Moriarty of Kildare and Leighlin has tendered his resignation on the grounds that he should have challenged the culture of cover-up that prevailed in the Dublin Archdiocese when he was an auxiliary bishop there. All bishops who failed that challenge should now resign also.” He asked: “Is Bishop Hegarty one such, or was he inexplicably unaware of the cover-up culture that prevailed?”

Voice of the Faithful is a worldwide organisation of active lay Catholics which was formed in Boston in response to the clerical abuse scandal there. It began at a “listening session” of 30 parishioners in St John the Evangelist church in Wellesley, Boston, following exposure of the scandal in the archdiocese there which led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law in December 2002.

The organisation seeks an active role for the laity in church affairs, including child protection.

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