Irish Catholic Church
Faces New Crisis

Cardinal Desmond Connell may be forced to resign.
Cardinal Desmond Connell may be forced to resign.

By Irish America Staff
December / January 2003

The Irish Government is to set up an inquiry into how sex abuse allegations were dealt with in the Dublin diocese amid ongoing allegations that Cardinal Connell and his staff failed to cooperate with police in investigating paedophiles.

Cardinal Desmond Connell has repeatedly apologized to the victims of abuse for the hurt they suffered, but his apologies, at this stage, are falling on deaf ears.

Numerous newspaper editorials have called for his resignation and a recent opinion poll found that 75 percent of those questioned believe he should now step down. But the Cardinal is clinging tenaciously to his position.

Marie Collins was abused by Dublin priest Fr. Paul McGennis as she lay ill in a Dublin children’s hospital. She was just 13 years old. When she eventually found the courage to report the abuse in 1995, she got very little help from Cardinal Connell and his staff. At one point the archdiocese threatened to sue her for passing on a letter they had written to her to the gardai.

In the letter they admitted that the priest had confessed to abusing children.

She would like to see criminal action taken against the Dublin diocese. “If they had behaved as they should have, a lot of people who are suffering now would not have been abused. In many ways the abuse that I suffered is now secondary to the way they treated me. They were cold and calculated in their actions. They moved priests to fresh pastures to protect the institution, and to protect themselves. They are just as guilty as the paedophiles in many ways.”

But she doesn’t believe that the Cardinal should resign, yet. “He should not be there. But if by resigning he can avoid answering questions, I’d rather see him kept where he is.”

Cardinal Connell has pledged to cooperate fully with any inquiry set up by an appropriate authority, but stopped short of saying that he would hand over all files relating to abuse.

The church has already set up an internal “audit” into each diocese’s handling of abuse cases, which will be chaired by former judge Gillian Hussey. But the victims of clerical abuse say they have no faith in the church’s ability to investigate itself.

The church in Dublin has one of the worst records in the world in terms of clerical abuse. Over 450 allegations have been made relating to diocesan priests and institutions.

Another State inquiry, into the handling of clerical sex abuse in the Ferns diocese, will begin its work in January. Bishop Brendan Comiskey was forced to resign at Easter because of the manner in which he handled allegations in the Ferns diocese, particularly the way he dealt with the notorious paedophile priest Fr. Sean Fortune. ♦

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