A Donegal priest has made an impassioned appeal to all clergy who have abused children to come forward and help to ease the hurt and tears of victims who’ve remained silent for close to fifty years.
Angry comments posted on social media over the weekend reflect the depth and hurt caused by clerical sex abuse in the diocese and the huge legacy of damage that remains to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Fr. Duffy’s condemnation of evil and vile clerical sex abusers was made during weekend Masses in St. Michael’s Church only a day after a former Parish Priest, Con Cunningham was sentenced to nine months in prison.
The 83 year old pleaded guilty on three counts at Donegal Circuit Court for indecently assaulting a young girl on occasions in 1976 and 1977.
Cunningham, who served in a number of parishes across Donegal, had “simulated sex” with the young girl as he drove her to Dublin in his car. He was led away in handcuffs from court to begin his sentence on Friday.
He sat in silence as Justice Judge John Aylmer said the effect on the victim was ongoing after 43 years and the offences were on the ‘higher end’ of the scale. Mitigating factors were his plea, albeit late, his age and the fact prison would be ‘onerous’ on him, although he was a ‘fit’ person.
The former priest who was a founding member of the community games in Donegal is now on the Sex Offenders Register.
Following an audit in 2011 of the Diocese by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, Bishop Philip Boyce said he believed the diocese could have the highest levels of allegations against priests in the country.
The HSE revealed that twelve victims of child sex abuse called experts at a Letterkenny helpline on the day the Raphoe audit was released.
Ordained in 1961, Con Cunningham from Carrick served as a curate in Convoy: Annagry: Fanad and Ardara before being appointed PP in Glenties and later transferred to Falcarragh until 2002.
His sudden departure from the parish at the age of 67 remained a mystery since he was not given any other appointment in the Diocese although he was regularly seen in full clerical garb around the county.
Mystified parishioners contacted the Tirconail Tribune in an attempt to establish their PP’s whereabouts and why they were left in the darkness about his departure. No answers were forthcoming.
The Tirconail Tribune reports that Fr. Duffy told his congregation that every one of us has a responsibility to ensure that those who perpetrated the heinous evil acts of abusing children are brought to justice and are punished appropriately.
In October 2002 the Diocese of Raphoe was rocked with revelations by a BBC
Spotlight programme “Sins of Omission” that Bishop Philip Boyce was told in 1995 about complaints against Fr. Eugene Greene from Annagry.
The Bishop confirmed this meeting to the programme, but said his subsequent inquiries found no complaints or records of complaints against the priest.
Fr Greene remained in active ministry until 1998, when the Gardai began investigating his alleged activities. The programme also claimed that senior priests were informed of complaints against Fr Greene on at least four other occasions dating back to 1971, but the complaints were never recorded in diocesan files.
Fr Greene who served in eight parishes in the Raphoe Diocese was jailed for 12 years in 2000 after pleading guilty to 41 sample charges of sexual assault against children in Donegal between 1965 and 1982. He was originally charged with more than 100 counts of sexual assault, mainly against altar boys who said they were subjected to repeated assault and buggery.
In his weekend homily, Fr. Duffy has begged all those who’ve been abused to report their trauma to the Gardaí or Tusla and to be reassured their voices must be heard. He said these clerical sex abusers must never be allowed to function in our Church because their acts are evil, vile and anti-Christ like… he said.
Fr. Duffy told his parishioners that each one of us has a duty to notify the Gardai and Tusla, of suspicions, concerns or allegations that a child is being or has been abused: physically; emotionally or sexually. He said such acts against the young and innocent has the potential to affect and in some occasions, can lead to the total destruction of life.
He said these priests who abused children were not followers of Jesus Christ, they gave themselves over to Satan. They entered into darkness when they perpetrated such vile evil heinous crimes against the vulnerable. They used the Church and their roles to groom and build a fake trust with their victims and the families of victims.
He said that at times these abusers deluded others into the falsehood that they were victims of Bishops who dismissed them. They tried to build up support that led people to believe that those twisted suspended and defrocked priests were innocent and ‘hard done by’ through the actions of their Bishop.
Fr. Duffy told the congregation that Church we all believe in must never protect or defend these betrayers of our children and of our faith.
“There will never be a hiding place for them in our Church,” he reportedly said.
He said all our prayers must be for those who have been hurt by any such vile and gruesome acts, and for their healing, to free them from their pain and mental torture, for their families and their loved ones.
His prayer was for those who have not had their story told to come forward and tell it. To report these reprehensible individuals who have caused too much hurt and pain, tears and suffering.
He offered the view that if the perpetrators had an ounce of decency they would volunteer to the relevant authorities tin order to be truly remorseful and to own up to their guilt. He said this was important to try and start to repair the damage done.
However, he added that these individuals don’t have that decency and he believed they only plead guilty for the most part and say sorry to shorten their own punishment before the courts of this world.
Referring to the beginning of the season Advent, Fr. Duffy said the Christian community does not need not be reminded that November is the month they pray for the dead.
He added that it was a good thing for us to pray for the dead because in doing so we give thanks and honour to those who have given so much to us…
He said it is a time when we give thanks to those who passed to us the flame of faith. November is also an opportunity for renewal. It is a time for us to pass the flame of faith onto our young people.
Continuing he stated that unfortunately, we have seen attempts to quench that flame of Faith by people who were charged and made vows to nourish the flame of faith in our Diocese.
He referred to those priests who tried not only to quench the flame of faith but who attempted to quench and destroy the beautiful innocence and the vulnerability of children who ought to have been safe, putting their trust in men who claimed to be Christ like.
Without referencing recent court cases or naming individual clergy, members of the congregation said that the homily delivered with great sincerity struck a chord that urgently needs to see a much wider response from those in charge not only in the Church but also the State agencies involved.
On the publication of the Diocesan Audit, Bishop Boyce said he had not received direct complaints of clerical abuse in the diocese before the trial of Fr. Eugene Greene in 2000. Bishop Boyce apologised for his failures and that of his predecessors, Bishop Séamus Hegarty and Bishop Anthony McFeely, in relation to the high incidence of priestly child sexual abuse in the diocese of Raphoe from 1975.
Bishop Boyce said that during the trial, it emerged that a father of two of Fr Greene’s victims had said in the 1970s that he wrote to a local parish priest to complain about the accused, who was imprisoned for 12 years.
“We did not know of that letter,” he said. “At the time the information on these terrible things . . . weren’t handed up as far as the Bishop’s office. There was no reference . . . to any allegations in the files which I saw when I came [in to office],” he said.
The retired Bishop Boyce is now the administrator of Dromore which includes parishes in Antrim, Armagh and Down after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop John McAreavey.
Meanwhile Donegal Daily has reported allegations by a lady who had attended a hop dance in Mullaghduff Hall and her worrying comments in relation to Fr. Cunningham’s dancing practices in the seventies at the local record hop.
During the weekend Masses in Creeslough, Fr. Duffy advised any member of the congregation who might be affected by the issues raised in his homily to contact the relevant authorities and counselling services: their phone numbers were prominently displayed at the back of St. Michael’s Church.Tags: