Sunday, January 23, 2011

Vatican letter told Ireland's Catholic bishops not to report child abuse

Vatican letter told Ireland's Catholic bishops not to report child abuse

Policy to tell police about priest suspects was vetoed, as lawyers say proof at last of cover-up by papacy

Associated Press in Dublin,

A copy of the 1997 letter from the Vatican warning Irish bishops not to report child-abuse cases

A copy of the 1997 letter from the Vatican, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to AP, warning Ireland's Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police.

A letter to Ireland's Roman Catholic bishops has been revealed by the broadcaster RTE that contradicts the Vatican's frequent claim it has never instructed clergy to withhold evidence or suspicion of child abuse from police.

The 1997 letter documents rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to help police identify paedophile priests. Signed by the late Archbishop Luciano Storero, Pope John Paul II's envoy to Ireland, it instructs bishops that their new policy of making the reporting of suspected crimes mandatory "gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and canonical nature".

Storero wrote that canon law, whereby allegations and punishments are handled within the church, "must be meticulously followed"; any bishop who tried to go outside canon law would face the "highly embarrassing" position of being overturned on appeal in Rome.

A 2009 Irish state report found this actually happened with Tony Walsh, one of Dublin's most notorious paedophiles, who exploited his role as an Elvis impersonator in a popular "All Priests Show" to get closer to children. In 1993, Walsh was defrocked by a secret church court, but successfully appealed to a Vatican court, and was reinstated in the priesthood in 1994. He raped a boy in a pub restroom that year. Walsh since has received a series of prison sentences, with a 12-year term imposed last month. Investigators estimate he raped or molested more than 100 children.

Catholic officials in Ireland and the Vatican declined requests from the Associated Press to comment on the letter, marked "strictly confidential"; RTE said it had been given it by an Irish bishop.

"The letter is of huge international significance," said Colm O'Gorman, director of the Irish section of Amnesty International. "It shows that the Vatican's intention is to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities. And if that instruction applied here [in Ireland], it applied everywhere."

Joelle Casteix, a director of the US advocacy group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, described it as "the smoking gun we've been looking for." It was certain to be cited by lawyers acting for victims seeking to pin responsibility directly on Rome, not the dioceses.

To this day, the Vatican has not endorsed any of the Irish church's three documents since 1996 on safeguarding children. Irish taxpayers, rather than the church, have paid most of the €1.5bn to more than 14,000 abuse claimants dating back to the 1940s.

In a 2010 letter to Ireland condemning paedophiles in the ranks, Pope Benedict XVI faulted bishops for not following canon law and offered no explicit endorsement of child-protection efforts by the Irish church or state. He was widely criticised in Ireland.

O'Gorman (who was raped repeatedly by a priest in the 1980s when an altar boy) said evidence is mounting that some Irish bishops continued to follow the 1997 Vatican instructions. A state investigation of Cloyne diocese is to come out soon, citing crimes concealed as recently as 2008.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Irish abortion ban 'violated woman's rights'

Irish abortion ban 'violated woman's rights'

European Court of Human RightsThe court's ruling could lead to a change in Irish abortion laws

Related stories

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Irish abortion laws violated the rights of one of three women who sought terminations in Britain.

The woman, who was in remission for a rare form of cancer, feared it might return as a result of her pregnancy.

While abortion in the Republic is technically allowed if a woman's life is at risk, the court said that was not made possible for the woman involved.

But it ruled two other women in the case had not had their rights breached.

The court said the Irish government had failed to properly implement the constitutional right to abortion if a woman's life was in danger.

Correspondents say the ruling is likely to force the Dublin government to introduce new legislation or bring in new guidelines.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said politicians now needed to consider the implications of the ruling.

"It's an issue for the whole political spectrum to consider," he said.

Respect for private life

The first two women in the case were a single mother who had other children in care and a woman who did not want to become a single parent.

All three women said they had suffered medical complications on returning to the Irish Republic and said they believed they had not been entitled to an abortion under Irish law.

They all complained that Irish restrictions on abortion had stigmatised and humiliated them, risking damage to their health.

However the third woman had argued that even though she believed her pregnancy had put her life at risk, there was no law or procedure for her to have her right to an abortion established.

The court said that the government in Dublin had breached the third woman's right to respect for her private life by its "failure to implement the existing constitutional right to a lawful abortion in Ireland".

It ruled that "neither the medical consultation nor litigation options, relied on by the Irish government, constituted effective and accessible procedures which allowed the third applicant to establish her right to a lawful abortion in Ireland".

The court said that the only non-judicial way of determining the risk to a woman's life - on which the government relied - was an ordinary medical consultation between the woman and her doctor. It described this as "ineffective".

It said that women and their doctors both ran a risk of criminal conviction and imprisonment "if an initial doctor's opinion that abortion was an option as it posed a risk to the woman's health was later found to be against the Irish constitution".

The court said Irish constitutional courts were not appropriate for determining whether a woman qualified for a lawful abortion.

Under Irish law, abortion is a criminal act although a referendum in 1983 amended the constitution acknowledging the mother's right to life was equal to that of the child.

Following several legal cases, the Irish Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that abortion was lawful if the mother's life was at risk.

However, the Irish parliament has never enacted legislation regulating the constitutionally guaranteed right.

The three women were all supported by the Irish Family Planning Association. They have not been identified, although two are Irish nationals and one is a Lithuanian who is resident in the Irish Republic.

The UK-based abortion charity BPAS - which submitted written observations to the court - welcomed the ruling.

"The lack of clarity as to when abortion may be lawful in Ireland puts women and doctors in an impossible situation, and the sooner this can be remedied the better," said BPAS chief executive Ann Furedi.

Ireland is now under pressure to do what successive Irish governments have avoided doing for almost 20 years - alter its abortion laws.

In theory, it would not be a major change. It would simply reflect the judgement of the Irish Supreme Court in 1992 which ruled that a woman whose life was in danger should be allowed an abortion.

In practice, defining what constitutes a threat to life for the mother will be a legal minefield.

Changing the law would also be a political minefield. Ireland is bitterly divided over abortion, and the Irish government has plenty of other priorities at present with the financial crisis and a general election early next year.

The European Court ruling means Ireland must now reconsider its abortion legislation. The current government will be in no rush to do so.

Murphy Report Chapter 19: Main points & timeline

Murphy Report Chapter 19: Main points & timeline

Updated: 15:56, Friday, 17 December 2010

Main points from Murphy Report Chapter 19

Initial claims

Two days after Tony Walsh's first appointment to Ballyfermot parish in July 1978, the parents of an eight-year-old boy complained that he had abused their son, but the Archdiocese made no response to the boy's parents.

Walsh denied the abuse and nothing further was done. The priest to whom the complaint was made noted 'the parents are most responsible people and there is no danger of publicity.'

Second complaint

The second complaint was made by the mother of a 14-year-boy that her son had been abused in Ballyfermot in 1978 and 1979. The parish priest said he would contact the Archbishop's house but the only action taken was that Fr Michael Cleary, based in Ballyfermot at the time, went to the boy's home in 1980 'to educate him on male sexuality.'

The boy's mother said Fr Cleary did apologise but there are no records of any communication with the Archdiocese and in 1985 a canon told a monsignor that matters were 'hushed up.' The priest did not report it to gardaí.

A former youth co-ordinator who later became a priest complained to the Archdiocese between 1980-82 about Walsh's activities with young girls at a Summer Camp. No action was taken.

Warning to Archbishop

The parish priest of Ballyfermot in 1984 was given 'a veiled warning' about Walsh by Archbishop Ryan. The report says either the Archbishop was not entirely convinced by an earlier allegation or was concerned about subsequent allegations.

March 1985 - Seven priests were aware of concerns about Walsh's behaviour.

The PP of Ballyfermot Fr Donal O Doherty told Monsignor Stenson, chancellor of the diocese and top administrator, about a series of events which caused him alarm.

He said he also told Bishop Donal Murray and they agreed 'if it occurred again, he should act'. It is not clear what 'it' means.

Initial treatment

April 1985 Monsignor Stenson met Tony Walsh who 'denied nothing' and admitted to further abuse of a boy in Wicklow that the diocese knew nothing about. Walsh agreed to go to a psychiatrist and was 'grateful that he had been given a second chance'.

June 1985 Walsh attended a psychiatrist who said he was amenable to treatment - three alternatives - electric shock, medication and 'reorientation method to channel the drive appropriately.'

October 1985. Another complaint - the psychiatrist was informed - Walsh denied the claims and no further action was taken. Walsh moved from Ballyfermot to Westland Row.

In his letter appointing him, the Archbishop says 'I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your dedicated work in Ballyfermot.' The report describes this as 'astonishing'.

Housekeeper evidence

Numerous more complaints emerged after he left Ballyfermot. His housekeeper told gardaí there were always young children in the house and once she met two young boys coming out of Walsh's bedroom.

Walsh took up his position in Westland row in 1986. The diocese was now aware of four specific complaints and a number of concerns.

In 1997 Monsignor Stenson said 'I recall a sense of urgency in moving him to a safer place' and 'we had no idea about the enormity of his problems'. The report states 'It is difficult to conclude that the move was for any purpose other than to avoid further scandal in Ballyfermot.'

He was removed from a parish where the PP was aware of his actions and endeavouring to restrain him to a parish where the PP knew nothing about him.

A priest who knew of the problems the 1979 victim and his family were having, criticised the Archbishop for unsatisfactory responses to the mother's letters.

Walsh was asked by Monsignor Stenson to 'reconsider his involvement in entertainment and public appearances in the area where the family lived.'

He said he'd think about it but he continued with his singing career.

Westland Row

1987. The housekeeper found some of her clothes in Walsh's room. Her underwear had been 'used'. She burned the clothes. She also found syringes and condoms and mentioned that boys stayed overnight there.

Monsignor Stenson said he had 'no doubt about her truthfulness' but Walsh denied the claims and said he didn't know what condoms were like.

1988. More allegations in Westland Row - when it was put to Walsh by Monsignor Stenson he abused a girl on his knee, he said he was drunk and couldn't remember. However, the Monsignor says when he asked him about another allegation 'for the first time he really opened up.'

The Monsignor met the parents of the most recent victim. They were extremely kind and concerned and said they 'would not like Walsh to suffer because of one misdemeanour.' The Monsignor did not tell them there was a history of this behaviour.

Church account

Walsh wrote out an account of 'his difficulties', not a full account, minimises his abuse. In May 1988 - 10 years after the first complaint it was decided to send him to Stroud (Centre run by Catholic Religious Order in UK) for treatment and he was removed from his position in Westland Row

June 1988. Monsignor Stenson noted the report from Stroud which said Walsh 'is a very disturbed man, is always going to be dangerous, there have been an awful lot of children, he could not be let near schools, children, confession etc'

November 1988. Final Stroud Report stated: 'under no circumstances should he have any apostolate involving children.' Walsh signed a contract with the Archdiocese agreeing not to make any physical contact with a child beyond a handshake in public and not to visit Ballyfermot under any circumstances.

He was appointed chaplain in a hospital for older people and people with long term illness and nominated Fr Michael Cleary as his spiritual director.

February 1989. Walsh in counselling. Stroud review - Archbishop told 'so far so good.' However, it was clear that Walsh was chaffing against the restraints and wanted back to Ballyfermot.

May 1989. Stroud - said he was bored - Walsh started to resume his old behaviour.

Complaints from parents

Aug 1989. Parents complained to Monsignor Stenson. Walsh went to the family home to apologise to the parents even though the Monsignor told him to stay away.

Sept 1989. Archbishop gave him permission to solemnise a wedding. Archdiocese knew Walsh was visiting scouts in a parish he was not assigned to.

April 1990 Archbishop Connell and Monsignor Stenson met Walsh and told him his only option was voluntary laicisation or dismissal. He was given until 1 May to make a decision.

Suggestion of informing gardaí 'outrageous'

Monsignor Sheehy intervenes with Archbishop for Walsh - warned Archbishop Connell of 'canonical minefield.' Monsignor Sheehy described a meeting in August as 'the most depressing meeting I have ever attended' and that Bishop Walsh made the 'outrageous suggestion that the Archbishop should inform the civil authorities.'

September 1990. Deadline extended - Walsh given leave of absence for a year. The report says it is quite clear the Archbishop wanted to prepare him for life as a layman.

Jan 1991. Walsh living in Dublin in Halston Street

March 1991 -Scout leader and parent contacted Archbishop to say Walsh was back in Dublin. He had been seen with a boy in his car. Bishops meeting decided to institute a penal process against him, discussed informing gardaí, but did not.

May 1991. Walsh sent to Mellifont Abbey

June 1991 Monsignor Stenson told by a victim (1980/81) that Walsh was continuing to go to Ballyfermot.

August 1991 - Walsh refuses UK treatment

Claims of 'persecution'

In July 1992, Tony Walsh did not turn up at the Archdiocesan Library for a period of two weeks, the report says he was 'not getting on well' there.

A priest from Westland Row contacted Monsignor Stenson informing him Walsh was spending some time in the parish.

The Monsignor advised the priest to contact the Garda Superintendent on College Green and request he keep an eye on Walsh.

Tony Walsh complained to the Archbishop about 'persecution' by Monsignor Stenson.

A report from concerned parents in December 1992 that Walsh had called into local scouts meetings stating he was 'attached to Clonliffe' was passed on by Monsignor Stenson to Bishops.

In May 2003, Monsignor Stenson was informed by another priest about concerns expressed by a Ballyfermot parishioner about inappropriate behaviour with a young girl and behaviour with altar boys.

The report states that the local priest with whom the concerns were raised 'clearly knew' of the 'reputation', which Walsh had and advised the parishioner to avoid all contact with him.

Penal process verdict

In August 1993, the Penal Process delivered its verdict. It said he should be 'dismissed from the clerical state', because he had offended against the ten commandments with a 'minor or minors' under the age of 16.

Walsh's psychologist said that there was a 'better way of controlling him' and suggested the Church could find a way of using him 'rather than to dump him'.

Two months later in October 1993, Walsh appealed to Rome against the decision to dismiss him from the priesthood. He told Rome he had not offended since 1988 and he said he considered his punishment too harsh.

In June 1994, Rome allowed his appeal against the penalty imposed and said he should remain as a cleric provided he enter a monastery for a period of ten years.

1994 - Further complaint

In May 1994, a young boy complained to gardaí in Ballyfermot that he had been sexually assaulted by Walsh in the toilet of a pub following the funeral of the boy's grandfather.

There was also an allegation a similar incident had happened a year earlier.

Walsh attended the local Garda Station, but according to the report 'declined to answer any questions.'

In late 1994, newspaper reports about the incident in the pub involving the boy were published, but Walsh was not identified.

In December of that year, the mother of boys who had been abused by Walsh rang Monsignor Stenson to say her son was suicidal and Walsh had been babysitting in recent weeks.

Church restrictions

Monsignor Stenson met with Tony Walsh and told him he was not to wear clerical dress on any occasion. He was banned from being alone with a child. He was not to mislead people that he was attached to Clonliffe College, the Archbishops House or the Marriage Tribunal.

Walsh was told by the Monsignor that if he did not comply with the Archbishop's directions, 'his financial situation would be reviewed'.

1995 - Opposition to civil action

In early 1995, Walsh admitted to gardaí he had indecently assaulted two boys in the 1980s.

A number of other complaints were made to the gardaí and the Archdiocese.

The report says that in spite of mounting evidence and media coverage Monsignor Sheehy advised the then Archbishop Connell against excessive reaction, 'no matter what civil law may say.'

In June 1995, priests from Ballyfermot and other parishes were invited to a meeting with Archbishop Connell to discuss problems that might be encountered following recent publicity surrounding Tony Walsh.

Finding a monastery

Archbishop Connell wrote to the judicial body in Rome informing them he was unable to find a monastery for Walsh and was appealing its decision. The Archdiocese said no monastery would take Walsh.

He told Rome he could not send him abroad because he had been charged with a criminal offence.

The Archbishop told Rome that he had to act definitively with regard to Walsh because, he said, 'in the present climate in this country, the alternative could well be a serious scandal for the church.'

The report claims that by the summer of 1995 the Archdiocese was reporting all complaints to the gardaí and complainants were being offered counselling.

Dismissed by the Pope

Archbishop Connell wrote to Rome and begged the pope to dismiss Walsh. He sent a letter to a senior member of the Curia in Rome to officially petition Pope John Paul II to dismiss him.

Archbishop Connell wrote, 'the Archbishop humbly begs the Holy Father graciously to grant him this favour in the interests of the well-being of the Church.'

The plea was successful and in January 1996 a decree issued by the now Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, confirmed the Pope had dismissed Walsh as a priest.

The report states that the decision to petition the Pope was a novel one which had created a precedent.

Walsh tried to appeal against the Pope's decision, he wanted the Pope to intervene and allow him remain a priest because he was living in the Cistercian Monastery in Mount Melleray.

From July 1996, the Archdiocese no longer regarded Walsh as being entitled to pay and it awarded him £10,500 severance pay.


A young man abused in 1979 contacted the Archdiocese in November 1997 complaining about the inadequate response of Bishop Kavanagh to his complaint in 1979. He said that if a robust response had been taken at the appropriate time, further abuses could have been avoided.

Further complaints

The report says that further complaints emerged in the 1990s and 2000s. All people involved were offered counselling, but one complainant told the Commission that 'the Church have failed me and still fail me today.'

Release from prison

In March 2002, before his release from prison, Walsh wrote to the Abbot of Mount Melleray seeking accommodation after his release but was declined.

He also wrote to Cardinal Connell stating he had nowhere to live and no money and said that he had been looking forward to his release, but did not expect it would be accompanied by the ordeal of having nowhere to go.

The Archbishop had written to the prison advising them that Walsh must organise his own accommodation and work on his release.


The Commission says that Walsh never accepted that he was dismissed from the priesthood.

The report states he continued to seek ways of appeal against the Pope's decision. It also states that he has appeared in Clerical Dress on some occasions. It adds that despite being threatened with ex-communication if he continued to represent himself as a priest, it did not deter him.

Commission's Assessment

The Commission concludes that the welfare of children did not arise as a consideration for the Archdiocese, despite an established clear danger to children.

It says that by 1985, the Archdiocese knew he was a serial abuser and his transfer to Westland Row was clearly an attempt to avoid further scandal in Ballyfermot.

The report concludes that action should have been taken by the Archdiocese in 1979 'at the latest'. But it recognises that Archbishop Connell did act decisively once he became Archbishop.


The Commission says it is 'unacceptable' that two gardaí who had concerns about Walsh in 1990 and 1992 failed to pursue a thorough criminal investigation.

The report concludes that a criminal investigation 'of sorts' was effectively shelved because of the penal process in the Church.