Sunday, December 19, 2010

DEPRAVED

"A VERY disturbed man who is always going to be dangerous. He could not be let near schools, children, confession without a grille..."

That was the damning opinion contained in a 1988 psychiatrist’s report on former Dublin priest Tony Walsh. 

He carried out a catalogue of abuse over three decades which included tying up one boy with his vestment ropes before raping him. 

Yet it took until January 1996 before the Pope dismissed him as a priest.

Now, the full shocking details of Walsh’s abuse over 15 years of dozens, if not hundreds, of young children and the lengths the diocese went to in covering up his crimes can be made public.

Thanks to a High Court ruling, chapter 19 of the Commission of Inquiry’s Murphy Report has finally been published. What it exposes is not just the extent of Walsh’s depravity but also the fact that the hierarchy in the Dublin Archdiocese were fully aware of the activities of the "serial" child abuser 10 years before he was finally dismissed from the Church.

As the Commission of Inquiry, which authored the report, puts it: "The welfare of children simply did not arise for consideration."

It lays the blame for the failure to stop Walsh on a number of people both in the Church and in the gardaí. 

As the chapter dedicated to Walsh (or his alias Fr Jovito) in the Murphy report unfolds it becomes clear dozens of priests were aware of Walsh’s behaviour and huge efforts were being made to cover it up. That meant repeated refusals to present the mounting history of abuse to gardaí.

The one person who is praised in the report is then Archbishop Desmond Connell who finally decided to have him laicised in spite of concerted pressure from his own senior advisers and even from Rome.

Turning to the gardaí, the commission said it was "unacceptable" that two gardaí who had concerns about Walsh in 1990 and in 1992 failed to pursue a thorough criminal investigation.

"When a criminal investigation of sorts got under way in 1991, it was effectively shelved because the Church was carrying out its own penal process," it said.

On December 6 this year, the former Dublin priest was sentenced to 16 years in prison for abusing three young boys in the 1970s and 1980s. The final four years of the sentence were suspended.

"The Archdiocese of Dublin failed the victims of Tony Walsh and their families," said Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin last night. "The archdiocese did not follow up its own commitment to stop the abuse.

"Tony Walsh was left in ministry, he was reassigned — he remained in contact with children, using his priestly dress and his membership of a priests’ show, where he was shown off as a priest, giving him constant access to young people.

"Unfortunately, some priests mistakenly supported his remaining in ministry."

One in Four executive director Maeve Lewis said: "We have been contacted by people who are distraught at the realisation that they were sexually abused long after the Catholic Church knew the dangers Tony Walsh posed to children. Their lives have been devastated because the archdiocese chose to recklessly endanger children."

SIC: IEX/IE

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