Friday, May 27, 2011

Church faces Africa abuse scandal

THE Catholic Church is facing yet another abuse scandal after a series of Irish priests were accused of raping and abusing young children and teenagers while working as missionaries in Africa over the past three decades.

A Prime Time Investigates exposé last Monday night detailed a litany of allegations against Irish priests who were working in areas such as Kenya and South Africa.

A number of incidents involve Fr James McAuley, a Belfast-born priest who worked in Cape Town in South Africa for the Redemptorist missionaries.

Fr McAuley, who has since passed away, faced at least three specific charges of abuse — including the rape of a Sudanese refugee whose family had been killed.

The first known allegation was made in 1996 by Emile Jones, who was from one of Cape Town’s most dangerous slums and was 16 at the time.

Mr Jones told Prime Time that when he went to the Redemptorists with the claim, they made him undergo psychological assessment, which he said amounted to "character assassination".

Another victim of Fr McAuley, James Comley, said he too was ostracised.

The Redemptorists initially sent Fr McAuley to the US for treatment.

However, he was not considered a risk and no evidence was given to police.

In 2000, Fr McAuley is alleged to have raped Sudanese illegal immigrant Adam Okot, who fled to South Africa after his entire family had been killed.

Another priest, Fr Kevin Reynolds, is also alleged to have fathered a daughter — now 29-years-old — after raping a Kenyan girl named as Veneranda.

Fr Reynolds returned to Ireland in 2004 and has been working in the Ahascragh parish in Co Galway. He denies the allegations.

Other allegations identified by Prime Time Investigates include the abuse of a teenage girl by a Kiltegan father in Nigeria and further allegations involving Irish priests in Kenya.

The Kenyan cases include allegations against Fr Gerry Geraghty, aged 56, some from as recently as five years ago.

One alleged victim, Michael Ole Uka of the Maasai tribe, said he was abused by Fr Geraghty in Nairobi when he was aged just seven.

The priest, who is connected to the Mill Hill priests, is also alleged to have abused other children in the area. One victim said that when the allegations were put to another missionary, the second priest "cried for two days".

Fr Geraghty is now living in Dublin and his missionary group has recommended that he be defrocked.

However, as no allegations were made at the time to police in Kenya, he is not facing criminal charges.

Fr Geraghty refused to comment when contacted by Prime Time.

Leading abuse survivor Colm O’Gorman said the reality is that these allegations are not historical but "are happening now" and must be addressed.

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