Friday, January 18, 2013

Secret court to rule on priest’s defrocking over sex abuse

A judgment is expected in the coming weeks on whether a Cork priest is to be defrocked by a secret ecclesiastical court because of sex abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne.

Eleven complaints of sexual abuse were made to gardaí about the now retired priest but he has not been convicted of abuse in a criminal court. 

However a number of people have received financial settlements from the diocese.

The priest, known as Fr Ronat in the Dublin archdiocese report into child abuse in Cloyne, can appeal the decision of the canonical tribunal to Rome.

Ecclesiastical sources say that if he is unhappy with the outcome, the sentence can be suspended pending appeal to the Church’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Appeals can take years to process.

Complaints against Fr Ronat constituted the biggest chapter in the Dublin archdiocese’s commission of investigation into the handling of abuse in the Cork diocese.

The secret court was initially established in 2009 after the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church’s (NBSCCC) issued its damning report on the handling of abuse in the diocese.

The board described the priest as Father B.

But the court was suspended once the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation were asked to examine the Co Cork diocese.

This report was published in late 2011.

The priest’s alleged victims gave evidence to the Church’s own court last summer when it convened in Co Cork.

Three priests — two clerical canon lawyers and a notary — assessed the evidence given by the alleged victims and the priest, and all involved had to sign an oath of secrecy.

Once all evidence was heard, the canon law court drew up its report and its recommendations were sent on to the Vatican.

Dermot Clifford, the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly and apostolic administrator of the Cloyne diocese, reconvened the secret court after Easter.

The process began in 2009 but was suspended because victims wanted to wait until after the publication of the Dublin archdiocese commission’s report into the handling of abuse in the diocese.

Chapter nine of the report, which related to Fr Ronat, was published in Dec 2011. It was published later than the original report due to legal proceedings.

It is not known whether the canonical court decision will be made public before Canon William Crean is ordained as bishop of the diocese at the end of the month.

He has spoken of his apprehension at accepting the appointment in light of the troubled history of the diocese where his predecessor failed to protect children from clerical sex abuse.

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