Saturday, January 20, 2007

Abuser In Hiding In Ireland

A PRIEST who allegedly molested two young girls as well as a number of other people in the United States in the 1980s is currently being housed by a Catholic Order in a Dublin suburb where he is not allowed unsupervised contact with the general public. Confidential church files released by court order in the US have shown how Reverend John Howlett allegedly fondled two young girls around 1984. He is one of six priests who worked in the Fort Worth diocese where the claims of sexual abuse was not made public.

The acts are understood to have taken place while Bishop Joseph P Delaney was in charge at the diocese. Bishop Delaney has since died.

His successor, Bishop Kevin Vann, has said he hopes the records’ release “will mark the beginning of a new era for the Diocese of Fort Worth and for our larger community. “It is extremely distressing and painful to have read these files,” he said. In the case of Rev Howlett, the church files released by State District Judge Len Wade do not document how he reacted to the accusation of what he is alleged to have done to the girls. According to the Dallas News, the record show the diocese and the priest’s Pallottine Order began paying for counselling for the two girls in the early 1990s after the girls’ mother told officials her daughters were troubled young adults. An order official wrote to the diocese about his desire for informal dealings with the family saying: “I have a reluctance to have attorneys publicly involved pending the expiration of the statute of limitations.”

In response, Reverend Robert Wilson, the Bishop’s aide wrote: “I think you are doing a fine job on this.” The court papers report Reverend Howlett was transferred by Bishop Delaney to another diocese in Texas where he spent about a year. The documents do not indicate where he went from there. Since 1999, three more women have claimed they were abused by Rev Howlett when they were girls and it is understood the church has offered to pay for counselling for them. While staying in Dublin, it is reported he is permanently barred from ministry and from unsupervised contact with the public to ensure that he has no “adverse effect upon the general public health or safety.”

The Provincial of the Pallottine Order in Dublin was unavailable for comment.

The 700-page file released was deemed part of the public record as the diocese was defending itself against a sexual abuse lawsuit against another priest, Revered Thomas Teczar which was settled last year for $4.15m. The documents show the diocesan leaders allegedly counted the days until the risk of liability had passed in dealing with one accuser; allowed one priest who admitted abusing a child to keep working until his death and withheld details about accusations to minimise public fallout.

No comments: