An elderly Roman Catholic priest, under investigation over alleged child sex abuse, has refused to move out of a parochial house in the diocese of Kilmore.
Bishop Leo O’Reilly has confirmed in a statement that the priest is still living in the house which he was asked to vacate after he was suspended, pending enquiries.
The diocese, which covers Cavan and parts of Leitrim, Meath, Sligo, and Fermanagh, is taking the allegations seriously and removed the priest from all parish duties last September.
He was also ordered to find new accommodation by Bishop O’Reilly but has yet to vacate his church owned property.
The Bishop confirmed in his statement that he had informed police and the health authorities of the allegations against the priest last September. He also revealed that the priest is now the subject of a criminal investigation and cannot be named nor his parish identified to protect his victims.
“I should point out that these are the subject of both criminal investigation and legal proceedings and I am in a position to comment only in a general way on what is a complex individual case,” said Bishop O’Reilly.
“In September when child safeguarding complaints concerning this priest came to my attention, I immediately informed the civil authorities.
“I spoke to the priest, who voluntarily agreed to stand aside from sacred ministry. I informed the parish council that complaints had been received and I addressed local Masses so as to directly and personally inform parishioners.
“As Bishop of Kilmore, I am very much aware of my leadership responsibility to safeguard children in the diocese, and I am absolutely determined to discharge those responsibilities fully.”
A report in the Irish Independent states that the allegations against the priest have divided the local community. The paper says that some members of the church have withdrawn from parish activities while the priest remains in the parochial house.
The Association of Catholic Priests has publicly welcomed the stance taken by Bishop O’Reilly but has criticized the manner in which the news of his suspension was released at a mass in the parish.
Spokesman Fr Sean McDonagh said, “We welcome the courageous leadership from the bishop.
“We have no special pleading that the priest be treated in a particular way. The association is very much opposed to the public nature in which priests are being stepped down. The Mass is a place to listen to the word of God, and it’s a mis-use of Mass.
“We are beginning to have a feeling that once these accusations are made you have to prove yourself innocent.”