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Irish bishop disowns priest who supported sex offender

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Outrage over a priest's defense of a convicted sex offender has resulted in Bishop William Murphy of Kerry disowning the priests' behavior.

Up to fifty people had queued up to shake the hands of sex offender Danny Foley before he was sent to jail for 7 years earlier this week.

Fr. Sean Sheehy was one of those people. The priest also defended Foley, providing a character reference for the sex offender in court.

Bishop of Kerry William Murphy released a statement distancing himself from the actions of Fr. Sheehy.

“I wish to offer my sympathy to the victim and to apologize to her on my own behalf and on behalf of the Diocese of Kerry.

“I pay tribute to her courage. I hope what has happened will not undermine the progress that has been made in bringing perpetrators of sexual abuse to justice.' said Bishop Murphy.

In an interview with the Irish Times, Fr. Sheehy said he wanted to "support him and let him know he was not alone. My christian responsibility was to the person who is the object of what I call, this extremely harsh sentence."

Police found the 22-year-old victim half naked beside a skip with Foley crouching over her. He denies sexually assaulting her. The victim has said that she has been demonized by villagers in her hometown in Kenmare. The victim said that since the sexual assault barmen refuse to serve her in her hometown.

When asked why he did not shake the victims hand, Fr Sheehy said he did know the victim but he "certainly would have shook her hand as well.”

Fine Gael Senator Frances Fitzgerald said the court case “exposes the continuing social prejudice against victims of sexual crime”.

The Senator also called for a debate about the treatment of victims of sex crimes.

“In light of the actions in the court house yesterday we must ask ourselves as a society, as a community, how we react to crimes of a sexual nature and the current level of support offered to victims of such crimes.”
 
Fr. Sheehy defended his actions and said he would do it again.

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