An elderly Irish cleric is appealing his dismissal from the priesthood directly to Pope Francis and to a top Vatican court.
According to the Irish Independent the priest, known only by the pseudonyms 'Fr Ronat' and 'Fr B', faces being defrocked after a church canonical court upheld the abuse allegations lodged against him by former minors in the diocese of Cloyne. 'Fr Ronat' was at the center of judicial enquiry known as the Cloyne Report which dealt with complaints against 19 priests made from 1996.
A relative of the cleric told the Independent that an appeal has been lodged within the stipulated 15-day period.
'We are very disappointed with the negative outcome. But there will be an appeal, particularly in respect of the fact we believe that a full defense against the allegations was not properly taken into account,' he said.
The man stressed that 'Fr Ronat,' who vehemently denies the allegations, was deeply upset by the canonical court decision.
'Fr Ronat' now reportedly suffers from a number of health problems, and has never been convicted in a criminal court of any offense.
But the canonical court, which is comprised of a notary and three priest-judges, has upheld the allegations made against the elderly priest to the church's moral standard. Their recent recommendation leaves the Irish priest facing 'dismissal from the clerical state.'
But 'Fr Ronat' is now reportedly appealing their ruling to the Apostolic Signature and directly to Pope Francis, the two highest authorities on canon law within the Catholic Church.
Until a decision is made on his appeal, his proposed dismissal from the priesthood remains suspended. For over a decade 'Fr Ronat' has been forbidden by the church from saying Mass in public. He is also not allowed to wear priestly clothing in public.
According to the Independent one of the complainants against him described the canonical court ruling as 'a total vindication' and welcomed his dismissal recommendation. 'It is an enormous relief to finally have been believed after all these years,' she said.
The canonical investigation was re-launched two years ago following the publication of the Cloyne Report into how the Cork diocese mishandled clerical child abuse allegations. Published in July 2011. the chapter involving 'Fr Ronat' was withheld from publication for a further six months for legal reasons.
Immediately after the final chapter was published, the church signaled that it was resuming the suspended canonical trial.
'Fr Ronat' is reportedly the focus of 11 separate abuse complaints, the allegations against him formed the largest single chapter in the report.