The priest wrongly accused by Irish television of raping a teenager in Kenya and fathering her child has revealed how he was advised not to take on the might of state broadcaster RTE.
Fr Kevin Reynolds has received over $1.5million in libel damages from the Irish station after the false accusation were made earlier this year in the Prime Time Investigates programme ‘Mission to Prey.’
The priest, asked to stand down from his current parish work in Galway while he fought the case, had to take a paternity test which proved negative and take RTE to Dublin’s High Court before the station admitted they were wrong.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, he said: "I feel very relieved it's all over. It has been an awful and devastating experience. So, so, so distressing -- not only for me but for my family and for my parish.
"I want to say now, I do not have any feelings of revenge or anger. I just want to get over this and on with my life.
"I am not looking for blood. I'm not looking for any revenge. As a priest, of course, whoever wrongs me, I will forgive them and I can say from the bottom of my heart they are forgiven."
Reynolds had offered to take a paternity test to prove he was not the father, but the program went ahead and accused him anyway.: "Of course, it tested my faith. It rattled me in every respect. Not only socially, but also spiritually.
"But I knew from day one I had a clear conscience; I knew it was not true. And my faith remains intact as it was -- as strong as ever.
"The worst day was signing a form to say that I would freely withdraw from all public priestly ministries. That was very difficult.
"But the lowest point of all was driving to Dublin alone on the eve of when the programme was to be aired. Driving out of my priesthood, out of my parish in a complete daze, wondering what on earth had happened. My whole world had collapsed.
"That's an experience I wouldn't like to relive. I didn't sleep that night and there was no sleep for many, many nights after that."
He was seen laughing on the program when he was first accused.
"Mother of God, says I. Is there some truth that this is actually going to air?"
"Kenya is the land of rumours and fabrications and allegations. But not one person I contacted had ever heard that rumour or said there was any truth in it."
"The morning after the programme, I didn't want to be seen. I was afraid in case someone would recognise me and take a pot shot at me. But I got over that pretty fast. After a while I said, 'No, I have to face the world'."
"I must say the second day after the programme was aired, I was in Galway and I met with legal people who recommended that I go for a long holiday and that I would be rather foolish to challenge the might of RTE. That was a pretty low point but there was never a time that I was going to give up.
"I must give it to the Association of Catholic Priests. I got in contact with them and they put me in touch with solicitor Robert Dore. And once he got the legal team moving on it, I became more hopeful."
When the DNA tests confirmed his innocence, Reynolds said: "Everyone was over the moon and congratulations were coming in from all over the place, but it didn't really excite me because I knew I could not have been the father of that child.
"Somebody said to me, 'Now it's time for a mighty party' but I said, 'No. I just want to get all of this cleared up.'"
"There will always be people with lingering suspicions and what can I do? I have to live my life and I know tomorrow morning I will be able to stand outside the door of St Cuan's Church in Ahascragh with confidence and can finally stand tall again, thank God."
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