Cardinal's Apology for Failure to Tackle Abuse

Total Catholic [Ireland]
Downloaded February 3, 2003

Cardinal Desmond Connell was under renewed pressure this week after being forced to issue an in-court apology for the way he dealt with child sex-abuse allegations against a priest.

The Archbishop of Dublin's statement of apology was read out in the Irish High Court as part of the biggest cash settlement in Irish legal history - amounting to almost 200,000 - to the victim of clerical sex abuse.

The award also prompted fears among the Irish Catholic Church leadership about the size of a potential collective compensation bill for sex cases already running into dozens and dating back almost 50 years.

This week's agreed settlement was made to Mervyn Rundle, 28, who was abused as a church altar boy in a Dublin parish 18 years ago by the subsequently convicted and jailed Fr Thomas Naughton.

Mr Rundle, who was nine years old at the time of the crime, held out for an apology as part of the settlement because of the way the original complaint he and his parents made to the Church in 1985 was dismissed. But a decade later, after hearing that Fr Naughton was still abusing young people in other parishes, Mr Rundle went back to Dublin's Archbishop's House and spoke to Cardinal Connell.

When Fr Naughton was convicted and jailed for three years in 1998, the cardinal issued an initial statement of pastoral support for the priest's victims. But other victims then approached the cardinal looking for further action.

After today's High Court-approved settlement was announced, Mr Rundle said he was delighted that the pain the Catholic Church caused him had at last been acknowledged.

He added: 'It was only right that they should apologise for putting me through 18 years of sheer hell. It was part of the settlement.

'There was one thing I felt that they had to do - and that was apologise. I am delighted the Catholic Church has at last acknowledged the pain it has caused a frightened young boy for so long.'

Mr Rundle said Cardinal Connell should quit as archbishop if he was not prepared to help those who had suffered as a result of the activities of the clergy.

He declared: 'If he is not prepared to do that, he should get out.'

Joe Costello, the Irish Labour opposition party's justice spokesperson, called the settlement 'a highly significant outcome, both in terms of the sum of money involved and in revealing the extent of abuse that has gone on.'

He added: 'This case was of the utmost severity and it raises many important issues.

'For example, the degree of abuse that took place and the level of cover-up that followed.

'Senior members of the Catholic Church must accept responsibility for compounding this situation by placing an obvious paedophile in areas where he had access to young boys, and for not co-operating with the Gardai when first approached.'

In his statement, the cardinal, who faced calls to resign last year following a TV programme's revelations about his handling of sex abuse cases, said: 'Cardinal Connell profoundly regrets the injury caused to Mervyn Rundle by Fr Tom Naughton and sincerely apologises to him and to his family for what has occurred.

'On behalf of the Archdiocese of Dublin, the cardinal acknowledges that in 1985 Mr Rundle, then a young boy, was the victim of serious sexual abuse by Fr Naughton, who was then a curate in Donnycarney parish. The cardinal also acknowledges that Mr Rundle was grievously injured by this abuse, which has had devastating consequences for him, and that the abuse has also caused much distress to his family.'

The cardinal's statement added: 'Lessons have been learned from Mr Rundle's pain and trauma and that of others which has been and will continue to be, applied in dealing with any future complaints.'

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