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Irish priests fear false abuse allegations

Priests are becoming more worried about false accusations of child sex abuse, according to a letter sent to clerics of the Dublin Diocese by the head of Dublin's Council of Priests.

Fr Martin Cosgrove's letter acknowledges the enormous harm caused by child sex abuse.

It says: "Child sexual abuse has impacted most deeply on those who have been abused. It has shocked and pained the laity. Families of abused people...have - and are - suffering greatly".

However, the letter then discusses some of the other concerns priests have in this area, including the fear of false allegations and their consequences, the "undermining" of the presumption of innocence, and whether there are procedures in place to vindicate the good name and reputation of a falsely accused priest or religious.

The Irish Catholic says it is believed that the letter been prompted by a recent allegation of child abuse made against a cleric of the Dublin Diocese.

This priest was asked to step aside from his duties by the diocese and did so. However, there is a feeling among some senior priests in the diocese that the allegation did not warrant such a move, and that the damage done to his name will be lasting.

Fr Arthur O'Neill of Westland Row parish told the paper that he had no problem with allegations being passed on to the police, however flimsy they were judged to be. However, he said he was very concerned when a single allegation could result in a priest being asked to stand aside in full view of his parishioners.

Irish Catholic

Dublin Diocese | Statement of Fr Martin Cosgrove, Chairperson of the 12th Dublin Diocese Council of Priests, in support of Cardinal Connell (16/12/02)

21 Aug 2003