Tony Walsh the pedophile and former priest convicted in a Dublin court earlier this week, was one of only two clerics subjected to a “canonical trial” during the last 30 years, the Murphy report reveals.
The Murphy report looks into clerical sex abuse allegations in the Dublin diocese, and how church authorities dealt with them. Chapter 19, dealing with Tony Walsh, was withheld when the report was published because of Walsh’s pending criminal trial.
Both of the canonical trials were to the work of Cardinal Desmond Connell, whose reputation is somewhat redeemed by the report which includes scathing criticism of his role in other chapters.
Murphy reports that Connell was “stunned” by the extent of clerical child sex abuse he had to deal with when he was appointed to Dublin in 1988.
Connell was “the most deeply affected by the harm of clerical sex abuse. He was also the most proactive in seeking improvement in the church management of the issue”, the report quotes another bishop, Dermot O’Mahony, as saying.
Connell also tried to sideline Monsignor Gerard Sheehy, and told the Commission he “did not deal with sex abuse cases with [Sheehy] because I think his views on the way these matters should be dealt with would not have been in accordance with my views.”
The report states Sheehy was “misguided in his views and more concerned with avoiding scandal” than understanding the impact of Walsh’s depravity on his victims.
O’Connell appealed to Rome “as a matter of extreme urgency” when the Catholic Church HQ overturned a decision to expel Walsh from the priesthood. In November 1995, he wrote to Pope John Paul II to “humbly beg the Holy Father graciously to grant him this favour [dismissing Walsh] in the interests of the well-being of the Church.”
Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, issued a decree dismissing Walsh in early 1996.
According to the report, O’Connell’s personal plea to the Pope may have been unprecedented in Church history.
It was not until 1991 that the diocese contacted Gardai, 17 years after it first received complaints about Walsh.
The initial crime report came not from Church authorities, but from a mother who’s son told her that Walsh had tried to lure him into a car in Drumcondra.
The Garda investigation went nowhere, because there was no specific complaint of abuse, but some years later a second Garda investigation finally led to a trial and conviction for Walsh.
Archbishop Dermot Martin, who is also quoted in the report, described dealing with the Congregation of the Clergy in the Vatican as “disastrous”.