I have tried to summarise chronologically the recently published chapter 19 from the Murphy Report on the serial sex-abuser priest Tony Walsh, so that it can be digested more easily.
Sometimes, as I went through the report, I was so horrified or disbelieving that I highlighted something in boldface so that I could come back to it. For example, I was staggered at the evidence of a Garda in 1991 who, even though a priest had told him about a church inquiry into a sex abuser, was able to say that no specific complaint of sex abuse had been made. This garda informed a priest that there was no question of a prosecution and subsequently gave evidence to a diocesan inquiry, but never tried to have the rapist arrested.
As you read through this chronology, you might find yourself astounded at the inability of the bishops and priests to recognise that they were dealing with a serious criminal. You might be astounded at the attitude of Gerard Sheehy: to crown my depression, Bishop Walsh made the outrageous suggestion that the Archbishop should inform the civil authorities. Monsignor Sheehy was reacting to the notion that a child-rapist might be reported to the police.
Bishop Eamon Walsh, the man who tentatively suggested reporting the rapist to the police, is a qualified barrister. He remains convinced he did nothing wrong, even though he acquiesced with a decision not to inform the civil authorities that an employee of the diocese was routinely raping children. Indeed, he claims credit:
I wasn’t a month in the job as a bishop, and I stood up at a meeting and I said that not alone should the police, who were already informed about an individual, but we should say where he was living and the number of his car, because I felt he was a danger.
In other words, this barrister, who knew that Tony Walsh was a danger to children, stood up and suggested letting the police know. When the other men at the meeting decided not to tell the police about a dangerous rapist, Bishop Eamon Walsh, a lawyer, sat down again and did no more about it.
Clearly, this bishop inhabits the same moral vacuum as his colleagues.
Sheehy was both a canon and a civil lawyer, but his contempt for the laws of the State is clear: I think it important that every one of us should at this stage avoid any excessive reaction – no matter what the civil law may say.
At this remove, it seems astounding that anyone should think like that. No matter what the civil law might say. Is there any way of interpreting that phrase other than as a rejection of the law of the land?
You might be stunned at the fact that, throughout this entire saga, the church authorities were primarily concerned with avoiding trouble for themselves, and at no stage displayed the slightest concern for the children Walsh had raped. As the Commission report puts it: the welfare of children simply did not arise for consideration.
I was most surprised by the level of trust that the parents of the priests’ victims placed in the Dublin diocese, trust which turned out to be grossly misplaced, since the diocese and its servants had not the slightest interest in protecting these people or their children from the rapists who were a part of the clerical apparatus.
It appears that everyone in the Dublin diocese knew for years that Walsh was a rapist. All the Archbishops knew it. All the auxiliary bishops knew it. The diocesan administrator jknew it full well. Many of the priests knew it.
And yet, not one of these men who took it upon themselves to tell the general population what was moral, and in particular who claimed to have great authority in matters of a sexual nature, could see any personal obligation to stop the rapist by reporting his crimes to the police.
These same men who, day in and day out were lecturing their adult parishioners about trivia such as contraception, were unable to act in the best interest of children who were being abused in a monstrous way by one of their own.
Section 1.77 of the report, which was also redacted, clearly shows that Dublin priests were operating a paedophile ring:
Fr Carney and Fr McCarthy abused children during their visits to children’s homes. They also brought children on holidays and shared accommodation with two separate complainants. A boy who was initially abused by Fr McCarthy was subsequently abused by Fr Carney.
Fr Carney abused children at swimming pools and was sometimes accompanied to swimming pools by Fr Maguire. Altar boys trips to Clonliffe College were originally started by Bill Carney and Francis McCarthy and were taken over by Fr Walsh. There were complaints of abuse during those visits.
Before he got his own room in the presbytery in Ballyfermot, Fr Walsh used Fr Reynolds’s room in Kilmore to abuse victims. Fr Reynolds had given him a key.
That’s Carney, McCarthy, Reynolds.Maguire and Walsh, all abusing the same boys.
A paedophile ring of Dublin priests.
I think it’s important to point out one salient fact. The Murphy Commission did not carry out a thorough investigation of every abusing priest in the Dublin archdiocese. It took only a representative sample
After the events described in the report, Walsh was jailed again on the 6th December last for further crimes.
Chapter 19 Fr Tony Walsh
|1972-1978||Walsh trains for priesthood.Abuses children during training. Has key to house of another clerical abuser, Noel Reynolds.|
|1978||Walsh ordained.Appointed to Ballyfermot parish.Parents of 8-year-old boy complain to priest of Walsh sexually abusing their child in Reynolds’s house the previous month. Priest nots “the parents are most responsible people and there is no danger of publicity”.Monsignor Glennon accepts Walsh’s denials, and no further action is taken.|
|1979||Mother of a 14-year-old boy reports abuse by Walsh in Ballyfermot in 1978 and 1979 and subsequently contacts parish priest of Ballyfermot, Val Rogers. Fr Michael Cleary, goes to the boy’s house to educate him on male sexuality.No further acion taken.In 1985, Rogers tells Stenson the incident was “hushed up”.|
|1980-82||Youth coordinator complains to Archdiocese about Walsh sexually abusing young girls. No action taken.|
|1984||Donal O’Doherty becomes PP of Ballyfermot. Receives “veiled warning” about Walsh from bishop Dermot Ryan.|
|1985||Monsignor Stenson interviews Seven priests aware of Walsh’s abuse. O’Doherty describes catching Walsh abusing altar boy.Stenson dismisses reports of abuse as “ill-informed gossip”.|
|April 1985||Parents inform Stenson that Walsh sexually abused their daughter.Parents of 14-yr-old boy complain about Walsh making frequent visits to their son. Monsignor Stenson noted that the priest and the family “do not know if there was anything more to it than that”. Stenson notes: “Given the track record such behaviour was suspicious and very imprudent”.|
|Stenson interviews Walsh who “denied nothing”.Walsh admits abusing boy in Ballyfermot and another boy in Wicklow.Stenson suggests seeing a psychiatrist. Bishop MacNamara informed.Psychiatrist reports being cautiously optimistic that Walsh will respond to treatment using “the re-orientation method to channel the drive appropriately”|
|October 1985||Parent reports assault on young girl to O’Doherty, PP in Ballyfermot.B O’Mahony tells Stenson, who informs psychiatrist. No further inquiries are made.Walsh moved to new parish at Westland Row. Bishop writes, thanking him for his dedicated work in the parish.|
|February 1986||Walsh starts in Westland Row.Parish priest not informed that Walsh is a child abuser.|
|Mother of 1979 complainant contacts Stenson due to Walsh’s continued career with All-Priests Show. He notes : “I was impressed by this woman who is obviously a concerned person and who is distressed by what has happened to her son […]. I would also be of the opinion that she was not out to cause trouble or obtain money”.Stenson asks Walsh to reconsider his involvement in entertainment and public appearances. Walsh continues performing.|
|January 1987||Housekeeper in Westland Row finds items of her underwear in Walsh’s room, which have been “used”. She also finds condoms and syringes in his room. She reports that a number of boys had slept overnight in Walsh’s bed and a boy from Ballyfermot had been visiting. Monsignor Stenson notes that he has “no doubt about her truthfulness”. When these allegations are put to him, Walsh denies them and further says he does not know what condoms are like.|
|April 1988||Woman alleges to a Ballyfermot priest that Walsh had her son in the Westland Row presbytery.|
|May 1988||Parents complain that Walsh sexually abused their daughter.Stenson interviews Walsh and records that “for the first time he really opened up”.Walsh admits to abusing a child about once a fortnight. [Commission notes that Walsh minimised the extent of his activities.]Stenson records that Walsh is shocked to discover how much information the diocese has on file about him. He discusses Walsh’s “difficulties” with him and promises to apologise to the parents.After meeting the parents, Stenson notes “[The father] said that he would not like [Walsh] to suffer because of one misdemeanour. They pray for him and hope he can get help. I was greatly impressed by this couple. They were extremely kind and concerned. I did not indicate that there was a history of this behaviour”.
Walsh writes out an account of his “difficulties”, mentioning only instances of abuse which have resulted in complaints. According to the Commission, it minimises the extent of the abuse by using phrases like “sat on my lap” and “wrestled playfully on my bed with him”.
|June 1988||Walsh removed from Westland Row and sent to Stroud for treatment.|
|Stroud therapist reports that Walsh appears more realistic about his situation than other similar men.A month later, another report states “[Walsh] is ‘extremely compulsive – there have been an awful lot of children involved he is a very disturbed man He is always going to be dangerous. He could not be let near schools, children, Confession without a grille etc…’|
|November 1988||Final report. Stroud considers that Walsh had been honest. However, that under no circumstances should he have any apostolate involving children. He should also receive further counselling. He should permanently abstain from drink.Shortly afterwards his personal therapist rings Stenson and states that Walsh was the best patient he had seen.|
|Walsh signs contract with diocese:• “I will not be involved in any apostolate which involves children;• I understand that under no circumstances must I make any physical contact with a child beyond a handshake in a public place;• I will not be alone with a child;• I understand that the priests with whom I am stationed will be aware of the general nature of my difficulty and they will have the right to discuss any areas of anxiety about the way I am relating, especially to children; …
• I will not visit the Ballyfermot area under any circumstances.”
|Walsh appointed to assist chaplain in hospital for old people.Accommodation in Halston St.All priests in presbytery aware of his history.|
|1989||Walsh starts counselling with priest-psychotherapist. Therapist believes Walsh’s statement that he never raped children.Stroud reports Walsh unhappy with contract and wishes to return to Ballyfermot.Therapist asks “how likely [was he] to repeat his actions and constitute a risk to children and, by extension to the church”.The Archdiocese attempted to find a location which would reduce the risk to children as much as possible.|
|August 1989||Walsh takes child into his car and kisses him. After complaint from parents, Walsh visits child’s home.|
|Regional marriage tribunal already has two known clerical sexual abusers working in it. Suggestion is made to Monsignor Sheehy, the judicial vicar, that he might take Walsh into the tribunal. Sheehy declines on the basis that Fr Walsh’s limited intellectual capacity might lead him to become frustrated.|
|December 1989||Psychiatrist’s report says Walsh has made no progress.|
|January 1990||Psychotherapist recommends appointment to post where Walsh has no involvement with children.|
|Diocese informed that Walsh has been visiting scouts.Walsh refused permission to tour Britain with The Holy Show.|
|April 1990||Archbishop Connell and Stenson offer Walsh two options: voluntary laicisation or dismissal.Sheehy opposes dismissal and writes to bishop warning of “minefield”. Asks bishop to keep letter from Stenson.|
|After one meeting, attended by Archbishop Connell, Stenson, bishops Kavanagh, O’Mahony and Murray, Sheehy notes as follows:probably the most depressing meeting that I have ever attended. There was not a single word, from anyone, about the fact that we are dealing with a disordered person. The whole thrust was: ‘how best can we get rid of him?’ … To crown my depression, Bishop Walsh made the outrageous suggestion that the Archbishop should inform the civil authorities about Fr [Walsh’s] homosexual orientation.Bishop Eamonn Walsh told the Commission that his concern related to Walsh’s paedophile orientation and not his sexuality in general.|
|September 1990||Walsh granted a year’s leave of absence. Not allowed to practise any ministry or wear clerical clothes. Walsh to live in a rehabilitation centre outside Dublin.|
|January 1991||Walsh back in Dublin and living in Halston Street. Stenson discovers this by chance in a conversation with Rogers who did not want Monsignor Stenson to tell the archbishop.|
|February 1991||Stenson tells Walsh that there would be no future for him in ministry and that he should “start planning constructively for the future”.|
|March 1991||Scout leader and parent inform diocese that Walsh is back in Dublin. Walsh had been seen with a boy in his car and was calling frequently to this boy’s house. Monsignor Stenson made inquiries with professionals about what to do in respect of this boy as there were concerns but no complaint or evidence of abuse. A short time later, the mother of this boy asked questions about Fr Walsh and she was told by another priest that he was a danger to children.|
|May 1991||Walsh is sent to stay in Mellifont Abbey under supervision.|
|Stenson tells Walsh, that everyone is sick and tired of him “calling the shots”. If Walsh does not apply for laicisation, the penal process to dismiss him will be set in train.Walsh writes to Connell: “I don’t know very much about the kind of process Msgr Stenson talked about, except that it seems to be some kind of enquiry board which might listen to me, even if it might in the long run dismiss me. So I agree to cooperate with the board or process if it will let me state my own case before it and let me have some people to explain my side of the story and give me a fair trial”.|
|March 1991||Bishops decide at meeting to institute a penal process. They also discussed informing the Gardaí but fail to do so.|
|June 1991||Stenson meets young man from Ballyfermot who complains that he had been abused by Fr Walsh in 1980/1981 when he was about 12. This complainant tells Stenson that Walsh had started to frequent Ballyfermot again around 1990 and was continuing to do so.|
|August 1991||Walsh meets Stenson and refuses to go to the therapeutic centre in the UK stating that he was happy with his current therapist.After leaving this meeting, Walsh approaches a young boy in the neighbourhood and, asks him to get into the car. The boy immediately goes home and the next day when Walsh calls to the house, the boy’s mother calls the Gardaí.|
|Mellifont priest informs Gardaí that Walsh was staying there because of numerous allegations of paedophilia. Gardaí do not investigate this statement.According to the Commission: The Archdiocese took the fact that Fr Walsh had now come to the attention of the Gardaí far more seriously than the Gardaí did.According to Stenson:Apparently [a garda] from Whitehall Garda Station had been looking for a Fr [Walsh] with an address at Mellifont. [Walsh] had approached a child and the mother had complained to the Police. … I rang [the garda] and explained who I was and what I had heard. I asked if he could provide details. He did but wondered if [Walsh] had a record. I evaded that but told him to proceed with whatever steps he thought he should take.Stenson told the Commission that he acted within the bounds of his oath of secrecy as chancellor.|
|September 1991||Archbishop orders Walsh to live in St John of God psychiatric hospital until going to the UK. The night before he is due to enter the hospital, he tries to get a boy aged 11 ninto his car. The boy refused. He then follows the boy home and tries to persuade his sister that the boy should go out with him. The family called the Gardaí.|
|The investigating Garda phones Stenson because another complaint has been received at a different station. Gardaí had received a complaint a year earlier but had done nothing except report it to the boy’s headmaster.Stenson notes: “[the garda] assured me that there was ‘no question of prosecution”The garda, in his report written some 11 years later, stated that Stenson told him the Church was carrying out an internal investigation into the paedophile activities of Walsh and that he had asked for the garda’s co-operation.Fr (later bishop) Willie Walsh called to Whitehall station stating that he had been appointed to carry out an internal investigation into the paedophile activities of Fr Walsh. Willie Walsh was the presiding judge in the Church penal process being undertaken at that time. The garda gave him details of the incident in August. The garda report stated that neither Monsignor Stenson nor Fr Willie Walsh made any report of a criminal nature concerning the activities of Fr Walsh or any other priest.According to the Commission, for all practical purposes, any garda investigation into Fr Walsh’s activities ceased at this point even though by nowthey were aware of three incidents of suspicious behaviour. Stenson’s failure to tell of the other known allegations meant that they were, as yet, unaware of the bigger problem.|
|Walsh difficult and unco-operative in St John of God’s.|
|November-December 1991||Walsh in UK clinic.Clinic reports that he admitted to abusing 100 boys. The report outlines the classic picture of a paedophile grooming children, then abusing them and minimising the impact of his behaviour.|
|Walsh returns to Dublin to live with sister.|
|January 1992||Walsh returns to UK for intensive course.Walsh permitted to roam the streets of the nearby large city unsupervised. He dresses in clerical attire and introduces himself to local clergy, saying Mass in local churches. He visits a house and offers to baby-sit. By chance, the father of the children calls to the clinic. Walsh immediately ejected from the clinic and returns to Dublin.|
|April 1992||Church penal process.Walsh admits to abusing five named individuals and to approximately 100 instances of abuse in respect of ten unnamed children. He says that he had had another 80, 90 or possibly 100 children sitting on his knee in Ballyfermot. When questioned further on this, he agrees that he was sexually aroused when the children were sitting on his knee. As the Commission states, this is child sexual abuse.Among the other people who give evidence at the penal process are a number of parents of complainants, the garda involved in the 1991 concerns and the psychologist who was treating Fr Walsh.Mother of the 1979 complainant gives evidence but is not told what the penal process is. In or around 1995, Bishop Willie Walsh who had been the presiding judge meets the woman and apologises|
|July 1992||Walsh grooms a 15-year-old boy whose parent is a Garda. The parent complains to a priest.|
|A Westland Row priest complains that Walsh has returned to the parish. Stenson asks the priest to contact a Garda superintendent who is a friend of the priest and ask him to “keep an eye” on Walsh.|
|September 1992||Walsh complains of persecution.|
|December 1992||A couple report to Stenson that Walsh had been calling to their home and one day they discovered their ten-year-old son sitting on his lap. Stenson warns them to keep Walsh away from their son. A few days later one of the parents tells Stenson that Walsh had called into the local scouts meeting stating that he was “attached to Clonliffe”. Monsignor Stenson reports this to the bishops.|
|May 1993||Stenson receives a letter from another about Walsh’s abuse of a young girl and rumours about his behaviour with altar boys.|
|August 1993||Penal process recommends dismissal of Walsh from priesthood.|
|October 1993||Walsh appeals verdict to Rome.He claims that he had not abused children since 1988 and considers the punishment too harsh.|
|May 1994||A young boy complains to the Gardaí in Ballyfermot that he had been sexually assaulted by Walsh in the toilet of a pub following the funeral of the boy’s grandfather. The family alleged that a similar incident had happened a year earlier but they did not report it at the time.Gardaí contact Stenson. Walsh refuses to answer any questions. The Gardaí tell Stenson of their intention to arrest Fr Walsh. They also tell him that they are in the process of “linking of various skeletons” and that press are “sniffing out a story”.Walsh denies the allegation.|
|June 1994||Rome upholds appeal. Walsh to remain a priest provided he enter a monastery for ten years.|
|December 1994||A mother of boys who had been abused by Walsh calls Stenson to say that her son is suicidal and that Walsh had been babysitting in recent weeks.Stenson advises her to tell the Gardaí.This case is reported to the Gardaí.|
|Stenson tells Walsh that:
|Sheehy advises Archbishop Connell as follows:I think it important that every one of us should at this stage avoid any excessive reaction – no matter what the civil law may say. Least of all should we pay any real attention to the money-making posturing of the media”.|
|1995||Walsh admits to the Gardaí that he had indecently assaulted two boys in the 1980s. He denies sexually assaulting either of the brothers whose mother had recently been in touch with Stenson.|
|February 1995||Walsh charged in the District Court with sexual assault in relation to the May 1994 complainant – the boy who had been molested after his grandfather’s funeral. Walsh pleads not guilty. He is convicted and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment. He appeals both conviction and sentence. The appeal was subsequently withdrawn when he is convicted of further offences in December 1997.|
|May 1995||The Archdiocese contact the Gardaí and tell them about the other complaints which had come to the attention of other garda stations. Archbishop Connell instructed Monsignor Stenson to contact known complainants to make them aware that Walsh was facing criminal charges and to empower them to make complaints to the Gardaí.|
|July 1995||Walsh charged with further sexual offences in the District Court. Case adjourned to allow the Gardaí pursue further investigations.|
|November 1995||Gardaí tell Stenson that all garda stations have been asked to collate all cases concerning Walsh.Archdiocese now reporting all complaints to the Gardaí. Complainants being offered counselling.Connell writes to Pope: “The Archbishop humbly begs the Holy Father graciously to grant him this favour in the interests of the well-being of the Church”.|
|January 1996||Ratzinger dismisses Walsh from priesthood.|
|February 1996||DPP directs trial on indictment regarding six complainants.|
|June 1997||Walsh pleads guilty concerning four complainants, and not guilty to four more.|
|November 1997||The 1979 complainant contacts the Archdiocese and highlights the inadequate response of Bishop Kavanagh. He says that further abuses could have been avoided. Monsignor Dolan meets this man and his mother.|
|December 1997||Walsh pleads guilty to approximately 12 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency in respect of six boys.|
|March 2002||Walsh released from prison.|
|October 2002||Prime Time Cardinal Secrets programme broadcast. Further complainants emerge.|
|The housekeeper in Fr Walsh’s house in Ballyfermot tells the Gardaí that there were always young children in the house and that on one occasion she was met by two young boys coming out of Fr Walsh’s bedroom.She says that she told another priest who lived in the house of her concerns, but he did not say anything in response. On another occasion she recalls Michael Cleary breaking into Walsh’s room and having an argument with him, but she did not know what that argument was about.|
|Commission Findings||By 1985, the Archdiocese knew that he was a serial abuser. His transfer to Westland Row was clearly an attempt to avoid further scandal in Ballyfermot. There was an established clear danger to children and yet the welfare of children simply did not arise for consideration.The Commission finds it unacceptable that two gardaí who had concerns about Fr Walsh in 1990 and in 1992 failed to pursue a thorough criminal investigation. When a criminal investigation of sorts got under way in 1991, it was effectively shelved because the Church was carrying out its own penal process. The Commission recognises that there was no specific complaint before the Gardaí at that stage but there were at least three instances of concern.|