Statement from Bishop Philip Boyce, Bishop of Raphoe (Re: Spotlight Programme)

29 Oct 2002

Statement from Bishop Philip Boyce, Bishop of Raphoe (Re: Spotlight Programme)

I attach a copy of statement issued to the spotlight Programme on the 18th of October last.

I wish to categorically state that I was not made aware of child sexual allegations against Father Greene in 1995. I was ordained Bishop in October 1995. Some time later I was made aware of rumours about Father Greene. Despite my personal inquiries, which included a number of meetings, I was unable to identify any complaint of child sexual abuse against him.

I was first made aware of a child sexual abuse allegation against Father Greene in 1998 – by the Gardai.


18th October 2002

Statement by Bishop Philip Boyceto the Spotlight Documentary, BBC Northern Ireland

As I have said repeatedly, the harm and suffering caused by a priest of the diocese through child sexual abuse saddens me profoundly.

The Greene case to which you propose to refer in your documentary “Spotlight” first came to my notice in January 1998. A Garda investigation began that month. I co-operated fully with this investigation, which resulted in the conviction of Fr Greene for serious offences.

I was ordained Bishop of Raphoe on 1st October 1995. Approximately one year later, I became aware of an unease among people concerning Fr Greene and children in the parish where he lived in retirement. I met with the Parish Priest and a school teacher but they were unable to identify any specific complaint. I was unable to get any confirmation of what substance lay behind these rumours. I made further inquiries in the last parish in which he ministered, but again no complaints were forthcoming.

I first became aware through the Garda investigation in 1998 that a complaint had been made to a Parish Priest, now deceased. Unfortunately, there is no record of this complaint having been received by any bishop.

What was a matter of concern in the diocese and what was known widely was his alcohol problem. In fact, Fr Greene was removed from office on 1st September 1994 and resigned as Parish Priest three weeks later, on 26th September 1994 because of the effects of excessive drinking on his health. Since 1980 he had been in regular contact with various houses of therapy for his drink problem. Bishop Hegarty who accepted his resignation in 1994 assured me that he resigned on account of the effects of alcoholism. The statement released to the press a month ago (20th September 2002) by Our Lady of Victories (Stroud, England), where he had been for therapy in 1992, confirms that he had been with them on “treatment for alcohol” and that “the recommendations made to his Bishop in 1992 were exclusively concerned with maintaining his recovery from alcoholism.”

Once again I express my pain and deep regret to all who suffered from this abuse, not only to the victims themselves but also to their families and friends and to the parish communities that have suffered. I extend this expression of regret to the families and acquaintances of the abuser, for they also suffer very much.

However, I think that the time for healing of memories has come. I see no pastoral purpose in re-opening wounds in the hearts and memories of those who have suffered.

Moreover, an independent inquiry has been set up by the Bishops of Ireland with the Religious (CORI) and Missionary Societies (IMU). It is chaired by Judge Gillian Hussey and will have access to all files in diocesan offices. This independent and competent body will investigate the response given down the years to complaints of child sexual abuse by priests.

In conclusion, I repeat what I already said on radio and gave to the press at the time of the sentencing: “To those who have been abused and to their families, I tender my sincere apology that they have been so wronged in childhood by a priest. I share with them the sense of betrayal of a sacred trust, but I know that only they can understand the hurt and anger at what they have so cruelly lost.

I pray and ask the prayers of all that Christ may bring the miracle of healing to all who suffered as a result of this abuse. My door is open to help them in any way I can.”

18th October 2002

+Philip Boyce,

Bishop of Raphoe.