25 March 2010
Statement of Bishop William Lee
In December 1993, a few months after my ordination as Bishop of Waterford & Lismore, I received complaints of child sexual abuse against a priest of the Diocese. This was the first case of such a nature that I had ever dealt with.
Between December 1993 and 1994, I met personally with the complainants. I heard their complaints, without the administration of any form of oath, about events years earlier from their childhoods. I satisfied myself with regard to the supports then available to the complainants.
I sought external professional advice with regard to the actions I ought to take. The Church policy with regard to reporting had not yet been formulated. I arranged that the priest in question undergo a specialist assessment. The clinician was informed in detail of the particular circumstances described in the complaints. A recommendation was made that the priest could safely continue in ministry. This was confirmed in writing in 1994 and in reliance on this report the priest was appointed to a new ministry as part of the ongoing diocesan changes. He was further assessed in 1995 and a recommendation was again made that he could continue in ministry.
In October 1995, having had the benefit of the guidance then emerging from the Bishops’ Advisory Committee on child sexual abuse, I reviewed my earlier decisions in the case and concluded that these had been seriously inadequate. I particularly regretted that I had not sought the immediate withdrawal of the priest from all ministry and that others associated with the new ministry were not informed that allegations had been made. I set about initiating a full review of the case.
I renewed contact with the complainants and advised them of the policy with regard to reporting such complaints to the Gardaí which it was anticipated would be adopted by the Episcopal Conference in January 1996. With their knowledge I reported their complaints to the Gardaí in December 1995. The complainants themselves took the decision not to make a criminal complaint and, insofar as I am aware, that has remained their decision to this day.
I also arranged that the priest in question be re-assessed at a different treatment centre. On this occasion the advice offered led me to decide to bring about the withdrawal of the priest in question from ministry. I also appraised those associated with the new ministry that allegations had been received.
Further complaints were received about the same priest in January 1996 and again the complainants were interviewed by me, without the administration of an oath. Their complaints were immediately notified to the Gardaí and it is understood these complainants also took the decision not to make a criminal complaint. No criminal prosecution has arisen in respect of any complaint against the priest in question.
The priest has not been permitted to exercise any form of ministry since February 1996. Regular contact has been maintained with him and he is the subject of ongoing supervision.
I sincerely apologise and am deeply sorry for the inadequacies of my earlier actions in this case.
I take this opportunity again to invite any person who may have been abused by a priest or religious to come forward to the Diocese and/or to make contact with the State authorities.
Fr Liam Power, tel 087 2899843, email: [email protected]