Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Irish Priests, Aussie Abuse

TWO IRISH Catholic priests have been named in a programme about sexual abuse which was aired by Australia’s ABC television last night.
Alleged victims of Sydney-based Fr Finian Egan and Melbourne-based Fr Paddy Maye have gone public with their allegations because the priests continue to conduct church services despite being found by the Catholic Church to have committed abuse offences.
A church investigation found that Fr Egan groped two girls over several years in the 1980s, but despite this, he was praised at a public Mass last year for his 50 years in the priesthood.
Fr Maye was banned from acting as a priest after church investigators found he had committed serious sexual abuse in 1973 by forcing himself on a 31- year-old woman when she was in a “vulnerable” state. The church also found he groped two sisters over several years in the 1980s.
Kellie-Anne Roche is the daughter of Irish immigrants who trusted Fr Egan because he was also Irish. In 1981, she says, she was abused by Fr Egan and the abuse still affects her life.
“I have put up with a facade all my life . . . there is a wall between me and sex,” she says.
At youth group meetings, the guitar-playing Fr Egan would “arrange me on his lap and put my arm around his neck so my breasts were in his face”.
Then he would put his hand between her legs and, she said, “I would feel his erection”.
Another victim, known only as “Kathie”, says she was repeatedly groped by Fr Egan when he gave her guitar lessons. She says the church discouraged her from going to police.
Both women took part in the church’s Towards Healing programme for victims of sexual abuse.
“It’s called Towards Healing but nothing they did has helped me to heal,” Roche says. “If anything, it made me feel like they were protecting him. I would advise victims to go to the police, not [to] Towards Healing. I don’t trust them.”
Roche says she is now going to take her case to the police.
The women both say their main reason in making their complaints is to see Fr Egan removed from any role in the church or from having involvement with children.
They were told their cases would be dealt with in a few months, but they took more than two years.
Last July Bishop David Walker of Sydney wrote to each woman “to apologise to you for the way you have been treated by Finian Egan”.
“What happened to you is contrary to what is expected of a member of the clergy.
“We proclaim a Gospel which sees this behaviour as totally unacceptable and I regret that you have been exposed to it by a member of our clergy.”
However, a month later Fr Egan was the celebrant at a Mass in a church across the road from Bishop Walker’s office. The Mass was advertised as honouring Fr Egan’s 50 years as a priest.
“It makes you feel like a victim again. Even though the church upheld my allegations and they tell me that they believe me, they don’t show it by taking away his robes as a priest,” Roche says.
Five years ago Fr Maye was forced by the church in Melbourne to retire early with his “canonical faculties” removed, so he could not act in public as a priest – a step below defrocking.
The Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, wrote three letters warning Fr Maye against working as a priest and saying “any publicity will reflect adversely upon yourself [and] upon the church”. But this did not stop Fr Maye saying Mass for Melbourne’s Irish community on St Patrick’s Day this year and last.

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