Cardinal Pell associate banned from preaching in Ireland over abuse allegations

Old Mr Grouser

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On 24th December last year, and on a thread concerning events in Australia, Andrew49 wrote -

A Catholic priest who gave evidence to the child abuse Royal Commission in defence of Cardinal George Pell was himself the subject of a historical sexual abuse claim.

In 2012, the victim, John Roach, received an apology and $75,000 compensation after the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne accepted he had been sexually abused by Father John Walshe, a parish priest based at Mentone in Melbourne's south east ...
There's more on that story here and also news of a further development involving Ireland - Cardinal Pell associate banned from preaching in Ireland over abuse allegations

In 2012, the Melbourne Archdiocese's Independent Commissioner accepted a claim that Father Walshe had sexually abused a seminarian, and paid out $75,000 in compensation.

However the diocesan archbishop's opinion was that the incident was actually 'completely consensual' and while it was regrettable it did not debar Fr Walshe from ministry as a Parish Priest.

But all this became public last year because of Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and there were protests from parishioners.

In response the Archbishop wrote to solicitors representing concerned parishioners, "The responsibility rests with me as Archbishop to determine whether Father Walshe is able to fulfil his pastoral responsibilities as parish priest,"

But at the same time plans were being made for Fr Walshe to take a sabbatical during which he was come to Ireland; and to minister and live in the diocese of Cork & Ross.

Father Walshe had obtained a "celebret" from Archbishop Hart of Melbourne. A "celebret" is an official church document that endorses the bearer as a Roman Catholic priest in good standing; it's an official endorsement of his good character and reputation.

Anyhow it seems that Cork & Ross had had a tip-off, and they refused to accept him.

The Irish Church seems to be showing some independence.
 


Lumpy Talbot

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An interesting one and I wonder whether the Diocese of Cork & Ross were motivated to decline to accept this priest because he had been involved, according to the Melbourne Commissioner, in an act of abuse or whether as the Archbishop in Melbourne stated that the act concerned had been 'consensual'.

I would reserve my opinion one way or the other pending any news on the motivation of Cork & Ross in refusing to accept the priest's theological passport.

I had not heard of this 'celebret' system previously and news of it makes me wonder how many celebret's were written out and accepted in the past based on much worse cases around the world?

And more, in how honest many of them may have been in terms of a priest's suitability to be the holder of such a document?
 

Cruimh

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An interesting one and I wonder whether the Diocese of Cork & Ross were motivated to decline to accept this priest because he had been involved, according to the Melbourne Commissioner, in an act of abuse or whether as the Archbishop in Melbourne stated that the act concerned had been 'consensual'.

I would reserve my opinion one way or the other pending any news on the motivation of Cork & Ross in refusing to accept the priest's theological passport.

I had not heard of this 'celebret' system previously and news of it makes me wonder how many celebret's were written out and accepted in the past based on much worse cases around the world?

And more, in how honest many of them may have been in terms of a priest's suitability to be the holder of such a document?
Isn't there a legal case between an American Diocese and and Irish one over the Irish Bishop shipping a notorious abuser off the the USA with just stch a document, saying that he was a fine fella, to be sure, to be sure - and now that the Americans have been hammered financially over his rampaging, they want reimbursed?
 

Lúidín

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"... a claim that Father Walshe had sexually abused a seminarian..."
There is only one question. How old was the seminarian? If he was over the Australian age of consent then it's nobody else's business.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Wonder how many of these 'celebrets' are hanging around in files made out in names that later became notorious?

Would they have had to be signed off by bishops? In which case they could be a hell of a smoking gun if they are dated because it would prove in a number of cases that bishops would have known about the activities of some abusive priests and then went and made out a form that attested to their suitability for parishes elsewhere.

Bit of a potential hangman of a form for certain bishops these 'celebrets' I would have thought. Especially if they are signed and dated.
 

petaljam

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There is only one question. How old was the seminarian? If he was over the Australian age of consent then it's nobody else's business.
Isn't there an exception to this when someone is in authority over another? (If there isn't such a concept in Irish law, there should be, IMO.)
 

Old Mr Grouser

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... how honest many of them may have been in terms of a priest's suitability to be the holder of such a document?
About twenty years ago, when a fair number of overseas priests were in London - 'in residence' as they say (that is, unofficially working as a curate) - I heard one parish priest comment that a celebret was a bishop's certificate that the bearer was a priest whom he'd prefer not to have working for him.
 

Lúidín

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Isn't there an exception to this when someone is in authority over another? (If there isn't such a concept in Irish law, there should be, IMO.)
I think the law assumes all adults to be responsible for their own actions unless coercion was used.

And I read that the victim was inebriated and as such could not have given informed consent....
Well that would be rape.
 

Cruimh

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From the New Catholic encyclopedia

The popular name for the document called a "commendatory letter," obtaining for a priest admission to the celebration of the eucharist in a church other than the one to which he is attached. By means of these letters the competent superior bears witness to the bearer's legitimate ordination to the priesthood, his good moral standing in his own diocese or religious group, his freedom from any ecclesiastical penalty that excludes the celebration of the eucharist, his freedom from any irregularity, and his consequent commendable status in general. Since the beginning of the Church, clerics traveling for one purpose or another were furnished with such introductory letters. These ensured their hospitable reception in other places and enabled them to exercise their respective orders. Various names have been used for these documents: "letters," "canonical letters," and "testimonial letters"; but the most commonly used term was "commendatory letters."
Celebret - Dictionary definition of Celebret | Encyclopedia.com: FREE online dictionary

Can. 903 A priest is to be permitted to celebrate even if the rector of the church does not know him, provided that either he presents a letter of introduction from his ordinary or superior, issued at least within the year, or it can be judged prudently that he is not impeded from celebrating.
Code of Canon Law - IntraText
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Unsubstantiated by $75,000 worth of compensation. That's a hell of a lot of unsubstantiation and a difference of opinion between an Independent commissioner and the church which accepted the awarding of compensation and an Archbishop who seems to think that a mere detail before issuing the certificate of good health...
 

Lumpy Talbot

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From my observations of all the cases around the world down the years the one thing I do know is that it is difficult to get the RCC to admit to anything that would cost it $75k and the only way they would pay such a sum out is to prevent further detail emerging in a court case.

They'd rather eat four nuns with pepper on the 9pm national news than hand over money. It is always the very last resort.
 

Old Mr Grouser

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Yes, Cruimh.

But these days, I think, the procedure is set down more by the insurance companies and independent risk-assessors.

Their requirements will sometimes differ from Canon Law and guidance given by the Vatican, but Abuse Compensation Insurance is very expensive.


Here's what a celebret often looks like -


 

Lumpy Talbot

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'A celebret (from the Latin celebret, "may he celebrate", the first word of the document) is a letter which a Roman Catholic bishop or major religious superior gives to a priest in order that the priest may obtain permission in another diocese to say Mass, and for this purpose bears testimony that he is free from canonical censures'

The history of the celebret document appears to go back to the Council of Trent so it is no new thing.

It would be interesting to see how many of these documents were provided by senior clergy in a diocese to priests who were shuttled around the world ahead of the civil law.

I notice that the document specifies that the priest should only be free of 'canonical censure' which means an aberrant priest could be issued with one of these documents even if he had been censured by civil law but not by the RCC. Essentially as long as the priest is not prevented from saying mass then he could get one of these celebrets even if he were under a cloud of suspicion.
 

StarryPlough01

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There is only one question. How old was the seminarian? If he was over the Australian age of consent then it's nobody else's business.
Mr Roach claims he was sexually assaulted while drunk and unconscious. Father Walshe strenuously denies committing any abuse, characterising the incident as "completely consensual".
 

HereWeGoAgain

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There is only one question. How old was the seminarian? If he was over the Australian age of consent then it's nobody else's business.
Abuse is abuse. It cannot be whitewashed, obliterated, ignored or absolved - when a person is incapable of providing consent and is subsequently abused by another who holds a position of status and respect in the community, we ignore at our peril.

Such standing in community lulls us into a false sense of security around an abuser and so all of us have a right to know. In order to protect ourselves and those who are vulnerable. Not alone that, but into the future, any parish or community the abuser is moved to, should be informed prior to his arrival. He is guilty of abuse, all the protestations in the world will not minimise that. And police forces in the various communities in the future where he is and visits should have him on their high-priority watch list.

Why do you think Fr. Brendan Smyth managed to ruin the lives of so many young people after Church authorities were informed?. Because the communities including police force were not forewarned of his modus operandi. Instead of thwarting his path; the RCC actually facilitated ensuring a fresh batch of youngsters to abuse at will with no-one to aid or support them. He must have thought he'd found Paradise upon being relocated.
 

StarryPlough01

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Stephen Elder, executive director of Catholic Education Melbourne, which oversees Catholic schools, said Father Walshe holds a Working with Children Check issued by the state department of justice, and if parents had "information that would question the validity of the check they should raise it immediately with the appropriate authorities".
Whoever gives you the working with children permit, has to investigate the person's background. IMO, people who have this certificate should now sue the issuer as this permit is worth nothing now.
 

Andrew49

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Isn't there an exception to this when someone is in authority over another? (If there isn't such a concept in Irish law, there should be, IMO.)

On one level it's the abuse of authority - Walsh was in a superior role to Roach. Walsh plied Roach with alcohol in his room.

Roach's testimony:
"One night he invited me up to his room, which was not uncommon. We had a fair bit of port to drink — I was very unfamiliar with drinking — and I woke up in his bed and he was abusing me. I left as quickly as I could, I was very confused, I didn't know what to do, what to think."
The age difference between the two of them was about 7 years.

It's good to see the Irish Church asserting itself in this matter. I believe correspondence (to the local bishopric (?) on the matter of Walsh preaching in Ireland came not only from Australia but also Ireland & the UK.
 


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