Vatican allowed pedophile to remain in priesthood, report says
Dublin leaders had attempted to dismiss abuser
DUBLIN — The Vatican prevented Dublin church leaders from dismissing a particularly dangerous pedophile priest and relented only after he raped a boy in a pub restroom, an investigation reported yesterday.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said he fully accepted the findings of the latest chapter in Ireland’s investigation into child abuse by Dublin priests who were shielded from the law by Catholic leaders.
Martin called Tony Walsh an “extremely devious man’’ who should never have been ordained a priest and said the report highlighted how the church had grown too powerful and arrogant in 20th-century Ireland.
A state-ordered investigation into Dublin Archdiocese coverups reported last year that Catholic officials had shielded scores of priests from criminal investigation over several decades and did not report any crimes to the police until the mid-1990s.
A chapter dealing with Walsh was censored from the original report because he was still facing a criminal trial. The Department of Justice published the chapter yesterday, following the 56-year-old Walsh’s Dec. 6 conviction for raping three boys over a five-year period three decades ago. He received a 12-year prison sentence.
The investigators concluded that Walsh raped and molested hundreds of boys and girls as a Dublin priest from 1978 to 1996, a reign of terror that church leaders never effectively stopped.
They described Walsh as “probably the most notorious child sexual abuser’’ of the 46 cases they investigated covering the years 1975-2004. Walsh often performed as an Elvis impersonator in a traveling Catholic song-and-dance production. The report found this increased his easy access to victims, as did his interest in scouting groups and taking altar boys on visits to the Dublin seminary, Clonliffe College.
The fact-finders based their conclusions on previously confidential Dublin and Vatican documents and interviews with key church figures that took five years to gather. They found that Dublin Archdiocese leaders spent several years arguing over whether Walsh should be dismissed, sent to counselors in England, or assigned to duties away from children.
Martin, a veteran Vatican diplomat appointed in 2004 to clean up the Dublin scandals, handed over the archdiocese’s previously secret abuse files to the investigation. His predecessor, Cardinal Desmond Connell, had refused.
Martin noted that, just two days into Walsh’s first parish assignment in Dublin’s impoverished Ballyfermot district in 1978, the priest was accused of molesting a boy.
The church made only patchy, ill-coordinated efforts to look into a string of abuse complaints against Walsh until 1986, when he was transferred to another Dublin parish “to avoid further scandal in Ballyfermot,’’ the report found. There, the parochial house’s maid reported finding copious evidence that Walsh was abusing boys in his room and using her stolen clothing. A senior legal official from the church interviewed Walsh several times about his pedophilia.
Detectives in 1990 and 1992 received reports that Walsh was molesting children, but dropped interest after being told that church officials were handling the problem internally.
The report found that then-Archbishop Connell fought his legal advisers in order to convene a 1993 canonical trial of Walsh that ended in his dismissal.
But Walsh appealed to the church’s appellate court, the Rome Rota, and won a reprieve. The Rota reinstated him as a priest and ordered Irish officials to reassign him to a monastery.
In May 1994, Walsh sexually assaulted a boy in a pub restroom following the funeral of the boy’s grandfather. Months later, a Dublin mother accused Walsh of driving her son to the brink of suicide after abusing him while baby-sitting one night.
Police finally opened an investigation in earnest. Walsh was convicted of attacking the boy in the pub restroom in February 1995 and received a 12-month sentence. He was later convicted of sexually assaulting several more boys and received a further 10-year sentence that was later reduced to six years.