Chapter 19 Murphy Report
I have read many reports in the last few years detailing the Catholic Church’s cover up of the sexual abuse of children by many priests in different dioceses all around the world. Such reports always cause me huge sadness, so many children experienced so much sexual abuse at the hands of people they should have been able to trust. I feel so much anger too, because so many of those children were sexually abused by priests who were known to so many to be sexual predators and a danger to children. Chapter 19 of the Murphy Report, detailing the handling of allegations against catholic priest Fr Tony Walsh, follows the same pattern.
Tony Walsh was already sexually abusing children when he was a seminarian at Clonliffe College in Dublin during the 1970s. At that time he had a key to the house of another priest, Fr Noel Reynolds, who also sexually abused children, Walsh took children there and sexually abused them. As a seminarian he also sexually abused altar boys that he took to Clonliffe College. After his ordination in 1978 he was appointed to Ballyfermot in Dublin and within 48 hours of his arrival the first allegation of child sexual abuse was made against him. Nothing was done. Another allegation was made in 1979. It was hushed up. All through the 1980s allegations of child sexual abuse were made against Fr Tony Walsh yet he remained free to continue his activities. It was 10 years before the Archdiocese of Dublin even sent Walsh for assessment by anyone in the medical profession, but not before they had transferred him to a new parish in Westland Row, Dublin. This was done to avoid any further scandal and no priest in Walsh’s new parish was informed of his past.
Once parents or Gardai started asking questions of the Archdiocese Monsignor Alex Stenson engaged in the well rehearsed Church practice of being very economical with the truth. The parents of one child said they were concerned that Fr Walsh would suffer because of one misdemeanour; Stenson’s note on file read ‘I did not indicate that there was a history of this behaviour’. When the Gardai were investigating Walsh in 1991 on foot of a complaint from a parent they asked Stenson if he (Walsh) had a record; Stenson’s note on file read ‘I evaded that’.
We are also reminded in Chapter 19 that on at least two occasions the issue of reporting Walsh to civil authorities arose at meetings between the Dublin bishops in 1990 and 1991, on both occasions it was decided not to report him.
The behaviour of the Gardai at that time is also unforgiveable. One Garda informed Monsignor Stenson in 1990 that there would be ‘no question of prosecution’ of Walsh and the Murphy Commission conclude that it is unacceptable that Gardai who had concerns about Walsh failed to pursue a thorough criminal investigation.
At times like this many people express shock that none of the people who covered up for people like Walsh are being prosecuted – it is worthy of note that to this very day such people are under no more legal obligation to report than they were in the 1960s, 70s, 80s or 90s.