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Bishop of Waterford clarifies that news report was “factually correct”

By Susan Gately - 12 August, 2018

Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan

A priest mentioned in the trial of an abuser, did not know that the man who came to him with his wife and her parents was a child abuser when he referred him to a psychiatrist.

Earlier this week the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Alphonsus Cullinan, asked a Sunday newspaper to retract the “erroneous story” published last Sunday with the title “I DIDN’T KNOW HE WAS A PAEDO” along with the subheadings “Priest told child abuser to see psychiatrist” and “Victim was led to believe that paedophile was fixed”, which related to the trial of Bartholomew Prendergast.

“At no point in the meeting was the issue of child abuse discussed nor was it disclosed that Mr Bartholomew Prendergast was abusing children,” said a statement from the diocese, issued on Friday.

However, the diocese later retracted its earlier statement, issuing a further statement to clarify its position. “The Diocese of Waterford & Lismore was concerned that the report could potentially be interpreted to suggest that Canon Crowley knew of the latter’s abusive behaviour. While the news report by Patrick O’Connell is wholly factually correct, any possible interpretation that Father Crowley had any knowledge of this behaviour is not correct as is clear from his reported statements to that effect,” said the statement.

It continued: “The diocese wishes to categorically state that Canon Crowley was never informed, nor had any knowledge, of the abuse which the victims endured as children.”

According to a signed statement made to An Garda Síochána, Canon Crowley declared that Mr Prendergast, his wife, Patricia, together with Patricia’s parents, came to see him in 1984 to discuss a problem. As the issue was beyond his competence, Canon Crowley referred them to Mr Jim Morrison, psychiatrist with the south-eastern health board at that time.

“At no point in the meeting was the issue of child abuse discussed, nor was it disclosed that Mr Prendergast was abusing children. Canon Crowley had no knowledge whatsoever that Mr Prendergast posed a threat to children. The issue that was discussed had nothing to do with child abuse,” the diocese’s statement said.

The diocese conveyed its sincere sympathy to victims Stephanie and Deirdre Hickey as well as to the other unnamed victim “all of whom suffered horrendous abuse perpetrated by Mr Prendergast”.

The diocese said it had been “fully compliant” with policies set down by the National Board for Safeguarding Children which meant in practice that “all issues of child safeguarding that may arise are reported immediately to the civil authorities”.

Bartholomew Prendergast (65) from Dungarvan, Co Waterford, pleaded guilty to charges of rape and sexual abuse of three young girls in the 1980s on 30th July. He is to be sentenced in November.

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