Priest apologises for abusing parishioner

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A 79-year-old Catholic priest has apologised in court to a former parishioner for the ‘torture’ of sexual abuse he subjected her to over a number of years.

Paul McGennis had pleaded guilty to eight sample counts of sexual abuse against the young girl in the 1980s.

The abuse began when she was aged ten and continued for a number of years.

The victim said she lived in fear of the priest who threatened that her family would be expelled from the church if she told anyone.

The abuse took place in the priest’s house at a Dublin City Centre parish and continued after he moved to another parish in Dublin.

The victim said he would give her sweets and toys in the early days of the abuse.

In later years, he gave her money after having sex. In statements to gardaí, she said the abuse continued because she was a child and was scared.

She said she would run errands for the priest and the abuse began one day when she was late returning from an errand and he ‘gave out’ to her. It then took place almost every fortnight in the bedroom of the parish house and in a waiting room.

She said she would be admitted to the house by a housekeeper who was often present in the house, although not in the room, while the abuse took place.

Throughout the abuse she would cry and ask him to stop but he continued, she said. She did not tell her family because she thought she would be ‘battered’ and was afraid to bring shame on them.

She complained to gardaí a number of years ago after receiving counselling following a suicide attempt.

When interviewed by gardaí in 2009, McGennis denied the allegations. He pleaded guilty earlier this year.

At the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last Friday, McGennis apologised to the victim and her family for the ‘stress and torture I have put them through and for the fact that my initial denials must have made it worse’.

In her victim impact statement, the victim said she would serve a sentence until the day she dies because of the abuse.

She said she lived in fear of seeing her abuser who had ‘taken away my innocence, my childhood memories, my chance of an education and my prospects for the future.’

It continued to threaten her marriage and denied her the chance to have children, she said. It left her without self esteem or the ability to form and maintain relationships. As a teenager she engaged in destructive behaviour.

Lawyers for Paul McGennis said his remorse and apology were genuine and said he was at low risk of reoffending. They asked the judge to take into account his age and medical condition when considering sentence.

The court was told he now lives at a diocesan centre at Clonliffe College and is living under a direction from the archbishop which governs his ministry and his contact with young people.

He has previous convictions for indecent assault and has served a prison sentence.

He is also co-operating with garda investigation launched as a result of the Murphy Report but Judge Desmond Hogan said that was not related to the current charges.

Judge Desmond Hogan said he needed time to consider the victim impact statement, along with medical and psychological reports submitted by the defence, and adjourned sentence to 29 July next.

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