By Caroline O’Doherty
A Catholic priest found not guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage girl is embroiled in a row with his order and the Archbishop of Dublin over claims they are punishing him for being accused.
Carmelite father Chris Conroy, 81, who is banned from saying public Mass and is defying orders to leave his family home and live in a monastery, says the Catholic Church has its own “Guantanamo Bay” for falsely-accused priests.
The former missionary from Co Wicklow, who was the subject of an award-winning documentary about his work with the Indians of the Peruvian Andes, says he has been in limbo for the last 10 years since his court case ended.
In his memoirs, to be launched next month, he accuses Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of interfering without authority to have him prevented from saying Mass and says his Order has shown undue deference to the Archbishop in attempting to impose other restrictions.
“This is why I wrote the book. I had to make a stand,” he said. “I spent my time in Peru fighting and putting my life on the line for the poor Indians and the suffering and injustice that they were enduring.
“Then I came back to Ireland to injustice and I said I’m not going to accept this, especially in the Church that I love and in the Carmelite Order that I love.”
In a statement, Archbishop’s House said it was not the practice of the archdiocese to comment on individual cases involving allegations of child sexual abuse.
Head of the Carmelites in Ireland, Fr Martin Kilmurray, however, said the memoirs contained “gross inaccuracies” about Fr Conroy’s dealings with the leadership of the order and with the archbishop.
Fr Kilmurray said he was “deeply concerned” that details of the case involving the teenage girl had been reproduced in the book.
“We see this as a blatant disregard for the wellbeing and right to privacy of this person. We have initiated contact with her, with a view of offering pastoral support,” he said.
Fr Conroy said he bore his accuser no ill will but he had to recall the case to illustrate the risks to clergy from unfounded accusations and their own hierarchy.
“Every priest in Ireland should read my book because it could happen to them tomorrow. I’m very lucky in one sense because I was accused publicly, I went to the public court and I was acquitted publicly.
“Supposing I had been accused and it didn’t go to the court and the Church was just dealing with it. I’d be in limbo forever. The Church doesn’t know how to deal with these types of cases.”
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