A PRIEST found not guilty in two sexual assault trials has not been allowed to return to ministry to date, the Limerick Leader has learned.
In February, a jury at Limerick Circuit Court returned majority not guilty verdicts in relation to each of the six charges.
The man in his 60's held his face in his hands and sobbed as each of the verdicts were read out by the court registrar.
Last year, the same priest was acquitted of eight similar charges relating to a different complainant. All the sexual assault offences were alleged to have occurred in a County Limerick parish in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The priest is no longer in that parish.
Following the court case in February the priest has not yet been allowed back into ministry. He has now been “stood down” for five years in total. In accordance with diocesan child safeguarding policy a priest is removed from ministry after a sexual assault allegation.
In response to a media query, a spokesperson for the archdiocese in question said: “The issue that you raise is extremely sensitive and impacts in a profound way on the lives of a number people”.
“Naturally, it is not appropriate for the Archdiocese to comment on any individual person or case and we do not wish to do so in this email.
“At all times, our primary concern is the protection of children and vulnerable adults and, in particular, the care of victims of sexual abuse as we seek to respond as best we can to their needs, said the spokesperson.
When the archdiocese receives allegations of sexual abuse against a priest, priority is always given to the criminal process and the roles played by Tusla, the gardaí and other relevant state agencies, they said.
“Once, these State processes are completed the archdiocese implements its own procedures. Even in cases where there is not a criminal conviction, the archdiocese needs to address the issue of the suitability of the priest concerned for ministry. This process is akin to the professional suitability and fitness to practise procedures as practised by many professional bodies.
“At all times, we seek to implement our procedures in a manner that reflects principles of justice and equity for all involved,” concluded the spokesperson.