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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK
Abuse victim calls for church inquiry
Bishop announced his resignation in Wexford
Bishop Comiskey announced his resignation in Wexford
A victim of the paedophile priest, the late Sean Fortune, has called on the Catholic Church to co-operate fully with any inquiry into the scandal.

The Bishop of Ferns in County Wexford, Brendan Comiskey, announced his resignation on Monday after admitting that he failed to deal adequately with the activities of Father Fortune.

The priest committed suicide in 1999 while on bail facing 29 charges of serious sexual assaults on young boys.

One of his victims said the scandal went to the very top of the church.


It would be sad if he was ultimately scapegoated in all this and the church failed to accept full responsibility

Colm O'Gorman

"Brendan Comiskey is not alone in responsibility in this," said Colm O'Gorman.

"In this case complaints had been made to Cardinal O'Fiaich, to the Papal Nuncio and in a letter from the Papal Nuncio, he confirmed to local people that he had made the Holy Sea aware of their concerns about Sean Fortune.

"It is clear that complaints about this man had gone to the highest levels of the Catholic Church so there is a much wider responsibility than Brendan Comiskey.

"It would be sad if he was ultimately scapegoated in all this and the church failed to accept full responsibility."

Dr Comiskey had been under growing pressure to step down since the broadcasting of a BBC television documentary last month, about his handling of the case of Father Fortune.

The bishop said he had "done his best" to deal with the affair but "clearly that was not good enough".

Orphanage

He said he had found Fr Fortune "almost impossible to deal with".

After his death, it emerged the police in Northern Ireland had questioned him about child abuse allegations.

They related to complaints made by three children at a youth club during the time he worked at a south Belfast orphanage in the 1970s.

Dr Comiskey said he would travel to the Vatican later this week to formally hand in his resignation.

The bishop apologised to four men whose cases were featured in the documentary and to "all who have been abused by priests of the diocese".

Dr Comiskey said he had confronted Fr Fortune regularly, removed him from ministry, sought professional advice and "tried compassion and firmness".

'Deeply saddened'

"And yet I never managed to achieve any level of satisfactory outcome."

Dr Comiskey said he now recognised he was not the person to achieve unity and reconciliation between the diocese and the priest's victims.

Archbishop Sean Brady and Cardinal Desmond Connell of the Irish Episcopal Conference said they were "deeply saddened" by Dr Comiskey's resignation.

They condemned the "grave and repugnant evil" of child abuse by priests and said the affair had damaged the reputation of the church.

In a joint statement they said: "We realise that the whole Church in Ireland is suffering at this time from the scandal caused by this evil and the manner in which it was dealt with at times.

"It is a scandal which has evoked entirely justified outrage."

See also:

21 Mar 02 | Europe
Pope denounces 'evil' sex priests
12 Mar 02 | Americas
Church agrees sex abuse payout
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