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Correspondent Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 13:32 GMT
Suing the Pope - Colm's story
The Pope and Fr Fortune
Fr Fortune disguised his intent from all around him
Sarah Macdonald

Have your say

The Catholic Church went into turmoil after Colm O'Gorman revealed, in a Correspondent film, how he had been raped by a Catholic priest at the age of 14.

Sarah Macdonald has returned to Ireland to update what has happened since.

The investigation focused on Colm O'Gorman's torment after being sexually abused by Fr Sean Fortune, the parish priest in County Wexford.

Bishop Comiskey
Bishop Comiskey did not survive the uproar

Fr Fortune assaulted and raped Colm O'Gorman over two-and-a-half years.

Dr Comiskey, Bishop of Ferns, admitted knowing there were allegations of child abuse surrounding a number of priests in his diocese when he was first appointed in 1984.

But over the following 15 years he failed to stop one of Ireland's worst clerical abusers, Fr Sean Fortune, conducting a campaign of terror across his parishes.

Bishop resigned

Bishop Comiskey refused to be interviewed, so he was confronted as he arrived to say mass at his church in Wexford.

He emerged from his car singing: "We will survive" and immediately rebuffed the interviewer.

Irish state broadcaster RTE re-screened the film after massive public demand.

The Vatican's statement
The Vatican's statement

Bishop Comiskey made his resignation speech on the steps of his Wexford Palace the day before the broadcast.

In his speech he said: "My continuation in office could be an obstacle to healing... so I have tendered my resignation to Pope John Paul".

In fact Bishop Comiskey was effectively forced to resign.

The Pope accepted his resignation.

The Vatican announced that their Canon Law 401 states: "A Bishop who... has become unsuited for the fulfilment of his office is earnestly requested to offer his resignation".

Trail of abuse

Fr Fortune, the priest at the centre of the controversy, had been removed from one parish, only to be given another.

He continued to be a disgrace, so Bishop Comiskey sent him to London to see a psychiatrist and to undertake a media course.

He returned to Ireland and was made the director of a Catholic broadcasting and media training company.

This gave him unlimited access to yet more boys.

Fr Fortune was finally arrested in 1995 and charged with 66 counts of indecent assault and buggery.

He committed suicide in the first week of his trial in 1999.

Bishop Comiskey then fled his diocese, instead of reaching out to Fortune's many victims, and was eventually discovered in an alcohol treatment clinic in the US.

In "Suing the Pope - the update" Colm O'Gorman tells how he tried to force the church to admit the extent of its knowledge and cover-up of Fortune's record of abuse.

The Irish Government then launched an inquiry and the country has since undergone something of a constitutional crisis.

Church law is no protection

For the first time, the State has been forced to challenge the Catholic Church's authority and assert its dominance in law.

"Canon Law", which internally governs the Catholic Church, has been ridiculed by the Irish minister for justice.

He described it as being: "Little more relevant than the rules of a golf club."

He warned the Church it can no longer use Canon Law as an excuse for withholding evidence.

The Church has now abandoned its own "independent audit" of child sexual abuse.

Colm O'Gorman
Colm now regularly broadcasts in Ireland
However, Colm O'Gorman is still suing Bishop Comiskey, the Papal Nuncio and the Pope.

But, they are still claiming diplomatic immunity from having to answer any questions about his rape by Fr Fortune.

For his courage in the face of his torment, Colm has received an "Irish People of the Year" award by RTE.

Suing the Pope - the update, was broadcast on Wednesday, 29 January, 2003 on BBC Two at 2320 GMT
Reporter / Director: Sarah Macdonald Editor: Karen O'Connor
Deputy Editor: David Belton
Online Producer: Andrew Jeffrey

Dr Comiskey, Bishop of Ferns
"We will survive"
South East Radio
Incredible reactions to Colm O'Gorman
Colm O'Gorman
RTE's 'Irish People of the Year' award for Colm
See also:

23 Dec 02 | Americas
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