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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 January, 2005, 12:04 GMT
Bishop speaks out on abuse case
St Patrick's Church, Dungiven
Fr McCluskey is a curate at St Patrick's Church, Dungiven
A Catholic bishop has praised parishoners for the way they responded to their local priest who is at the centre of sex abuse allegations.

Dr Seamus Hegarty told parishioners at St Patrick's Church, Dungiven, on Sunday that he admired and commended their understanding and forgiveness.

Last week, Father Andy McCluskey told the congregation that he was behind a sex abuse allegation 12 years ago.

He told them he had made a mistake for which he was paying dearly.

Dr Hegarty also prayed for the man who made the allegations against Fr McCluskey.

It is understood a five figure compensation pay-out had been made without admission of liability.

The man who was paid the compensation claimed Fr McCluskey made a sexual advance to him in Londonderry in 1992.

Father McCloskey has ministered in this diocese as a broken, wounded man. He is not perfect... but who of us is perfect... we are all sinners
Bishop Seamus Hegarty

Speaking at mass in Dungiven on Saturday evening and again on Sunday morning Bishop Hegarty said Fr McCluskey was a broken and wounded man.

He said the decision to reinstate Father McCloskey in 1993 has been vindicated by the quality of his ministry since then.

The Bishop also prayed for all those who have been affected, wounded or hurt as a result of maltreatment, exploitation, neglect or abuse.

The allegations relate to an incident at a parochial house, involving an 18-year-old man.

A civil action over an alleged sexual advance by the priest was started two years ago and settled with no admission of liability last October.

Following his announcement last week, Fr McCloskey has taken leave of absence.

Addressing parishioners, Dr Hegarty said he commended their forgiveness and understanding.

"Father McCloskey has ministered in this diocese as a broken, wounded man. He is not perfect... but who of us is perfect... we are all sinners," he told them.

"In the midst of how we are feelling at this time, let us not lose sight of the compassion, the forgiveness and the mercy of Jesus."

Dr Hegarty said Fr McCloskey had been "greatly heartened" by the positive reaction from parishioners who heard his story.

He said the priest came to the parish after having received treatement for an alcohol problem.

News of the allegations became public just over a week ago. At that time, in a statement published in the Derry Journal, Dr Hegarty confirmed he was aware of the allegations against the priest.

He said the issue concerned two adults who were fully represented.

He said it was settled without court proceedings between the priest and the complainant through their legal representatives.

The bishop said that he was allowing the priest to continue to work in the Derry diocese after considering the matter thoroughly with his legal advisors and others, and taking into account the circumstances and the priest's character.

BBC NI's Enda McClafferty:
"The Bishop also prayed for the man who made the allegations"

Priest's appeal over abuse case
24 Jan 05 |  Northern Ireland


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