Church pays victim of abuse £30,000As

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Roman Catholic Church in Birmingham has paid more than £30,000 compensation to the victim of a paedophile priest who fled his parish to escape a police investigation.

The Roman Catholic Church in Birmingham has paid more than £30,000 compensation to the victim of a paedophile priest who fled his parish to escape a police investigation.

Admission of the payment comes a week after the Independent on Sunday reported allegations of a cover-up over claims that at least three priests in the diocese were moved to different parishes and later exposed as child abusers.

It also follows allegations that the Most Rev Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, knowingly allowed a paedophile working as a priest to have access to children. He was Bishop of Arundel and Brighton at the time.

The compensation came in an out-of-court settlement to a man now in his thirties who claims he was sexually abused by Father Christopher Clonan, a parish priest who worked in Coventry for 17 years until 1992. Father Clonan fled to Ireland and then to Australia after a series of allegations of child abuse. He is now believed to live in the Philippines, although a statement issued by Monsignor John Moran, vicar general for the diocese, indicates that he also visits Ireland.

The statement said that "an elderly and somewhat ill parish priest could have been aware that Clonan's behaviour might have been questionable. The priest, who has since died, did not take steps to inform the Archbishop or to investigate".

It concluded: "The diocese profoundly regrets that Clonan so dreadfully betrayed the trust placed in him by the family (and his religious superiors). Since then, procedures have been put into place within the Archdiocese to ensure that all questions of possible abuse or irregular conduct are reported and investigated..."

It refused to reveal details about the payment, but reports suggest it is more than £30,000 and follows the offer of a £6,000 settlement made two years ago.

West Midlands police said last night: "If this person did return to this country we would be interested in talking to him."

The pay-out is unusual because the Birmingham diocese has previously resisted making settlements on the grounds that it cannot be held responsible for the actions of its priests. But if it can be shown that other priests knew of their colleagues' paedophile tendencies and hushed them up, it would open the Church to huge pay-outs.

Three priests in the diocese have been convicted of child abuse: Fathers Sam Penney, Eric Taylor and Ted O'Malley. Mgr Moran admitted last week that the Church had paid compensation to a victim of Father Penney's and paid out in one other case although he refused to say which.

Another priest besides Father Clonan is believed to be on the run, this one in the US.

Mgr Moran has vehemently denied that child abuse has ever been covered up by central authorities in the diocese and that priests were moved around parishes after such accusations were made.

Comments