Call for rethink on identifying accused priests

Journalist’s abuse case brings ACP criticism

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has called for a rethink on identifying priests placed under investigation following silence in large parts of the media this week over a prominent journalist now facing a raft of serious sexual allegations involving two children.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic this week as various media outlets either offered anonymityor did not cover the story at all, Fr Sean McDonagh said: “It’s not fair that it’s one law for journalists and another for others, notably priests.”

The media silence, predating a subsequent court order on reporting restrictions, comes despite the allegations and the man’s identity being widely known in media circles since 2011 – one tabloid newspaper did name him this week – and the fact that he faces no fewer than 50 charges relating to sexual misconduct with two young girls. The Irish Times remained completely silent on the case when the charges were revealed despite the scale of the alleged offences and the fact that it has not been slow to cover serious abuse cases in the past while identifying the accused parties prior to conviction or acquittal. RTÉ’s online news service simply referred to “a journalist” in relation to the case.

“Such one-sided reportage does no service to anyone,” Fr McDonagh said, adding, “there have been priests merely placed under investigation who have had their names plastered all over.”

Fr McDonagh pointed out, too, that priests have been repeatedly identified in the press despite the very real possibility that a case may be one of false allegations.

“The ACP has always argued that a person has a right to his or her good name until proved otherwise. In the case of priests, they are identified, and have to leave their parochial house when an investigation is launched.

“We need to revisit this and protect people’s rights.”