Fr Boland case highlights pressure on priests – psychiatrist

Scandals leave innocent priests vilified

The resignation of Fr Eugene Boland demonstrates the immense pressures priests have found themselves under as a result of scandals, a consultant psychiatrists has said.

Responding to news of the departure from ministry of Fr Boland, just weeks after his return following his exoneration of all wrongdoing in relation to an indecent assault charge, Prof. Patricia Casey, a senior consultant psychiatrist at the Mater Hospital said the case “brings up the nature of the pressures priests have been under in Ireland in the past number of decades”.

Referencing reports from priests entirely blameless in relation to abuse scandals, Prof. Casey said clerics “have been shunned and shouted at and driven to avoid wearing their collars”. “How much worse it must be for a priest to go through that and then face the public humiliation of being accused of the most heinous of crimes. It must surely be devastating.”

Prof. Casey revealed that priests have reported continued “vilification” until very recently, and suggested the papacy of Pope Francis may be having a positive effect on public perceptions at last.

Parishioners of Fr Boland turned out in force in Cappagh, Co. Tyrone on March 15 to demonstrate their support for the priest who had stepped aside from ministry in 2010 following an allegation against him. Fully cleared by the civil authorities after an eight-day trial in June 2013, he returned to ministry upon the completion of the parallel canonical investigation.

In a statement announcing his resignation, the Diocese of Derry said Fr Boland “needs more time for help and guidance… and has been granted leave of absence from ministry”.