March 20, 2002
Video showing priest sexually abusing young boy adds to pressure on bishop for apology

By Martha Kearns of the Irish Independent

THE Bishop of Ferns, Dr Brendan Comiskey, is coming under growing pressure to issue an apology to the victims of Fr Sean Fortune after video evidence was aired last night of the late Wexford priest abusing a boy.

The video was part of BBC2's 'Commentary' documentary series. 'Suing the Pope' featured four men who told their stories of how they were sexually abused by Fr Fortune, who committed suicide in 1999 as he faced 29 charges of sex abuse.


Taken by a 19-year-old boy who had been abused since he was 15, the video was described by producer Sarah MacDonald as as the most "revolting, disgusting video" she had ever seen.


"He videoed the sexual act of Father Fortune abusing him and then he used it to blackmail Fortune into leaving him alone. No one did anything, that is the most amazing aspect of it," she said.


Ms MacDonald said the victims, who are now suing Bishop Comiskey, the Papal Nuncio and the Pope, did not want to go to court but wanted acknowledgment of what had happened to them.


They were deeply critical of how their case had been handled by the Church. She claimed that the Church and Bishop Comiskey had still failed to adequately address the abuse of the boys by Fr Fortune.


"It is not sub judice. It can be talked about and it can be opened up, even for the sake of the men. He (Dr Comiskey) could reach out to these victims and tell them what he knew and at least offer them some sort of hope and acknowledgment and apology," she said.


But a spokesperson for the Bishop told the Irish Independent last night said that he would not be making any comment until after he had seen the programme, which was aired late last night. "We better watch it and see as what they say may be news to us," he said.


In the film, Dr Comiskey was asked why he failed to stop Fr Fortune. The bishop replied that when he found out he removed him from the parish for two years.


The programme also associated the suicides of young men in the Fethard-onSea area with Fr Fortune, who was a curate at Poulfur.


One interviewee was an 11-year-old boy scout when he witnessed Fr Fortune abusing a young boy before the priest was ordained.


When confronted by parents about this event, Fr Fortune denied it but the scouting organisation investigated the claim and deemed the priest "unworthy of the organisation and banned him from being involved in scouting forever", said Ms MacDonald.


"Yet at exactly the same time that the scouting association banned Father Fortune he was ordained by the Catholic Church. Then Fr Fortune was sent to Belfast where he immediately defied the scouting ban and became involved in a local scout group where he sexually assaulted another one of our interviewees.


"Again the Catholic Church sent someone up to ask questions but it never seemed to go further than that," Ms MacDonald said.


She added that locals in Fethard-on-Sea were glad to welcome the "energetic" young curate. "But that quickly changed ... He was a bully, he blackmailed people, he was very manipulative. The Catholic Church was so revered ... A lot of the boys and parents who knew what was going on were too scared to speak out," she said.


Posted by paul at March 20, 2002 10:45 PM
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