Health board aware of accusation of 'inappropriate behaviour' by Comisky

By Joe Humphreys
The Irish Times
October 26, 2005

Comiskey allegation: The South Eastern Health Board became aware in August 1990 of an allegation of "inappropriate behaviour" against Bishop Brendan Comiskey.

However, it did not report the incident to the Garda or the church authorities as the complainant was over age 16 at the time and she was adamant that the matter should not be mentioned to any authority.

According to the inquiry, the health board became aware of the allegation in the course of an investigation of another matter.

The claim of inappropriate behaviour had been made by the parents of a girl in the diocese.

The inquiry said it was "concerned that either such behaviour itself or the existence of an allegation of such behaviour against a bishop would influence his ability to deal effectively with a problem of sexual abuse when it was brought to his attention in relation to other priests".

It said Bishop Comiskey had no recollection of any such incident occurring and denied the allegation. He also stated that he was not influenced in his handling of allegations of child sexual abuse by the existence of this complaint as he had no knowledge that this complaint had been made by anyone until after his resignation in 2002.

The inquiry said Bishop Eamonn Walsh became aware of the allegation in early 2004, and he urged the woman to make a statement to Fr Denis Brennan, the diocesan delegate, which she did.

A report was subsequently presented to the Holy See at the request of Archbishop Desmond Connell on the advice of the Papal Nuncio. The report concluded that an offence had not been committed but "the fact that under the influence of alcohol Bishop Comiskey was alleged to have acted in such a manner was something that needed to be addressed to ensure that no repetition of such behaviour could take place".

A separate allegation - deemed to be unfounded by the inquiry - was made against Bishop Comiskey by Fr Seán Fortune.

In a note written before his suicide in March 1999, the priest claimed Bishop Comiskey was "responsible for all this as he had raped and buggered me".

Bishop Comiskey described the content of the letter as "absolutely grotesque". He said he never stayed with Fr Fortune other than one overnight visit in 1985 and that he never attended a party in Fr Fortune's house. He added he never drank on any visit to Fr Fortune as he did not trust the priest.

The inquiry said it received no evidence to support the very serious allegations contained in Fr Fortune's letter and it did not believe them to be true.

The inquiry noted that Bishop Comiskey was just back from treatment for alcohol addiction around the time of Fr Fortune's funeral. The bishop had previously gone for such treatment in the US in September 1995, and had also taken holidays in Bangkok, at a time when the sex abuse scandals were affecting the diocese.

It said: "Allegations were made that Bishop Comiskey used holidays in Thailand to indulge in improper behaviour and given that this was a prevalent rumour, the inquiry asked Bishop Comiskey if he wanted to address it. Bishop Comiskey said that the rumours about his holidays in Thailand were false and evil."

The inquiry said no witnesses had come forward with evidence supporting these allegations.















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