SOCIAL justice campaigner and Jesuit priest Fr Peter McVerry says he doesn’t believe the Order has a criminal case to answer over its handling of sexual abuse of schoolboys at the former Crescent College in Limerick City.
And Fr McVerry also revealed that he shared a house with the late paedophile priest Fr Joseph Marmion who is the subject of ten historic allegations of child sex abuse at the Limerick school in the 1970s.
However, he told the Limerick Post that he knew nothing about Marmion’s horrific sex crimes against children at that time time
“Obviously it’s a terrible scandal, I lived with Joe Marmion for one year, but I had no idea that he was abusing children, it came as a total revelation and surprise to me,” he said.
“The fact that it could go unnoticed by a lot of people – not by everybody – really shocked me. I don’t think you could do that today, everything is much more transparent today,” he added.
The Jesuit Order accepted “there was knowledge” by past senior members about Marmion abusing boys in the 1970s, but this was not passed on to Gardaí.
The admission was contained in a letter circulated to a number of men, who as boys were taught by Marmion at Belvedere College in the late 1970s, and published by The Irish Times in July 2021.
The Jesuits didn’t alert Gardai about Marmion until two years after his death in 2000, a quarter of a century after the Order knew he was sexually abusing young boys.
A subsequent statement from the Order described its handling of Marmion’s abuse and allegations of abuse as “shameful”.
“Decisions were made that should never have been made and decisions that should have been made were not, there are no excuses…acknowledging fully the role we played as an Order in allowing this abuse to happen and go on for so long”.
Last January, the Jesuits launched a redress scheme to compensate victims of Marmion, who also taught at Clongowes Wood College. Despite the Jesuits’ knowledge of him abusing boys, Marmion was appointed chaplain at St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Dublin, where he would have had regular access to children.
“I think the Jesuits have been trying to address it, in a way that is acceptable to most of the victims of that abuse,” Fr McVerry said in an interview after receiving the McAuley Medal at Mary Immaculate College in recognition of his work on behalf of people on the margins of society.
He agreed that Gardaí “should investigate every allegation, every credible allegation of abuse” including claims against “many of the abusers who are dead”.
Asked if Gardaí should investigate the Order’s handling of allegations against Marmion, Fr McVerry said that in his opinion “there is no criminal case to answer” for the Jesuits.
The 78 year-old founder of the Peter McVerry Trust said some senior individuals within the order “have admitted they didn’t act immediately and effectively” and he believed these individuals “have a moral case to answer”.
However, he added: “In those days it wasn’t the norm to report abusers to the Gardaí. Today, they would be reported to the Gardaí, to Tulsa, to the child care agencies We are in a very different scenario today than we were 20 or 30 years ago,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Jesuit Order said it has paid out €7.4million in compensation to victims of abuse by Jesuit priests and it was aware of 149 allegations of child abuse in respect of 43 Jesuits, dating back over 80 years.
“The Jesuits want to encourage any person who has been abused in any way at the hands of Fr Joseph Marmion or any other Jesuit to contact them and/or the relevant authorities,” she said.
The Garda Press Office has yet to respond to questions submitted on September 12, and resubmitted on October 4, and again on November 16 this year, which asked if Gardai were conducting enquiries or investigations into Marmion’s abuse of children.
An official response is also awaited to questions submitted to the press office this Wednesday morning asking if Gardaí were making enquiries or investigations into the Jesuits’ handling of the complaints against Fr Marmion.