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Verdict for former priest who abused young boys comes with mixed feelings

Henry Moloney, a former Spiritan priest, has been sentenced to four years in prison, with the final year suspended, for the indecent assault of a schoolboy.

Mark Vincent Healy

THIS MORNING DIRECTLY links two events in my own life. It is sentencing day again. The last day was 19 March 2009 and the venue was the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court before Judge Katherine Delahunt.

Today, Judge Thomas Teehan delivered a decision that holds the guilty to account at the Clonmel Circuit Criminal Court.

Sentencing changes nothing about the experiences of child sexual abuse. Sentencing doesn’t remove its impact and damages on your life and those you love. Sentencing, in this case, is about ensuring the guilty pose no further threat to other boys and realising that there are consequences to one’s repugnant sexual abuse of children.

This is the third time, Henry Moloney (77), a former priest of the Holy Ghost Fathers (also called the Spiritans), has been brought before the Irish courts for sentencing.

Abusing a child 

On the 2 December, he was found guilty on seven out of eight counts of indecent sexual assault on a former schoolboy of Rockwell College, Cashel, County Tipperary between 1981 and 1982.

In 2000, he was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison for his sexual abuse of two boys. Again in 2009, he was convicted and was sentenced to 18 months which was suspended for three years.

The lenient non-custodial sentence in 2009 was due to the fact that the accused pleaded guilty sparing unnecessary additional distress to the victims and their families. In 2009 it was also noted that because of his age and his previous prison term in 2000, a lighter sentence was deemed more appropriate.

However, in this latest case he pleaded not guilty which lead to two weeks of trial, which was enormously distressing on the victim and his family. It is only appropriate therefore that Mr Moloney received his sentence of 4 years from Judge Thomas Teehan with the last one suspended to a non-custodial year at Kimmage.

The judge had no option to show leniency where a plea of not guilty was entered, as was the defendant’s right. However this provided no mitigation or comfort to the victim by way of acknowledgement for the devastation caused. It was a wholly appropriate sentence on balance.

Difficulties for the victim

There were many aspects about this case which were particularly difficult to bear for the victim. One such action was the attempt by the defence counsel, Mr Patrick Gageby, to remove the anonymity of the victim. It was a cause of great distress in the criminal process to the victim and his family.

The verdict came with mixed blessings. To some it caused enormous anger that they had not received any justice for the abuses they suffered by this man. To others it is confirmation of their long suffering and vindicates their struggle and perseverance.

To others it marks a remembrance of the loss of life they have experienced within their families as a result of this man.

It is a day of tears for all whose lives were changed utterly by this man and the congregation which now quite self-evidently tried not only to cover up such heinous crimes but aided and abetted in the opportunities to continue such abuse on children which is not only an affront to Irish people but to humanity.

In this case the verdict was the most important element vindicating the victim and their family.

A reassessment might be made of all previous cases raised with the civil authorities so justice may be seen to be done in those cases also. I know of four other Irish survivors who brought their case forward, but their files were rejected by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

A career as a teacher 

Perhaps a review is in order in light of this case. Henry Moloney had a career from 1969 to 1995 as a teacher in St Mary’s College, Christ the King College (Bo, Sierra Leone), Blackrock College, and Rockwell College. The congregation knew from 1973 of his proclivities and aided and abetted his abuse in efforts to hide their responsibility and negligence.

Their actions increased the opportunity for further sexual assaults not only in Ireland but on the missions in Sierra Leone. They also increased their liability from ‘negligence’ to ‘vicarious liability’. This is really a more serious judgement than might be appreciated.

As for Moloney I feel there was political reasons in his ‘not guilty’ plea. The effort was to protect the congregation if at all possible from the ‘vicarious liability’ that a guilty verdict would carry.

A reassessment might be made of all schools where Henry Moloney was appointed by the Irish Spiritan congregation. A civil action has been taken by a survivor from Sierra Leone but there are others whom Henry Moloney also admitted abusing at Christ the King College, Bo, Sierra Leone. The utmost respect and confidentiality ought to be granted to those abused in Africa.

I have written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charles Flanagan and the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald asking that the international dimension of the scandal in the Irish C.S.Sp. confreres needs to be addressed.

I note that half of the 48 Spiritan priests, noted in National Board for Safeguarding Children’s audit in 2012, were abusing abroad in the USA, Canada, Sierra Leone and Kenya.

A duty of care to children 

I believe there is a duty of care to those children who were sexually abused overseas at stake. In recent conversations with Richard Sipe, he believes there could be 22 victims on average for each perpetrator. This would make the number requiring assistance in the above countries to be 528 survivors of clergy child sexual abuse (CCSA) by the Holy Ghost Fathers or Spiritans.

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The impact on a person’s young life must be taken seriously concerning its lifelong debilitating consequences, comorbid dysfunctions and intergenerational distress.

The research shows that one’s life is particularly blighted in very significant ways above that of the general burdens which one has to bear in any life. One need not compare lives buttry understand them with dignity, justice and compassion.

The reason I work for the interests of survivors is because I know they remain far too vulnerable set back in life with not only psychological disorders, physical conditions related to long terms chronic psychological distress, but experience 13-14 times higher rates of self-harming and suicide to the general population.

A peer reviewed report in 2014 by an ESRI/TCD professor found that the economic impact on survivors of child sexual abuse is ‘severe’ in terms of having a 30-40% lower household income to their socioeconomic peer, and that they will be three to four times more likely to suffer repeated unemployment.


According to a UCC study in 2010, the survivor end of life is marked by such high anxiety that they don’t contemplate and worry about their aging pains and conditions as much as having to handle chronic suicide ideation lest they be placed in any institutional care. We have a population of more than 18,000 known cases of child abuse which is supposed to represent about 10% of a total number of Irish cases.

There is no interdisciplinary agency meeting the comorbid needs of this heavily traumatised population. In Ireland we allegedly have only one fully qualified trauma therapist. Our mental health services lack qualified staff not finance, according to Gerry Raleigh, CEO of the National Office of Suicide Prevention.

I am working with Minister Kathleen Lynch and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin amongst others to implement a research program to establish an evidenced based approach to alleviating the high levels of self-harming, premature death and suicide in this identified population of survivors.

On 24 June at the launch of the Mental Health Program 2015-2020 called ‘Connection for Life’ by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, promises were made in the report to address identified vulnerable groups in Ireland. This survivor group was placed on the list after much campaigning prior to the launch. It’s slow work but it’s getting there. I remain optimistic and hopeful.

The legacy of this man, and some within the congregation, on so many lives is hard to comprehend and bear. There is no sense of pity or remorse, but an obstinacy to get away with as much as one can.

I was not taught to shirk my failings, but to admit to them to those I offended. The very act of contrition is to make good your sincerity in seeking the forgiveness of those you offend. This seems utterly absent in this case as in so many others. I must not give up hope for them too.

Survivor Campaigner seeking ‘Rescue Services’ and ‘Safe Space Provisioning’ for survivors of clerical child sexual abuse. 

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About the author:

Mark Vincent Healy

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