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Vatican releases documents relating to priest accused of child abuse in Ireland

US man claims the Vatican knew the priest was a danger to children when they transferred him from Ireland to Oregon, where the man was allegedly abused in 1965.

File photo of Pope Benedict XVI celebrating mass at St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.
File photo of Pope Benedict XVI celebrating mass at St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.
Image: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

THE VATICAN has published its internal files about a priest accused of abusing children in Ireland and the US 50 years ago.

The files are part of documentation the Vatican is preparing to send to the US lawyers of a man who claims he was abused by Reverend Andrew Ronan in 1965. A US court ordered the Vatican to respond to the request for information by this Friday.

The alleged victim is seeking to hold the Vatican liable for the abuse. Referred to as John V Doe in court documents, the man blames the Vatican for allowing the priest to be transferred to the US state despite knowing, he claims, that the priest posed a risk to children.

The Vatican says it only learned of the abuse accusations in 1966.

The documents include a 1966 file which includes Ronan’s request to be laicised after his superiors found he had been accused of sexually abusing minors in Ireland. The Vatican says it “was not involved in Ronan’s transfers, including the transfer to Portland [Oregon], and had no prior knowledge htat Ronan posed a danger to minors”.

The file also includes a letter from the Order of Servants of Mary in which one of Ronan’s Chicago-based superiors wrote that he removed Ronan from Ireland after learning of the abuse allegations there in 1959. Ronan then worked in Chicago, before being transferred to Portland in Oregon.

Lawyer for the Vatican Jeffrey Lena said he hoped the documentation released today would help “calm down those people who are too quick to make sensational and unfair comments without taking the time to get an adequate understanding of the facts”.

Ireland and the Vatican: strained relations

Last month, the Vatican recalled its ambassador to Ireland, called the Papal Nuncio, for consultations over the Cloyne Report. The report detailed how church and state authorities in Ireland dealt with allegations of abuse against members of the Catholic clergy in the Co Cork diocese of Cloyne between 1996 and 2000.

It said that the Vatican’s response to early accusations of child abuse were “entirely unhelpful”.

The recall followed strong words from Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who criticised the Vatican and the Catholic Church in Ireland over the handling of allegations of clerical abuse.

Kenny said: “The rape and torture of children were downplayed (in favour of upholding) the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation.” He called on the Vatican to respond to the Cloyne Report’s findings.

- Additional reporting by the AP

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