Ireland's Child Care Institutions during the 20th. Century. Fo'T: The most vivid and passionate stories - banished babies, cruel orphanages, old abuses of power - have concerned things that went unnoticed, or at least unarticulated, at the time. News has often had to be redefined, not as the latest sensation but as that which everybody knew all along yet could not say.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Bishop: Church keeps mum over disgraced prelate

THE CATHOLIC Church is evading media questions about the current whereabouts of Dr Brendan Comiskey, who resigned as Bishop of Ferns in April 2002 after a BBC documentary on Fr Sean Fortune. Inquiries to the Ferns diocese are redirected to his Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary order, where copious messages go unanswered.

Once the ebullient, liberal face of the Irish hierarchy, Comiskey fell spectacularly from grace. His fellow bishops put it out that he was being treated for diabetes in 1995 when he took leave of absence to check into an American hospital for his alcoholism. Slowly, the facade crumbled. It was revealed that he owned a house in Donnybrook, Dublin, bought with diocesan money, which was subsequently repaid. It was also reported that he was held in a Bangkok police cell to allow him sober up after a holiday flight to Thailand.

But it was his failure to act in response to numerous complaints of child sexual abuse by priests in his diocese that was his undoing. Fr Fortune was known as "the barman" for serving drinks at parties in the Bishop's House. Fr Jim Grennan accompanied Comiskey into the same church where Grennan had abused 10 children three weeks previously. The evidence of negligence by the bishop become unanswerable, although he retains the title, Bishop Emeritus.

A bungalow controversially bought for him in Wexford by the Ferns diocese after his resignation has since been sold again and he is formally the responsibility of his order. He has spent some time in the US and has occasionally been seen in Wexford, in his home county of Monaghan and in the vicinity of the Four Courts, where he is named as a respondent in several victims' compensation claims. A total of €2.8m has been paid to 17 victims to date. Ferns has paid an average of €164,700 in each of the cases. In Dublin, by contrast, €2.5m had been paid out to 38 victims.

Justine McCarthy Irish Independent

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