4.6 MONSIGNOR MICHAEL LEDWITH
4.6.1 SEMINARIAN GROUP AND FR GERARD MCGINNITY
It is alleged as follows:
The Inquiry spoke with a group of six fonner seminarians, a fonner student, and Fr Gerard McGinnity, fonnerly Senior Dean
in Maynooth College, in relation to complaints made against Monsignor Ledwith
to various bishops in 1983 and 1984.
The group of former seminarians maintain that they voiced concerns over their seminary training, Monsignor Ledwith
's allegedly extravagant lifestyle and his alleged sexual orientation and propensity. They shared anxieties over Monsignor
's preferential treatment of certain students and his relationship with such
students which they believed was inappropriate. One seminarian in particular said
that, although he was in no doubt that he expressed to the bishops he met his
concern over Monsignor Ledwith
's sexual behaviour, this concern was definitely
more of an anxiety with regard to orientation and propensity rather than with
specific sexual activity. Contrary to media reports, no specific allegations were
made against Monsignor Ledwith
but rather a concern was expressed in the general
sense. The other five seminarians who attended the Ferns Inquiry confirmed this version
of events. None of the bishops, still living, to whom it is contended this group of seminarians
spoke and who were contacted by the Inquiry, could recall any mention of sexual
impropriety at their meetings with the members of the group or any of them.
After meeting with various bishops, including Bishop Comiskey, the group was dissatisfied with the response received
and reported the matter to Fr Gerard
McGinnity in his capacity as senior Dean. Fr McGinnity spoke to Cardinal Tomas
O'Fiaich, Archbishop Dermot Ryan and Bishop Kevin McNamara (all
of whom are now deceased). He also expressed his concerns in a confidential document
returned by him to the Papal Nuncio. Bishop Casey became aware of the
communication between Fr McGinnity and the three Bishops. At a subsequent
meeting with Fr McGinnity, Bishop Casey called upon him to produce a victim of
sexual abuse by Monsignor Ledwith
. Fr McGinnity did not know of such a victim
and therefore could not have produced one. His purpose had been
to relate concerns as to the appropriateness of his relationship with some students. He never
had any specific allegations to report. On the basis that a senior dean could not
continue in the college after making such serious allegations against a Vice President
of the college, Fr McGinnity was required to remove himself from
Maynooth on a year's sabbatical after which he was not re-admitted. Monsignor
was appointed President of Maynooth College ten months after Fr
Raymond alleged the following:
In 1994, Raymond alleged that he was abused by Monsignor Ledwith
in the early
1980s when he was 13 years of age until after his 15th birthday. The exact age at
when this abuse is alleged to have commenced is in dispute as Monsignor Ledwith
states that he only became acquainted with this family after Raymond was
15 years old. Raymond alleges that Monsignor Ledwith
abused him in his, Raymond's home and
in Monsignor Ledwith
's house. The abuse amounted to touching and masturbation.
As a result of speaking to his parents about the abuse he went to meet Bishop
Newman, Bishop of Limerick. Bishop Newman dismissed Raymond abruptly.
The bishop's secretary, Fr Liam O'Sullivan, suggested that he should go to see
Cardinal Daly. Cardinal Daly travelled to meet Raymond and then referred the
matter to Bishop Comiskey who was Monsignor Ledwith
Bishop Comiskey informed the Inquiry that he met with Raymond and as a result
he was more decisive in acting against Monsignor Ledwith
. He set up a Canonical
investigation and sought to have Monsignor Ledwith
's priestly faculties removed.
This is dealt with at Chapter Five of this Report.
The Diocese paid for intensive counselling for Raymond and his family. The
Bishop was persuaded by Raymond's family to use his good offices to find
employment for Raymond. Raymond and his family were angry and bitter over the
events that had occurred and are continuing to receive counselling. Monsignor
reached a financial settlement with Raymond which did not involve the
Diocese of Ferns, without any admission of liability. The settlement contained a
"confidentiality clause" which precluded Raymond from discussing this matter and
in particular precluded him from assisting in the canonical process initiated by the
Trustees of Maynooth College which is discussed at Chapter Five of this Report.
Raymood did not discuss the alleged abuse with the Inquiry and when contacted by
it through his lawyers, his lawyers informed the Inquiry that he was always
concerned about any pUblicity with regard to this matter. He was genuinely fearful
that if he got involved in making a detailed complaint to the Garda Authorities he
might not be able to preserve his anonymity. He was concerned about the impact
such publicity would have on his family.
was similarly prevented from discussing this matter with the
Inquiry but has at all times attested to his innocence
of all allegations made.
Shane alleged the following:
Shane was a third year seminarian in Maynooth when he claims he was abused by
in November 1994.
He first spoke about this incident to his
General Practitioner in October 1997 when he attended for treatment for
depression. He had left seminary training in 1995 and had started work as a
secondary school teacher. He continued to receive treatment for depression and in March
2000 whilst receiving hospital treatment, he arranged a meeting with his
former Bishop to inform him that he intended making a formal complaint to the
Gardai about the sexual abuse he had experienced. He did not reveal the name
of the alleged perpetrator to his bishop.
The hospital authorities contacted the Diocese
of Ferns and the Gardai in 2000. In
his first statement
to the Gardai in April 2000, Shane described in detail a very
serious rape he claimed was perpetrated by Monsignor Ledwith
. The Gardai
commenced a thorough investigation
of the allegation. Although witnesses spoken
to by the Gardai all attested to a sudden change in Shane's personality in
November 1994, none
of them could confirm any question of sexual abuse being
raised except for one infirmary nurse who said she was concerned about that at the
In June 2001 Shane completely withdrew all allegations against the Monsignor
stating that no rape took place but that a consensual sexual encounter had occurred.
to the Gardai that he did not know Shane and had never
had any relationship with him at any time, either consensual or otherwise. He
further stated that he was not in the country on the dates which Shane stated as
being the days on which the abuse is alleged
to have occurred and was in a position
to prove that.
This allegation was later than the allegation
at 4.6.2 above and Monsignor Ledwith
no longer in active ministry in the diocese. Bishop Comiskey had already
informed the bishop in the diocese where Monsignor Ledwith
was residing about
the previous allegation. Bishop Comiskey informed the Bishop
of Seattle of this
further allegation against Monsignor Ledwith
but did not inform the Archbishop
when the allegation had been completely withdrawn.
The Gardai considered the desirability
of prosecuting Shane for having made a
false allegation but recommended to the DPP, who accepted the advice, that
such prosecution be brought because the view was taken that Shane was mentally
Shane commenced High Court proceedings against Maynooth College and
but his withdrawal of the criminal charge led
of this action.
has told the Inquiry that it was difficult
to convey in words the
difficulty and expense caused to him and his family by this allegation which was
to be without foundation and was made by a person whom he stated he did
not know and was alleged to have occurred when he was not in Ireland.
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