Revealed: How Vatican tried to keep 'Father Filth' in Catholic fold

THE Vatican wanted a dangerous Irish paedophile priest to serve 10 years in a monastery rather than force him out of the Catholic Church, an inquiry revealed today.

Irish clerics wanted to dismiss Tony Walsh - jailed for 16 years last week on 17 counts of child abuse - but Rome urged that he be allowed to remain in the clergy.

Nicknamed Fr Filth, he attacked a young boy in the toilet of a pub in Dublin in May 1994 after attending the funeral of his victim's grandfather as the Catholic hierarchy in Rome debated how he should be dealt with.

Pope John Paul II dismissed Walsh in 1996 after a direct appeal for action by Cardinal Desmond Connell.

A previously censored chapter of a report by the Commission of Investigation into the Dublin Archdiocese, the Murphy Report, was released today.

It described the defrocked priest as probably the most notorious child sexual abuser to have come to its attention, and who was likely to have assaulted hundreds of children.

Dublin-based clerics investigated Walsh in the early 1990s and asked Rome to laicise him in 1993. Walsh appealed in October 1993 and the Vatican called for the penalty to be reduced in June 1994.

The Pope was asked to intervene after the attack on the boy in a pub.

The Commission stated: "This option of dismissing a priest directly by the Pope is reserved for grave and clear cases and is regarded as an extraordinary remedy, even when the normal penal process is inadequate."

Forty people complained of being abused by Walsh and he admitted to "using children for sexual gratification" once a fortnight over an eight-year period.

The report stated that Archbishop Dermot Ryan, head of the Archdiocese from 1972-1984, failed to properly investigate complaints against several priests including Walsh.

The Commission hit out at Rome's handling of the case - listed in the report under the randomly selected but seemingly inappropriate pseudonym Fr Jovito.

"The handling of that appeal in Rome was unsatisfactory," it said.

"The fact that the original decision of dismissal was replaced with a sentence that would have confined Fr Jovito to a monastery for 10 years suggests that after the 10-year period, Fr Jovito might have been entitled to resume his clerical ministry.

"The whole process was unduly cumbersome and at one stage it was suggested to the Archbishop that he should start all over again and initiate a new canonical process."

The report went on to say that a major factor in Rome's decision to push for monastery service appears to have been an inability to charge him by reason of paedophilia.

Walsh was posted to Ballyfermot Parish in west Dublin in 1978.

Two days after he arrived he was accused of a sex attack on a young boy.

The Commission fears the defrocked priest might have abused hundreds of children.

The report said Walsh did not use the term child sex abuse but admitted using children for sexual gratification.

The inquiry found he was moved from parishes in Ballyfermot to Westland Row in Dublin city centre to avoid further scandal.

It reports that Archbishop Kevin McNamara sent Walsh a standard church letter thanking him for "dedicated work in Ballyfermot".

Judge Yvonne Murphy described it as astonishing

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, widely praised for his calls for openness to address the issue of paedophilia in the church hit out at the actions of clerics.

"The report chronicles a frightening moment in the history of the church in Dublin," the Archbishop said.

"As I have said on other occasions, in many aspects the Church in Ireland had allowed itself to drift into a position where its role in society had grown beyond what is legitimate.

"It acted as a world apart. It had often become self-centred and arrogant.

"It felt that it could be forgiving of abusers in a simplistic manner and rarely empathised with the hurt of children."

Garda officers who were made aware of complaints about Walsh were also criticised.

The inquiry found that the Archdiocese took the fact that Walsh had come to the attention of gardai far more seriously than they did.

It said it was unacceptable that two gardai who had concerns about him in 1990 and 1992 failed to pursue a thorough criminal investigation.

In 1991, a criminal investigation was effectively shelved because the Church was running its own inquiry.

The report also said the Archdiocese should have informed gardai of all of its concerns but did not.