The Vatican wanted a dangerous Irish paedophile priest to serve just 10 years in a monastery rather than force him out of the Catholic Church, an inquiry revealed.
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 yesterday.
It described the defrocked priest as probably the most notorious child sexual abuser to have come to its attention, and said he was likely to have assaulted hundreds of children.
Dublin-based clerics investigated Walsh in the early 1990s and asked Rome to laicise him (withdraw his clerical status) 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, criticised the actions of clerics.
The report also criticises the "unacceptable" behaviour of two police officers who had concerns about Walsh in 1990 and 1992 but failed to investigate properly.