Convicted priest poses no threat to parish, archbishop says

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St. John’s Telegram

Published on October 5th, 2010

Steve Bartlett
Archbishop Martin Currie

‘I may even tell him he’s not even to go to church anymore’

A St. Brendan’s resident fears the Catholic parish there will soon be taken over by a priest convicted of sexual abuse almost 20 years ago.

But the head of the Archdiocese of St. John’s says that’s not going to happen at St. Gabriel’s Roman Catholic Church.

“There’s no way will he ever be given any responsibility for any ministry on St. Brendan’s or anywhere else here in Newfoundland,” Archbishop Martin Currie told The Telegram.

“Take that to the bank.”

The priest in question is Father Michael Walsh, who is originally from the small community at the tip of Cottel’s Island, Bonavista Bay.

In 1991, he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing teenage boys in central Newfoundland.

Currie explained Walsh entered a rehabilitation program after the plea and later studied to be a hospital chaplain.

The priest served with the veteran’s unit at the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax until last year, when he returned to St. Brendan’s.

Currie said Walsh was told at the time not to reside in the parish house in St. Brendan’s or to “exercise any type of ministry.”

The archbishop added he didn’t think there’d be a problem because Walsh would be living with family.

But the priest’s presence has sparked some anxiety in the small community.

The concerned resident, speaking on the condition of anonymity, expressed concern Walsh would take over the parish because the current priest is leaving.

Reiterating Walsh will never be given that responsibility, Currie said three new priests are about to arrive and one will look after Gambo, Culls Harbour and St. Brendan’s.

The resident also questioned Walsh’s involvement in Mass, saying the priest had helped with services until recently. There were also concerns about his attendance at a school dinner.

Currie said Walsh was told he could sit with the other priest during services. As for him attending the school event, the archbishop said, “I can’t control him from going to a concert. That’s a civic event.”

According to the resident, St. Brendan’s has been divided over Walsh’s presence since a letter about the priest was published in The Weekend Telegram Sept. 18.

“When this came out in the paper, there were some people that did say, ‘Oh my God, hasn’t he suffered enough? Like, leave the poor man alone.’ Those were the kind of people I felt like smacking.

“Then you’ve got other people who say, ‘If this happens, if he’s still involved in the parish, then I’m cutting off. I’m not supporting the parish anymore.’”

The resident said others are anxious, but they’re not going to speak up because St. Brendan’s is such a small place.

Currie says he’s heard from a couple of residents and he’s taking measures to quell concerns.

He’ll visit the community Friday, to hear people’s concerns and celebrate Mass.

“What’s happening, and the sadness of it is, it’s tearing the community apart,” the archbishop said.

“That’s what I’m trying to avoid. There’s no question. He’ll never be parish priest. He’ll never exercise any ministry. I may even tell him he’s not even to go to church anymore out there.”

But the St. Brendan’s resident is a little wary about Currie’s visit, saying the archbishop will meet with people one on one but many people will be reluctant to show up for fear others will see them or spot their car.

A public meeting would be more appropriate, the resident suggested. 

sbartlett@thetelegram.com

Twitter: bartlett_steve

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Comments

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Don – October 5th, 2010 at 08:47:04

The Catholic Religion…..what a joke!

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roastaman – October 5th, 2010 at 08:44:10

Walsh has paid his dues and should be permitted to live out the rest of his days in peace. As for the concerned citizen wanting to smack people who feel that this man has suffered enough, I would suggest that folks keep thier kids away from that person. Show some guts, attend a private meeting and voice your concerns. Quit living in fear. 

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darls – October 5th, 2010 at 07:52:54

a convicted abuser of little boys and poses no problems for the community….have all the chrildren moved away???…is anyone going to be living there????….even God Must see a problem with this…….

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Madonna Kelly – October 6th, 2010 at 08:21:38

If any other person who has been convicted of child sexual abuse crimes entered a community,the residents have a right to know and take whatever action they need in order to protect the community and the children from this person. I don’t care if they have served time,went to rehab etc.We know from just watching the news that some of these people went on to commit these crimes again. Not suggesting that this is the case here but we know it is quite possible. We do not need to hear from the RC Church that some of these priests pose no threat ..and we certainly do not want history to repeat itself again. These priests should be treated the same as any other person who has been convicted of sexual abuse crimes and not be allowed near any child again.

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nevergettingoverit – October 6th, 2010 at 08:18:43

I don’t believe abusers ever pay their dues…..it’s the victims that pay all the rest of their lives….. They will never be free….he shouldn’t be either

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Bernadette – October 6th, 2010 at 08:15:33

Are we supposed to be so stupid as to believe “he won’t ever do it again”. Both the offending priest and the Archbishop (who is also offensive and insulting to the intelligence of the general public) should not be tollerated. The community should say NO, and stand by it, for the sake of their children. If there are other priests available, why bother with this farce at all.

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Concerned about Safety – October 6th, 2010 at 08:14:03

There is no rehabilitation for pedophilia. Doesn’t this man have to register as a sex offender and stay away from events involving children? This seems to be a legal matter, not one for the church. As for being left in peace to live out his days…he forfeited that right more than 20 years ago.

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Joe McGrath – October 6th, 2010 at 08:11:30

I do believe the Archbishop and support his efforts to ensure that we have good priests who are of no danger to anyone including children. The people of St.Brendans will find Archbishp Currie to be a very kind and approchable man.Let him guide our church. For Roman Catholics who have left the RC church there is not much one can say to them except good luck and at least keep your eys on Christ in all you do.You may even decide to return to the Church some day. and will be more than welcomed back. If the former rouge priest has mended his ways the people will be watching his every action anyway.Let him be and let him worship at Mass in St.Brendans as Christ would want you to do. If we all took time to look at our own lives we would surely find that we too are sinners and the Church helps us on a rough road to salvation. As to the newspaper which continiously attacks our Church let it also carry on but you do not have to buy it if you do not want too.I long ago gave up when self professed drunks were permitted carte blanche slander it at every turn.

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grant reger  – October 6th, 2010 at 08:10:15

Like i said before there are two major evels in the history of the worls, the Natzis and the catholic church. over the centurys millions of little boys who never had a dad or mom to protect them, laying in bed at nite hoping they dont hear the foot steps of a priest or brother coming to sexualy abuse them, jez i can cry every time i think of it. a priest cannot be fired acording to the laws of the church, that is why they send the abusiers to other parishes and not say anything about it. most of the money you give to the church goes to keeping those abusiers out of jail. during the last major storm, did you hear of the catholic church out helping there parisheners or antone else. Hello.

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moose  – October 6th, 2010 at 08:09:33

Get rid of him,take him off the island,send him to china somewhere

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Geri – October 6th, 2010 at 08:08:34

To Don…your comment is not appropiate…we have sex offenders in all Religions and all walks of life….as do we have good people in all Religions and all walks of life…it is right for people to have fear in any situation…

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Island girl – October 6th, 2010 at 08:04:29 

Unless you have lived in a small community where there is only one school and one church and everyone is related somehow you cannot begin to understand the anxiety people feel. St. Brendan’s is a small island with a small population, the church is right across the street from the only school and priest’s residence is right beside the school. As a parent I would not feel safe allowing my children out of my sight knowing that they could encounter this man at any turn. I feel him attending a school function was just unacceptable regardless of who he was sitting with. I find it quite amusing that a person that has no children of his own, who cannot appreciate the anxiety, that their children are safe.

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Sheila – October 6th, 2010 at 13:28:52

“Currie said Walsh was told he could sit with the other priest during services. As for him attending the school event, the archbishop said, “I can’t control him from going to a concert. That’s a civic event.” Why would any priest or any decent person want to be seen with this non-human creature? Does Currie support him? Does he not have to stay away from places children gather – like church? Once again a priest is being treated with respect where non should be given and I see this as support for his crimes by the church. But then again what else is new we see this everyday and always will until people stand up and say enough or we take our money elsewhere where our faith in the Lord is respected not abused.

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mary – October 7th, 2010 at 08:02:33

He entered a rehab program, got to study for another position, got a job, he is still a priest. Where was the punishment? Now he gets to live near a school and attend school functions? He is a pedophile! Helllooooo, something is terribly wrong with this picture. He only committed the most horrific of crimes, that’s all – let’s see how well we can reward him. His victims? What did they get? What do they feel, if they are even still alive to answer that question? For those that justify this guy’s actions and his present living situation……How sick, don’t justify it by saying we are all sinners. How sick that is.

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Rocky – October 7th, 2010 at 08:37:08

I do not agree with what this man has done,but who do the archbishop think he is to tell another human being that he is not allowed to go to church ?? God ?? We are all god’s children,and should be welcomed into god’s house at any time. No,he should not be participating in mass,but should be allowed to sit down with his family and pray in god’s house. Do not judge,for you shall be judged !!

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