Fr. Oliver Brennan
Priest ‘baffled’ by child safety allegation
Irish Times, GENEVIEVE CARBERRY, Fri, Aug 20, 2010
A CO Louth parish priest who resigned due to an allegation over the safeguarding of children was said yesterday to be “baffled” by the accusation.
Fr Oliver Brennan agreed to step down from the parish of Blackrock, Co Louth, on Saturday to allow for an investigation into a complaint relating to “child safeguarding”.
The priest maintains his innocence and is both “devastated” and “baffled” by the allegation, a source close to Fr Brennan said.
The priest heard of the allegation a few hours before Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh Gerard Clifford spoke to his parishioners after vigil Mass on Saturday.
The allegation is understood to date from more than 30 years ago, when Fr Brennan worked in Co Armagh. Few details of the claim are understood to have been given to the priest so far. A spokesman for the Catholic Church yesterday rejected suggestions that the allegation was anonymous.
The priest has worked in Blackrock parish for the past 11 years and is popular locally. Originally from Edmondstown, Ardee, he moved out of the parish on Saturday and is thought to be staying with family.
Parish member Vivienne Lamont said there was “uproar and horror” at the announcement and that a group of Blackrock parishioners confronted Bishop Clifford in the sacristy.
She praised Fr Brennan’s “impeccable ministry” and said he was a “very much loved parish priest”.
Parents totally trust him with their children and the allegation was “out of the blue”, she said.
Fr Brennan’s supporters say they are aware of the rationale behind diocesan protocol but feel the guidelines do not give a presumption of innocence.
In recent weeks, Fr Brennan had been told to move parish by Cardinal Seán Brady. A petition calling for the priest to be allowed to remain attracted hundreds of signatures.
Bishop Clifford spoke to the priest’s congregation on Saturday after celebrating vigil Mass at the parish.
“This week the archdiocese has been made aware of a complaint relating to child safeguarding against a priest of the diocese,” Bishop Clifford said in a statement.
“The priest has agreed to voluntarily step down to allow the investigation into this matter to be conducted efficiently.
“The allegation has been reported to the civil authorities, and the diocese and the priest will fully co-operate with any investigation. Whilst this process is ongoing the priest is entitled to the benefit of a presumption of innocence,” his statement added.
© 2010 The Irish Times