Cork is a city of about 400,000 (Greater Cork) in southern Ireland.
It is good to see that the leaders of the order were as appalled as the mourners. Attitudes are changing, slowly, in the Catholic church, but at least they are changing. Thank God.
“It was wholly inappropriate of Fr Crean and we are making no defence because there is no defence - it caused deep distress across the board to both the family of the deceased man and to the victim in the John Murray case and victims of child sex abuse generally,” he said.
Fr Hennebry said that he had spoken to Fr Crean, a retired missionary who spent most of his working life in Nigeria but is now based in Fethard in Co Tipperary, about what he said during Mr Cotter’s funeral Mass at the Church of the Way of the Cross in Togher in Cork last Thursday.
“I have spoken to Fr Crean and I’m trying to get a full picture of what happened - our inquiry is continuing with a view to getting a resolution on the matter and that resolution would involve an apology to the family of the deceased and also to the victim of the abuse.”
It’s understood that Fr Crean,who was an acquaintance of Mr Cotter, also knew John Murray, who was later convicted on Friday of five counts of sexually assaulting a then 13-year-old girl at a number of locations in Cork city in the 1990s.
Fr Crean asked mourners to pray for John Murray’s acquittal during Prayers of Intercession at Mr Cotter’s funeral Mass on Thursday morning. The jury had been due to begin deliberating that afternoon after hearing two days of evidence.
In addition to the upset Fr Crean’s prayer caused to both families, Fr Hennebry said such an appeal was entirely inappropriate given that criminal proceedings were under way in the matter, which was about to be considered by a jury.
Attempts by The Irish Times to contact Fr Crean yesterday evening proved unsuccessful, but Mr Cotter’s daughter, Michelle, confirmed last night that Fr Crean had contacted the family yesterday to express his regret over what happened at the funeral Mass.
“He rang us to apologise and he said he was very sorry for the upset that he caused us and we’ve accepted his apology,” Ms Cotter said, adding the family now simply wished to be allowed grieve for her father, who died on November 18th after a long illness.
Earlier, Bishop of Cork and Ross Dr John Buckley issued a statement disassociating himself from Fr Crean’s comments, adding that he expected the Augustinian Order to address the issue.
“The diocese was unaware that these comments were going to be made, does not stand over them and sincerely regrets the obvious hurt that they have caused,” said Bishop Buckley in a statement issued on Monday evening after the controversy broke on Cork’s 96FM.