Preying on victims | 

Priest sexually assaulted boys while telling parishioners he was disgusted by church abuse

Fr Denis Nolan

Alan SherrySunday World

A former priest who will be sentenced in December for a horrific series of rapes and sex attacks on a schoolboy was a serial predator who abused a number of boys while telling parishioners he was sickened by the extent of abuse within the Catholic Church.

The now defrocked Denis Nolan (70) formerly of The Presbytery, Rathnew, Co Wicklow pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to three counts of anal rape, one of oral rape and five of sexual assault of the schoolboy on dates between January 2001 and December 2005.

When he is sentenced in December it will be the third time has been convicted of horrific sex attacks on young boys.

He previously put another one of his victims through the ordeal of a trial where he denied all charges before being convicted by a jury. He also appealed the conviction but was unsuccessful.

He had initially denied the charges in the latest case as well but pleaded guilty shortly before a trial was due to get underway.

While Nolan was secretly preying on his victims he would speak to parishioners about his disgust s the extent of the child abuse in the Catholic Church, the cover-ups, and the lack of remorse.

After Nolan was first convicted of abuse in 2014, the Sunday World’s former True Crime Editor Niamh O’Connor, who was one of his parishioners, revealed his hypocrisy.

She recalled how Nolan told her: “It’s very difficult knowing I devoted my life to an organisation that protected paedophiles. I know people look at me and think, ‘is he one?’ That’s the legacy for the ordinary priest like me.”

He would also discuss other paedophile priests who he described as evil and would discuss how he was shocked when he was a seminarian in Maynooth to find how much sex was happening there but he stayed clear.

The Central Criminal Court heard this week that Nolan was the curate in Rathnew from 1988 to 2012, having been ordained in 1979. He was on the board of management at the local school, which the victim attended.

The child was aged 12 when Nolan invited him to earn some money by doing gardening jobs at the parochial house. Nolan would pay him amounts from €15 to €100 but after a number of weeks Nolan began asking him about sex and then molesting and groping the boy.

Nolan would tell the boy that “it was ok and all part of growing up” and would tell him he could earn more money for the sexual acts. When the boy was aged 14, Nolan pushed him face down on a bed in the presbytery and raped him.

Paul Murray SC, prosecuting told the court that pain was horrendous and the child was crying and begging Nolan to stop but Nolan continued for up to 30 minutes. The boy went home after and showered, feeling sick, dirty and violated.

In another incident, the priest gave the child a number of beers and the child woke up later on the couch naked from waist down and feeling sore. Nolan told him “do you want it again” and the child felt confused and disgusted.

Nolan raped the boy in a car as well as across the table of the parochial house. During one rape, the child described seeing a picture of Jesus in the room.

Nolan would give the boy money after each rape, sometimes as much as €100 and he repeatedly linked the abuse to payments before each attack. The court heard Nolan sexually assaulted him more than 15 times between 2005 and 2006 by performing oral sex on the child in the presbytery.

Nolan went on to carry out more sex attacks on other victims.

He systematically abused another one of his victims over five years, starting when he was just 12 years of age in 2007.

The victim in that case told afterwards how Nolan had stole his childhood and drove him to suicide.

"I don't have confidence anymore. I drink way too much and I have tried to take my own life on many occasions. He stole my childhood. But I just don't want anyone else to live the type of life I had."

In 2017 Nolan was convicted of a series of sex attacks on another boy in 2005 and 2006 when the victim was aged between 10 and 11.

Nolan denied the allegations forcing his victim to endure a trial but was eventually convicted by a jury.

The victim in that case also gave a victim impact statement detailing how Nolan had destroyed his life.

He said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, panic and fear and said that many times on a weekly basis, he felt he would be “better off dead”.

Like Nolan’s other two victims the victim in the case before courts this week detailed the horrific impact the abuse has had on his life.

He said that Nolan had groomed him and robbed him of a normal childhood.

He said he struggles to hold down a job because of mental health difficulties resulting from the abuse at the hands of “this monster”. He said he turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the trauma of abuse and lost many years of his life.

Detective Garda James McDonagh told the court that when questioned Nolan initially denied all the allegations. He entered a guilty plea last month shortly before a trial was due to get on.

Justin McQuade BL, defending, said his client had instructed him to issue a public apology to the victim and his family.

“He has asked me to extend that apology to the entire community of Rathnew whose trust he breached in the most egregious manner and accepts that it was a complete and utter betrayal of everything he stood for while working in that community,” counsel said.

He said that his client grew up in a home where alcohol and corporal punishment were both features. He left the family home at 19 and joined a seminary and was ordained eight years later.

He said while in custody Nolan has engaged with a sex offender treatment programme and has expressed remorse during counselling.

“Therapy has begun as has his recognition that what he has done in the past was wrong. He recognises these are very serious offences and he is guilty of egregious breach of trust and betrayal,” counsel said.

The sentence hearing had to be stopped at one point when the victim became emotional and Justice Karen O'Connor offered him a glass of water and a break. She later told the man he should be proud of himself for finding the strength to come forward about the “horrific abuse” he suffered at the hands of “a powerful person who took advantage of a child”.

“Your courage will encourage others to speak out and come forward,” she said. The man thanked the judge for her comments. The judge adjourned the case to December 2 for finalisation.

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