stalled | 

Woman sexually abused by priest lashes out at delay in him being booted out of church

Victim's anger as no decision made on priest a year on from his conviction
Fr John Joseph Murray

Fr John Joseph Murray

Hugh Jordan

A woman who was sexually abused by a Catholic priest has hit out at delays in him being booted out of the church, the Sunday World can reveal.

Father John Murray (81) was convicted last year of the indecent assault of two girls whose parents worshipped in his parish at St Matthew's in the Short Strand area of Belfast.

The Sunday World has learned that a disciplinary procedure to determine whether Fr Murray will be defrocked appears to have stalled.

And now Sinead Gorman - one of two women who brought complaints against Murray - is demanding answers.

Sinead Gorman was one of the women who took a case against Murray for indecent assault on dates between December 31, 1976 and January 1, 1983. Sinead, standing outside St Matthews Church in the Short Strand.

Sinead Gorman was one of the women who took a case against Murray for indecent assault on dates between December 31, 1976 and January 1, 1983. Sinead, standing outside St Matthews Church in the Short Strand.

This week she told the Sunday World: "Earlier this year I was told a church investigation into whether Fr Murray would be defrocked or not was completed at the beginning of March.

"Apparently the findings were forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith for its direction on how to proceed.

"But since then, I've heard nothing," said Ms Gorman (50).

She added: "Surely to God the church won't allow a convicted paedophile to remain a priest."

After the finger of suspicion was first pointed at him more than six years ago, Fr Murray was immediately relieved from his post as Parish Priest at St Mary's in Rasharkin, Co. Antrim.

After he disappeared a few days later, a Sunday World investigation revealed Fr Murray - who is originally from Newcastle, Co. Down - was holed up in a luxury golf resort on the Canary Islands.

The priest stood accused of sexually assaulting two primary school children, who are now middle-aged women with families.

After revealing details of Fr Murray's luxurious living conditions in the Canaries, the Sunday World ran a series of 18 stories alleging Murray had a lengthy history as a sex abuser.

But it was only when detectives in Belfast - who specialise in child sex abuse cases - threatened to extradite Murray from Spain that he agreed to return to Belfast for questioning.

The offences - which related to two separate cases - were said to have taken place between December 31, 1976, and January 1, 1983, in the parochial house at St Matthew's Parish, Short Strand.

Speaking through his lawyer, Fr Murray - who arrived at court in a wheelchair - denied all allegations of impropriety when he appeared before the Magistrates Court in Belfast.

But after lengthy legal argument about whether the priest was mentally fit to stand trial, it was agreed to go ahead with a 'trial of the facts'.

Fr Murray was found guilty when his case was called before the Crown Court in Dungannon last September.

Judge Brian Sherrard told Murray that if he had been able to mount a proper defence, then there was no doubt he would have been facing a custodial sentence.

The judge released the cleric - due to his age and other mitigating factors - but he imposed strict supervisory conditions which denied him access to children.

And he also ruled that Fr Murray's name be placed in the Sex Offenders Register.

When contacted by the Sunday World this week, no one from the Diocese of Down and Connor was available for comment.


Today's Headlines

More Irish News

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices