Seeing the BBC Spotlight special on Eugene Greene in October 2002 prompted one Donegal priest, Columba Nee, to put pen to paper. In a letter headlined ‘Response to Sexual Abuse Allegations Woefully Inadequate’, published in the Donegal News on 8 November 2002, Nee wrote about the effect that revelations about clerical sexual abuse cases had on the Church and on him personally. ‘I grew up in the 1970s before the issue of child sexual abuse emerged out into the open. I remember my parents warning me about strangers offering sweets or enticing me into cars. I never considered for a second that one day I might belong to a profession that, in the eyes of many, is a haven for paedophiles’, Nee’s letter began. He wrote about the snide comments he and colleagues had to face because of the Greene and other cases, but observed that the crisis the Church faced was largely self-inflicted and ‘often made worse by coverups, lame excuses and, worst of all, silence from Church leaders’. Most priests were good men, and only a small minority has carried out ‘ferocious crimes against children’, including Greene, ‘a serial rapist who wrecked and destroyed the lives of scores of young boys over roughly twenty-five years’. Greene’s crimes, Nee wrote, were ‘sickening and revolting and cannot be excused in any way’. What upset Nee most though was the ‘woeful’ response of the Church to questions posed by the Spotlight programme. In particular the lack of diocesan files, which could explain for example why Greene was brought out of semi-retirement, troubled him. Nee noted that the Hussey Commission into clerical abuse, chaired by retired District Court Judge Gillian Hussey, would not have to spend much time in Donegal, since it relied on paper files to get to the truth. ‘Have files been destroyed or were complaints never recorded?’ he asked. He described how his faith in Church leaders had been shaken by the way paedophile priests were handled. The Church needed to learn from the disaster, bring it out in the open and deal with it honestly. Those who covered up or ignored crimes shared in the guilt, as did those who ‘passed the buck and made pathetic excuses in the face of sheer evil’. Nee’s words burned with passion. He spoke on behalf of many ordinary Catholics who felt shocked and betrayed by the Church, and many ordinary priests who shared their feelings. He compared their outrage to the righteous anger Jesus felt when he entered the temple in Jerusalem and found it violated by traders and money-changers. ‘People need to know that many ordinary priests share their outrage and disappointment,’ he concluded. ‘I wonder will anything really ever change in our Church? Time will tell.’ Not every priest I spoke to saw things with Nee’s piercing clarity. One said to me of McGinley: ‘Cha n-ólann Denis bocht is cha gcaitheann sé.’ (Sure poor Denis doesn’t drink or smoke.) I couldn’t see how this was a point in his favour after what he had done, but clearly the speaker felt that it excused or lessened his guilt in some way. Several people afterwards made a big thing of Greene’s drink problem, but the strange argument was made that as McGinley was a Pioneer, he must in some way have been a good person because he didn’t drink or smoke. It made no sense. When I spoke to another priest about my dismay at the glowing character references that two priests, John McGlynn and Michael Sweeney, had given for McGinley, his answer was ‘Sure is cara mór le Fr Michael, Denis.’ (Michael is a great friend of Denis.) I was even told that in one parochial house in a parish where Greene had worked as a curate, his photograph still hung prominently. Quite what the parishioner who saw the photograph of the convicted serial rapist hanging proudly on the wall thought of it, I’m not sure. The message it must send to any of Greene’s victims who might see it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Police work is all about gathering evidence, whether a tin of paint and some brushes or a witness statement or the paperwork from a report to a health board official or a diocesan office of suspected wrongdoing to support a criminal complaint. Yet in investigating Greene we were hampered by the lack of evidence. There were reports raising concerns in 1971, again in 1976 and twice in 1995 that I knew about, either from our own investigation or what Spotlight had uncovered. In November 1995 Bishop Boyce was told about the concerns over Greene’s conduct, yet there was nothing in the diocesan files. Nee hit the nail on the head when he asked, ‘Have files been destroyed or were complaints never recorded?’ Why was nothing ever written down? Over the years I had been given tantalising pieces of information which suggested that there was an awareness at senior levels in the diocese of the problem, even if there were no written records. One priest told me he was present when a colleague approached a senior Church official expressing some concern about what Greene might have done, only to be rebuffed with the words, ‘He couldn’t have. He’s cured.’ Greene told us himself he was in Stroud in the early nineties. He gave us written permission to access his files there. Yet Stroud later refused to release the files on medical grounds, after consulting with the priest and his lawyers, saying he was treated for alcohol dependency, not psychosexual problems. When Greene gave us permission to get his medical records, he was under no illusion and neither were we about which files we were talking about, and he had nodded to us accordingly. We understood, as any criminal investigator would, that we were dealing with child sexual abuse.

In 1982 a new bishop, Seamus Hegarty, succeeded McFeely in the Raphoe diocese. Meanwhile Greene continued to prey on young boys in Glenties, then in Gaoth Dobhair, then moving on to Cill Mhic Réanáin where he was promoted to parish priest. ‘Most unusually’, the Spotlight documentary noted, ‘Greene’s new job was subject to a review after three years.’ In 1994 Greene moved to live in semi-retirement in Loch an Iúir. When Hegarty was moved to Derry in 1994, the diocesan vicar general Fr Dan Carr acted for a while as temporary administrator to the diocese of Raphoe, and he brought Greene out of semi-retirement as an assistant priest. Spotlight discovered two more complaints from this period. ‘One was in a letter sent to the diocesan headquarters outlining a specific allegation’, it reported. ‘The priest who sent it received no reply. The other complaint was made verbally by a curate to his parish priest. The senior priest in question denies he received any complaint. Fr Dan Carr denies he received any complaints. And this diocese says it has no complaints on file about Fr Greene.’ Spotlight went on to report that ‘serious worries’ were circulating the following summer when Philip Boyce was appointed as bishop of Raphoe. The new bishop was told of ‘grave concerns’ about the priest at a special meeting in Anagaire parochial house in November 1995 called by the principal of the local primary school and the parish priest Fr Michael Herrity. In a statement to Spotlight the headmaster explained that ‘allegations and rumours about Fr Greene and children were sweeping the parish’.


The religious orders tend to be the worst offenders and do the most obvious covering up. In the case of Letterfrack in Co Galway Ireland the order denied knowing that one of its brothers was sexually abusing inmates though they had got many complaints over his fifteen year reign. The orders in Ireland are still not releasing documents that incriminate their members and many of these documents have been destroyed. It is not hard to see that this must have happened in the Raphoe Diocese where records relating to notorious paedophiles like Fr Eugene Greene have conveniently disappeared in the time of three bishops and a parish priest who ran the diocese in 1995-1996. Read the article by Raphoe Priest Fr Columba Nee here

There were letters sent by the victims to diocese leaders and the recipients denied that they ever got these letters. This was reported in the Donegal News in 2000. Bishop Hegarty currently bishop of Derry and formerly bishop of Raphoe was exposed as a protector of wicked priests particularly in a BBC1 current affairs programme Spotlight. His attitude in the programme came across as uncaring and arrogant and defensive. Spotlight exposed the manoeuvrings of the Raphoe diocese to prevent paedophile priests being brought to justice and especially how the clerics of the diocese gave no support or compassion and not even a visit to the families of the victims.

The blame is really with the parents who get their children baptised into the Catholic system and form them as priests.

From Breaking the Silence, One Garda's Quest to Find the Truth, Martin Ridge, Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, 2008 order from Gill & Macmillan, Hume Avenue, Park West, Dublin 12

Donegal Times - November 13th 2002


Response to Sexual Abuse Allegations Woefully Inadequate Church authorities many questions to answer
By Fr. Columba Nee

I grew up in the 1970s before the issue of child sexual abuse emerged out into the open. I remember my parents warning me about strangers offering sweets or enticing me into cars. I never considered for a second that one day I might belong to a profession that, in the eyes of many, is a haven for paedophiles. During the last nine years I worked in three schools in our diocese, including the Abbey Vocational School in Donegal Town. During those years it was hard at times to show your face publicly. I, and many of my colleagues, have been called child-abusers, have received snide comments and dirty looks from people on the street. Some blame the mediafor promoting an anti-Catholic agenda - however the saddest thing about the current crisis is that it is self inflicted and is often made worse by cover-ups, lame excuses and, worst of all silence from church leaders.

Most priests are good men. In the current climate, that needs to be remembered. A small minority have carried out some ferocious crimes
against children. The B.B.C. Spotlight programme recently dealt with the crimes of Eugene Greene, a priest of the Raphoe Diocese. It is hard to be rational about the activities of this man. Bluntly put, he was a serial rapist who wrecked and destroyed the lives of scores of young boys over
roughly 25 years, mainly in west Donegal. His crimes are sickening and revolting and cannot be excused in any way.

The response of church authorities to questions posed on the programme was woeful. Serious questions remain unanswered. Why was Eugene Greene brought out of retirement and given a position in his home parish after many complaints in previous parishes? Who arranged this? Why do we have no files on this case in the diocesan archives?

The on-going Church sponsored Hussey enquiry is relying on paper files to get at the truth. Her future visit to Donegal won’t take very long it
seems. Have files been destroyed or were complaints never recorded?  Bishop Boyce then dropped a bombshell by announcing on Highland Radio that three new cases of alleged abuse were being investigated by the Gardai.  All priests are now viewed as possible suspects. This has caused great confusion and anger among many priests. This issue must be resolved as quickly as possible to restore some degree of confidence. Leadership on this issue is needed now.

Personally my faith in church leaders has never been so low. There are a few glimmers of hope however on the horizon. Darragh McIntyre deserves our thanks for making this programme. The victims, or survivors, have emerged into the light. We heard real people, real pain. They are people of immense dignity and courage who have a right to the truth. I sometimes hear that programmes like this are an attack on the Church. Every baptised Christian is a member of the Church. When those children were abused and raped, the Church of God was being abused and violated. The abusers are the people who really hate the church and attack it. In doing so they provide ample ammunition for amateur critics of the church. Eugene Greene’s victims deserve a full apology, an honest explanation and full compensation. Their innocence and childhood was murdered. It is the least we can give them.

Child abuse is not simply a clerical problem. Well over 95% of abuse isn’t carried out by men in Roman collars. The tabloid press seem quite happy at times to create the impression that to be a paedophile you have to have the title ‘Father’. This is deeply alarming. Societies often blame small groups for unpleasant problems. Pointing fingers exclusively at the priest gets others off the hook. Abuse occurs in our towns, villages and in the countryside. It affects all social groups. Abusers are married, often respectable figures. Teenagers abuse as do a small minority of women. The local media have, by and large, been very responsible in dealing with this issue but they have a role in reminding people how this evil is not simply restricted to priests. Exposing this problem in our community is a positive sign. Victims can now receive a hearing, justice and hopefully

The Church needs to learn from this disaster. We need to get the issue out in the open and deal with it honestly. I believe future problems lie
around the corner when Judge Hussey comes to investigate how we dealt with this issue. Those who covered up have damaged the credibility of the church and may have to step aside. The Irish Church has to face the issue of whether we should forcibly laicise convicted offenders. Christ had a very harsh attitude to those who led little children astray; ‘It would be better for that man if a stone was tied around his neck and he was thrown
into the sea.’ Those who cover up or ignore crime share in the guilt. Those terrible words also apply to those who passed the buck and made
pathetic excuses in the face of sheer evil.

In the aftermath of the Fr. Brendan Smyth affair, which shocked a nation and brought down a government, the Bishops promised that there would be no more cover-ups. We were promised everything that needed to be done would be. It appears to me we in Donegal have learned little. The recent revelations showed that we as a church handle these issues very poorly. It is hard to imagine how we could have handled this whole affair in a worse way. We can learn from this disaster and reform our church. If the Church is to speak to people in today’s Donegal with conviction and with the voice of Christ, we can’t simply continue doing the same old things the same old way.

What I say will annoy many. Popularity, or rather the lack of it, has never bothered me. Christ flew into a rage when the temple in Jerusalem
was violated and had hard things to say about those who oppressed the innocent. There is a time for blunt direct talk. People need to know that
many ordinary priests share their outrage and disappointment. I wonder will anything really ever change in our church? Time will tell.

Columba Nee, Nov. 8th 2002


No Copyright