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Suing the Pope

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Suing the Pope



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Fr Sean Fortune
Fr Fortune was charged with 66 counts of sexual, indecent assault and buggery relating to eight boys.
The Catholic Churchdid not tell the locals that Fr Fortune was a brutal, predatorypaedophile. They organised delegations to two Bishops - wrote to thePapal Nuncio and the Vatican. The church promised it would dosomething. It never did.

For helpline details click here

The new priest

Fr Sean Fortune, a newlyordained priest, appeared dashing and energetic when he first arrivedin the small Irish village of Fethard-on-Sea in County Wexford.

But what the locals did not know was that Fr Fortune already faced mounting allegations of child sexual abuse.

The Catholic Church kept this knowledge to itself.

Fr Fortune soon ensnared young boys of the village, relentlessly abusing and blackmailing many of them into silence.

A desperate community

When he was notcontrolling children in a myriad of carefully set up "youth groups", hewas pressuring their parents for money, stripping the elderly of theirsavings and extorting millions of pounds from government employmentschemes.

The Bishop thought it was ludicrous that a man of the cloth would act like that

Patrick Jackman

In Ireland, such was thepower of the Catholic Church, no one would dare to complain about apriest. But Fr Fortune's behaviour had become increasingly bizarre anddangerous.

In desperation hisparishioners organised a delegation to two Bishops and, after gettingno real response, wrote to the Papal Nuncio, the Pope's ambassador toIreland.

Still nothing was done to stop this bullying, predatory paedophile.

Painful memories

Colm O'Gorman was 14years old when Fr Fortune raped him for the first time. His tormentlasted for two and a half years. This year Colm returned toFethard-on-Sea with Correspondent.

He wanted to understandhow a priest could have a series of young boys stay overnight in hisparochial house without questions being asked.

He would pick me up and be the priest in front of my mother and myfamily and five minutes later in the car he would make me perform oralsex on him

Colm O'Gorman

"He would pick me up andbe the priest in front of my mother and my family and five minuteslater in the car he would make me perform oral sex on him and then fiveminutes after that ended, stop off and again be the priest and walkinto somebody's house with me in tow behind him. I just remember thereal sense of shock of it all."

Colm's journey back toFethard has been incredibly revealing. Many locals did not appreciatehis questions and he was made to feel unwelcome.

But those who did open their doors to him admitted that the abuse was well known both in the community and the church.

The courage to tell

Patrick Jackman was 11years old when he witnessed Fr Sean Fortune sexually abusing a youngboy scout in a tent. Four years later, the priest appeared at Pat'shome and asked if he could take the young boy to stay at his house forthe weekend.

Pat had a premonition of what was about to happen, but was powerless to stop it.

Patrick Jackman
Patrick Jackman will never leave his children alone with a catholic priest

"There wasn't a phone inthe place. If I ran out screaming in the middle of the night, I didn'tknow where the nearest place was. I didn't know if I went and knockedon the door if they would wake up or if they did wake up whether theywould believe me or not. I had a terrible sense of being trapped andcaged. It was bloody horrible, absolutely horrible."

Unlike many of the boysabused by Fr Fortune, Pat had the courage to tell his parents. Hisfather was and still is close to the Catholic Church. He complainedpersonally to Bishop Herlihey. "The Bishop thought it was ludicrousthat a man of the cloth would act like that."

After the Bishop died, Pat's father complained to his replacement Bishop Comiskey.

To this day no one from the church has asked Pat Jackman about Fr Fortune or the events of that night.

Allegations mount

Dr Brendan Comiskey, theBishop of Ferns, was informed of allegations of abuse against not justFr Fortune but a number of priests, when he was first appointed.

Bishop Comiskey
Bishop Comiskey failed to stop Fr Fortune's abuse

Throughout the 80s, thoseallegations increased. On at least two occasions, Bishop Comiskeyinvestigated, but came to no conclusions and did nothing to stop FrFortune.

Fr Sean Fortune was leftin Fethard-on-Sea for six years before Bishop Comiskey finally removedhim. He then sent Fortune to London to study media and communicationsand to seek therapy with a number of psychiatrists.

Two years later, FrFortune was brought back to Ireland, and given not only another parishand curacy, but also made the director of a Catholic mediaorganisation, the National Association of Community Broadcasting.

Fr Fortune quickly turnedhis new role to his financial and sexual advantage. He raped a 15 yearold boy in a studio booth where he recorded religious programmes.

The search for answers

Colm O'Gorman finallybrought Fr Fortune's reign to an end in 1995. Aged 29, he decided totell the Irish police about his experiences as a young boy. Colm fearedFr Fortune was still abusing.

Colm O'Gorman
Colm O'Gorman wants answers from the Catholic Church

The ensuing gardaiinvestigation resulted in Fr Fortune being charged with 66 counts ofsexual, indecent assault and buggery relating to eight boys. 18 yearsafter the first complaint, the Catholic Church was finally forced toremove him from duties.

But instead of reachingout to Fr Fortune's many victims, Bishop Comiskey disappeared from hispalace without explanation. It was discovered he had fled to an alcoholtreatment clinic in the US.

He returned to hisdiocese six months later. Bishop Comiskey claims that the ongoinglitigation prevents him answering the many questions about his and theChurch's knowledge of Fr Fortune's child sexual abuse.

The response so far

Bishop Comiskey did,however, tell Correspondent that he maintains an open-door policy forall victims of child abuse in his diocese and this is where he can makehis best contribution.

Fr Fortune
Fr Fortune committed suicide in the first week of his trial
Fr Sean Fortune killed himself in 1999 in the first week of thecriminal trial denying his many victims their first chance to be heard.

The Catholic Church has never reached out in any way to the men in this film.

Colm O'Gorman, still hoping for some answers, is suing Bishop Brendan Comiskey, the Papal Nuncio and the Pope.


One In Four

Helpline: 020 8697 2112

Anorganisation run for and by people who have experienced sexual abuse,One In Four offers one to one counselling, group therapy, advocacy,support and information to women and men. All therapists, members andworkers themselves identify as having experienced sexual abuse. Theorganisation is London based but works nationally. We also offertraining and information to professionals working to support people whohave experienced sexual abuse.

Fire In Ice

Helpline: 0151 707 2614

AMerseyside self help project run by and for the adult men who haveexperienced childhood abuse, especially those who have suffered whilein residential care. Fire in Ice aims to enable men who have sufferedchild abuse and their families to make positive change in their lives,also aims to make the care experience safe for children and youngpeople. Fire in Ice offers one to one, group and telephone support in afriendly empathic environment also works with non-abusing survivors inprisons. Fire in Ice is made up of ordinary men who have overcome theirabuse and want to help others do the same.

Derby Rape Crisis

Helpline: 01332 372545

DerbyRape Crisis aims to promote the recovery of any adult of any gender whohas experienced rape or sexual abuse at any point in their lives.

Face to face counselling
Phoneline counselling and support
Accompanying clients to court, police, GP's, clinics, hospitals, etc
Counselling in minority languages
Sign language & Minicom system
Counselling room and facilities available for disabled clients

Click here to return

Suing the Pope: Tuesday 19th March 2002 on BBC Two at 23:20 GMT

Producer: Sarah MacDonald
Deputy Editor: Farah Durrani
Editor: Fiona Murch


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