THE latest twist in the sickening saga of paedophile Catholic priest James Martin Donaghy – currently serving a ten-year jail sentence for 17 sex offences in Northern Ireland – took place last week when Donaghy was sentenced to another two years after pleading guilty to four more charges relating to a boy of seven.
Belfast Crown Court heard that the boy was distraught over the possibility of his dead grandfather being trapped in purgatory, but that 55-year-old Donaghy told him that, in exchange for sex, he could get his granddad’s soul into heaven.
Donaghy had pleaded guilty to four counts of indecently assaulting the boy and one of common assault between January and May 1989.
With regard to the latest series of offences, prosecuting QC Ken McMahon said the boy was being groomed by Donaghy for his upcoming first confession and communion when the abuse began.
After one offence the court heard that:
The defendant said that this was to get his grandfather into heaven and that if he told anyone it would not work.
McMahon said that a few days later, the boy went to confession as he did not feel right about what had happened but that when he went into the confessional box, he discovered Donaghy on the other side of the partition.
The abuse came to light in 2010 when Donaghy’s victim, his fourth, first told his wife and then the Church who in turn contacted the police.
Arrested and interviewed Donaghy denied the allegations, claiming he did not even remember the boy.
McMahon said it was correct that this latest case could have been dealt with at the same time as Donaghy’s previous offences but that the legal process just took a little longer.
He added, however, that given the fact Donaghy knew he was under suspicion for them, he could have confessed his crimes earlier but that his guilty pleas had come as a huge relief to his now 31-year-old victim.
Defence QC Eugene Grant told the court that despite the latest series of sex offences, there were testimonials before the court which evidenced how Donaghy had, as priest, given much appreciated pastoral care to many parishioners and families.
He submitted that his guilty pleas, unlike the previous case when he fought it to the end, had been a “seismic event” in Donaghy’s attitude, describing it as a “road to Damascus” moment which would have a positive impact his future rehabilitation.
Donaghy, who was a priest in the west Belfast parish of Corpus Christi, Ballymurphy, at the time of the abuse, was handed a two year jail sentence, but will not have to serve extra time as it will run concurrently with the sentence he is serving.
Commenting on this case, The Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta, said:
… This particular story is notable because of the particular way the priest manipulated his young victim. Sadly, it fits neatly into the framework of Roman Catholicism as it’s too often lived and taught, particularly in strict Catholic communities (like, for instance, late-twentieth-century Belfast).
After all, if acts of penance, prayer, fasting, and charitable giving can get Grandpa out of purgatory more quickly (as the Church has always taught), why not sex acts the priest deems pleasing?