Suffer The Little Children.' How The Vatican's Good Old Boys Protected Ireland's Most Notorious Pedophile Priest, Father Tony Walsh
Suffer The Little Children.' How The Vatican's Good Old Boys ProtectedIreland's Most Notorious Pedophile Priest, Father Tony Walsh
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
We have been accustomed for years now to the steady drip, drip, drip of stories of pedophile priests -- known, protected, unrelenting, sickening. The drill goes something like this:
First, the abuse.
Then the denial.
Then the acknowledgement.
Then the settlement.
Then the cash payments.
Then the (ordinarily too weak) promises of new oversight and reform.
Surely, there could be nothing new under this cloud.
Think again.... for now you will meet (then Father) Tony Walsh... a priest with a penchant for impersonating Elvis... and a rapacious sexual appetite rivaling Don Giovanni. But this is not so much a story about Tony Walsh as it is the tale of how the Vatican, knowing much and fearing more, winked for nearly 20 years at a man known to many as Ireland's most predatory pedophile priest. This is the Rosetta Stone of pedophile priest stories... for understanding this, reveals all.
The joy boy of Ballyfermot
Ballyfermot is part of Dublin. It is grim, poor, but fertile for those seeking the very young and winsome, for they are omnipresent and without voice or influence, the choicest morsels, available, helpless.
These were tailor-made for Father Tony Walsh. As such, he lost no time making good use of them when he took up this parish in 1978. He molested his first boy there just two days after he started. It was simple and oh so easy. He knew he was on to a very good thing.
Father Tony honed his approach and his solicitation skills. He toured as Elvis in a traveling Catholic song-and-dance production. He ran the Boy Scouts (de rigueur for pedophile priests) and brought boys to the Dublin seminary, Clonliffe College. Through such means, an embarrass du choix, he kept a steady flow of what he desired while keeping up appearances so that those who would not see would have no grounds for suspicion. It was all very well organized, cynical, loathsome.
Bit by bit, the story of Father Tony seeped out. Ballyfermot was rife with noisome rumors. So much incessant seduction spurred an avalanche of saucy tales, which lost nothing in the telling, not least because they were true.
This went on for 19 years, between 1975-2004 by which time the matter was widely known, conspicuous, flagrant. Yet Father Tony continued to work his cynical magic with the boys of Ballyfermot. He had a system that worked, and he enjoyed it accordingly while his superiors discussed, dithered, procrastinated... then postponed, delayed, and discussed some more. It was the Catholic version of Dickens' Circumlocution Office... and, of course, was perfectly created for Father Tony Walsh. He was one of the boys, he was inside the charmed circle... he had protection, tolerance, cover, right up to and including his eminence Cardinal Desmond Connell, Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of All Ireland.
What did his eminence do?
Over time, stories like those of Father Tony and his ilk became general knowledge; so general that even the Primate of All Ireland was forced to pay attention. But he moved too little too late so that reformers, despairing of Church-lead reform, turned to the Irish government instead. The findings of the state-ordered investigation shocked the nation and raised profound questions about how so much abuse could have occurred with so little and so ineffective response.
Item: Church officials knew of widespread abuse.
Item: Church officials shielded the perpetrators and ensured that abuse cases be treated internally, which meant they were not treated at all.
Item: No abuse cases or sexual crimes were reported by the Church until the mid-1990's. Not a single one.
And what of blissful Father Tony Walsh?
Investigators focused their attention on 46 priestly abuse cases occurring between 1975-2004. Of these cases, all heinous, the most flagrant of all was Father Tony Walsh, who in his Elvis impersonations gave a whole new meaning to "Love Me Tender..."
He was, the investigators concluded, "probably the most notorious child sexual abuser" of all... a man who knew the system well, knew that he was shielded from repercussions, and took full advantage of his superiors' penchant for shuffling, disregarding, and willingness to tolerate any abuse, no matter how young the victim or revolting the act. The man, the abuser, was a priest, elect of God, and that was enough. It was a passport to mayhem.
But the luck of Father Tony Walsh was even now not exhausted. In the report of the state-ordered investigation the chapter on Father Tony was excluded. Why? Because his criminal case was then before the courts and his rights must be protected. Indeed.
However, at long last, the case of Father Tony was heard in all its lurid, sordid, riveting detail. The nation watched, angry, sorrowful, wondering how so many could have done so wrong for so long. How parents and teachers, how priests and cardinals could have known so much and done so little... creating the fetid environment in which Father Tony et al had flourished. How could this have happened in Ireland, to all its good people? How?
Tony Walsh, no longer a priest, was convicted and convicted yet again. First he was convicted of a May, 1994 assault on a boy in a pub restroom following the funeral of the boy's grandfather. Then, later, he was convicted of sexually assaulting several more boys, receiving a further 10-year sentence.
In its wisdom the court saw fit to reduce this sentence, giving Tony Walsh instead a term of just 6 years. Just six years, after a lifetime of abuse and assault.
And what of the victims, all young, all innocent susceptibility? Who is to reduce their term by 40 percent, or by any number? Who can eradicate Father Tony Walsh from their minds and lives by even a moment? Who will be there for them when devastating memories surface and terrorize in depth of night? For they who needed the most help, got the least... to the shame of all Ireland and all its holy clerics and princely potentates who are hereby sentenced to remember and regret.