Sex assault victim being mother of a young child doesn’t look great, says Catholic priest

by Michael Nugent on September 3, 2013

The Catholic parish priest who defended and shook hands with a convicted sex assaulter in 2009 has now bizarrely criticized the victim of the crime because she is the mother of a young child. The convicted man is about to be released from prison, and Father Sean Sheehy has said of the victim:

“I don’t want to make any judgment on her at all, but obviously the whole situation must have been embarrassing, for the police to happen upon them and what-not. She’s the mother of a young child as well and, you know, that in itself doesn’t look great.”

How on earth is a woman being the mother of a young child relevant to her being the victim of a serious sex assault? And how on earth does it ‘not look great’ for a woman to be the mother of a young child? Even putting aside his lack of empathy and compassion for real people, is he aware of the role of Mary in the mythology of his own religion?

Also, why on earth should it be ‘embarrassing’ for the police to ‘happen upon’ a serious crime being committed? The arrival of the police at a crime should be a source of relief for the victim, and anxiety for the criminal. Although, in this case, the victim was semi-conscious.

It is worth remembering just how disgraceful this case was.

In December 2009, Danny Foley, a nightclub doorman from the town of Listowel in County Kerry, was found guilty of sexually assaulting a local woman. A police patrol had found the victim semi-conscious, bruised, scratched, and naked from the waist down, with a man crouching over her, beside a skip in a car park.

Foley had claimed that he had found the woman there and was trying to revive her, but CCTV footage showed him carrying her to the car park from a party at the nightclub. He was jailed for five years.

Just before his sentence was announced, up to fifty local people, most of them men, queued inside the courthouse to shake hands with or hug him and sympathize with him. This show of solidarity took place in front of the victim, who was waiting to give her victim impact statement.

One of the organizers of the show of solidarity was the local Catholic parish priest, Fr Sean Sheehy. He later said he shook hands with the guilty man to support him and let him know he wasn’t alone. When asked why he hadn’t shaken hands with the victim, he said that it didn’t even occur to him to do so.

The controversy split the town of Listowel, where Foley was popular with many locals. The victim was devastated. She felt suicidal, but her toddler son kept her going.

Then the national media picked up the story, and wider public opinion intervened. People flooded the Kerry Rape Crisis Centre with flowers and supportive messages. The woman was amazed and elated by this huge show of support.

Within days, the parish priest had stood down. Now he has decided to add to the controversy, by slandering the victim of a serious crime on the bizarre grounds that she is the mother of a young child.

Ireland today is a much more pluralist country than the one which Father Sheehy would like us to inhabit. But there are still remnants of old-style Catholic bigotry, and we should be constantly working to replace them with empathy, compassion, human rights and a just society.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Fiona September 3, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Shocking. Not only the priest’s appalling actions and lack of compassion for a fellow human being who was the proven victim of one of the worst crimes but also the disgusting men who shook hands with the criminal. Surely there must be some way of investigating these men for similar crimes they may have carried out themselves? Why else would they have been so supportive of the proven criminal?

2 Steve Rawson September 4, 2013 at 9:09 am

Well said Michael – will share

3 Alan Dunne September 4, 2013 at 6:29 pm

As you finished by saying, this shows how many outposts of bigotry and small-mindedness remain scattered around the country. Unfortunately I fear that these are the diehards, the people who have been so conditioned in this mindset that there’s no way they could possibly change the way they view the world. I’ve come to view people like this as disabled in a sense. They’ve been raised and informed in such a way as to be incapable of change, of adapting to new social ideals. The only thing for us to do is to wait for them to die and ensure that no new generations are crippled in such a manner.

4 Ian September 5, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Aw, come on, we are talking about a man who thinks the world was created 5,700 years ago. Taking his comments seriously is like listening to the man in the park with plastic bags for shoes shouting at the pigeons.

5 Emmanuel September 5, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Michael, may I offer you this piece of news:

ROME — A 44-year-old woman from Argentina said that, after writing a letter to Pope Francis telling him that she had been raped by a local police officer, the Pope called her personally to tell her, “You are not alone.”

“The Pope told me he receives thousands of letters each day, but that what I wrote moved him and touched his heart,” the woman said in an interview with the National University of Cordoba’s Canal 10 TV station.

“When I heard the Pope’s voice, it was like feeling the hand of God,” she said.

The woman explained that, in her letter, she asked the Holy Father for help and explained that she had been raped on two occasions by a police officer, who later threatened her.

On Sunday afternoon, her cellphone rang, and when she asked who it was, the voice said, “It’s the Pope.”

“I was petrified,” she said.

The conversation lasted about half an hour and centered on “faith and trust.”

“The Pope listened attentively to my story,” the woman said. “I’ll do anything now to go to the Vatican. He told me he would meet with me.”

The woman told the television station that, so far, she has not received justice, alleging local officials have covered up the crime, refused to hear her story and even gave a promotion to the alleged perpetrator.

“Now I know that I am not alone, and I will pick myself up again,” she said. “The Pope told me that I am not alone and that I should have faith that justice will be done.”

The phone call is the latest in a series of similar personal phone calls that Pope Francis has made since he became pope in March.

Other recipients of phone calls from Francis include an Italian man who has struggled to forgive God after the murder of his brother, a young doorman at the Jesuit motherhouse in Rome, the Pope’s shoemaker in Argentina and the owner of the kiosk in Buenos Aires that delivered his daily paper.

6 Cian September 9, 2013 at 9:46 am

Thanks for the article Michael. It reminds me of the 80’s when every problem in society was lain at the door of unmarried mothers and the gays

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