Fr Daniel Curran was first convicted and jailed for child sex abuse in 1995 – a year after his best friend Fr Brendan Smyth was sent to prison.
Curran was last convicted and jailed for four years on February 29 this year on similar charges.
In the 17 years between the first and last of his four convictions involving 13 survivors of his sexual assaults, the Catholic Church continued to pay him a monthly allowance right up until December last year when he went on trial for the fourth time.
A spokesperson for the Down & Connor diocese confirmed that payments had been made for 17 years but said they would have varied in value depending on Daniel Curran’s location…for example, he said the payments whilst he was in jail would have been altered to suit his needs.
Survivors of his drunken abuses will be comforted to know that the payments to Curran did not come out of parish funds!
But it is insulting and hurtful for survivors to learn that a convicted priest who until recently had a photograph of Fr Brendan Smyth on his Facebook page received payment for all the years many of them may have been struggling to make ends meet.
Curran’s convictions are as follows:
• Seven year jail sentence in 1995
• 18-month suspended sentence in 2005
• 14-month jail sentence
• Four year jail term in 2012
His crimes spanned 17 years and were perpetrated on young boys aged 8-12.
When I showed the Down & Connor answers to one of the survivors of Curran’s abuses, he was horrified that the priest was paid and had challenges for some of the other answers provided by the diocese. He went home to consider how to respond to the assertions of the Down & Connor diocese but sadly has been too upset to respond.
But the issue of payment is deeply offensive to survivors especially since Fr Curran apparently ceased to have any engagement in ministry since he was arrested in 1994 for the first of his trials.
But even though this meant he no longer carried out any duties as a priest, it was only in 2007 that he officially ceased to be a priest after writing personally to Pope Benedict XVl asking to have the obligations of priesthood dispensed with.
Bishop Patrick Walsh wrote supporting his request. This was the same bishop who on three separate occasions in June 1995, April 2005 and in May 2006 issued three public apologies for Curran after three successful prosecutions and convictions.
The Pope granted Curran’s dispensation from priestly duties on November 30 2007 and then the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote to Bishop Walsh on December 11 2007 to notify him of the Pope’s decision.
Ian Elliott is the chief executive of the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church and I asked him how payments to a convicted paedophile could be justified.
He told me there is a provision in Canon Law to financially assist a priest who is without means.
He also told me: “In the United States they took a zero tolerance approach, in relation to offences against children involving clerics. So if you were guilty of, found guilty of an offence against a child, then that was unacceptable and you should no longer continue as a priest. “You were out of ministry permanently. Now, there’s a lot to be said for that in relation to a zero tolerance approach. You mention the fact that that particular priest had been convicted a number of times. I think we would take the view, again going back, and I know it sounds a simple principle, but people should be held accountable for their actions, and I find it totally incompatible that someone should remain, certainly remain in ministry having offended against a child.”
I pointed out that Daniel Curran was in receipt of payments long after he had left the priesthood in 2007. Mr Elliott responded: “There is an issue I think in Canon Law about a destitute priest, but I understand the point you are really raising is with regard to the feelings that, the impact that a move of that nature would have on victims, survivors, and others who care deeply about the church.
“And we have to take that into consideration. And individuals who make those decisions, who are responsible for making those decisions, have to take full account of that in terms of what they are deciding.”
Survivors of rapist priests often find themselves penniless – with a drug or alcohol dependency to help them bury the pain created in childhood of sexual assault and find it impossible to hold down a job or even have a meaningful adult relationship. To learn that the paedophiles continue to receive payment from the Catholic Church is, according to Margaret McGuckin, of the Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse group, another form of institutional abuse.
“I think they have taken it all wrong,” she said, “ They have misinterpreted the bible about looking after our brothers but not in the way they are doing it. As a campaigner I am going to say it is all wrong.
“What about the ordinary parishioner? To them this may be seen as a means of rewarding the paedophiles. They would be gobsmacked to learn the church is paying a paedophile. Any wonder they are turning away from their faith. I don’t want that but the church must realise that kind of behaviour is pushing people away from the church.”
Ian Elliott said he was familiar with this argument.
He went on to say: “It is an argument that many survivors have made to me as well and expressed the impact of the abuse that they have suffered has been devastating on them as individuals.
“I mentioned earlier about the courage and the dignity of many of those individuals, and also the generosity, and generosity of spirit, their willingness still to sit down and talk to me and to provide advice and help and guidance with regard to, you know, the work that we are involved in.”