Monday, October 26, 2009

Archbishop Accused of Sex Assault on Teenager

Original article

An Irish archbishop is accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl in Africa before having a 20-year affair with her, it emerged today.

The Vatican is investigating a complaint made against Archbishop Richard Burke, who stepped down as Archdiocese of Benin in Nigeria earlier this year.

He is one of the most senior members of the Catholic Church to be accused of assaulting a minor.

Archbishop Richard Burke was a member of St Patrick’s Missionary Society, based in Kiltegan, Co Wicklow.

In a statement the society, also known as the Kiltegan Fathers, confirmed it received a complaint from the woman last December.

“She alleged that she was sexually abused as a child by Richard Burke,” it said.

“We expressed the deep sorrow and regret of the society for the suffering the complainant and her family are going through and we affirmed the society’s commitment to child protection.

“The society offered to provide counselling for the complainant.”

Archbishop Burke, who is from Co Tipperary, was ordained a priest 34 years ago and later worked as a missionary in Nigeria. He became an archbishop in 2008.

It is alleged he sexually assaulted the victim in April 1983, when she was a 14-year-old patient in a hospital.

The victim, a married 41-year-old mother of three who now lives in Canada, maintains she also had a relationship with the cleric for more than two decades.

Archbishop Burke withdrew from ministry while the complaint is being investigated.

The Catholic Church has been rocked by child sex abuse scandals, most recently with the Ryan Report which laid bare the physical and psychological abusive regimes operated by religious orders in church and state-run institutions.

A damning inquiry into the handling allegations in the Dublin Archdiocese is also due to be published.

The Kiltegan Fathers said although still a member, Archbishop Burke is under the direct jurisdiction of the Holy See since he was made a bishop.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith requested that all relevant documents relating to the allegation be forwarded to Rome so that it can exercise its full jurisdiction in the matter,” its statement read.

“The society has done this.”

The Kiltegan Fathers said it also kept in contact with the complainant and informed her regularly of the steps taking in accordance with its policy and procedures.

“The society is committed to ensuring that justice is done and that no child is put at risk through the behaviour of our members,” it added.

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