By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — An Irish priest living in County Westmeath who was a central figure in a $500,000 Florida settlement last week involving alleged sexual abuse of an altar boy has been told "explicitly and in person" there is no function for him in the Irish Catholic Church, a spokesman said.
Before the settlement, Florida attorney Sheldon Stevens, who represents the altar boy, had been due to fly to Ireland next month to take a court deposition about the allegations from Fr. Edward McLoughlin, 46, who is now living in Kinnegad.
The altar boy, who was not identified and is now 22, lodged a claim for damages in 1997 in Charlotte Circuit Court in Florida against the bishop of Venice, John Nevins, a choirmaster, Richard Trepinski, Fr. Edward McLoughlin. and his brother Nicholas, who is also a priest.
Trepinski pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a minor in 1993 and is serving a 20-year jail sentence in Florida.
The claim alleged that church officials had been negligent in failing to prevent the altar boy from being molested by McLoughlin and Trepinski as they knew of the "propensities" of both men.
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When contacted in Kinnegad, McLoughlin said he was unaware the case had been settled and confirmed he had agreed to give a deposition. He referred questions about the case to his lawyers in Florida and said there were no outstanding charges against him. He had not been in touch with the boy involved in the case since.
When it was read to him, he would make no comment on a letter he wrote to Bishop Nevins in April 1997 in which he apologized for the "hurt" his actions had caused.
The letter stated: "I realize now the pain and embarrassment my actions have caused parishioners. I am extremely sorry. I want to assure you that I am willing to undertake whatever measures I need, including counseling, therapy and whatever else, to assure that this kind of improper behavior will never occur again.
"In light of my actions and the pain they have caused so many, I am voluntarily requesting that you discontinue any and all financial assistance and support to me."
The Catholic press office said the archbishop of Dublin and the bishop of Meath were notified in 1996 that McLoughlin had been suspended by Bishop Nevins. It was then "made explicitly clear to him that under no circumstances could he have any function in the mission of the Church in Ireland."
The spokesman said a priest suspended in one diocese cannot be given any work within the church in another diocese.
"He doesn’t officially occupy any position here," the spokesman said. "He has no function here. Because of the kind of information received by the bishop of Meath from the bishop of Venice, he would be ruled out of being given any
McLoughlin has been studying with the Holy Ghost Fathers at the Development Studies Centre in Kimmage Manor in Dublin.
He said he hadn’t made up his mind what he was going to do. "I have just finished studies in Third World development in what I do," he said.
Apart from paying the altar boy $500,000, the diocese has also agreed to pay for any psychological counseling for him.