Church bows to pressure to remove Cathedral mosaic
A mosaic laid in Newry Cathedral as a tribute to Bishop Francis Brooks is to be removed as part of ongoing work to the church floor, Archbishop Eamon Martin has revealed.
Archbishop Martin – the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore – confirmed the move in a letter to the legal representatives of a number of victims of paedophile priest Malachy Finegan. They had called for the removal of the mosaic tribute to Bishop Brooks in protest at his handling of abuse allegations against Finegan who sexually and physically abused a number of boys while he taught at St Colman’s College between 1967 and 1987, and later continued the abuse when he was parish priest in Hilltown in the 1990s.
When alerted to the allegations in 1994, Bishop Brooks – who died in September 2010 – sent Finegan to England for ‘treatment’ instead of reporting him to police.
In a letter to solicitor Claire McKeegan of Phoenix Law who represents some of the abuse survivors, the archbishop confirmed the mosaic would be removed as part of ongoing work to the floor of the cathedral.
Images of Bishop Brooks displayed at St. Colman’s College, where he was principal prior to Finegan’s tenure, have also been removed.
The archbishop apologised “unreservedly for the hurt and damage caused to victims by Fr Finegan, or any other priest or church representative”.
“The Diocese of Dromore finds such behaviour towards children and vulnerable people abhorrent and indefensible, and is fully committed to achieving and maintaining best practice in the area of safeguarding young people and vulnerable adults,” he wrote.
One of Finegan’s victims, Sean Faloon, told the Irish News he is “relieved that it’s to be removed rather than happy”.
“I would have been happy if it was removed this time last year,” he said. “We have to remove any tributes to Bishop Brooks as soon as possible. The mosaic needs to be removed and destroyed in a reasonable time-frame. I have offered to remove it myself.
“We shouldn’t have to prompt the Catholic Church to make these common-sense decisions. The lack of compassion is astonishing compared to the weight of damage which has been done to survivors and our families and friends,” he added.
Ms McKeegan said it was “frustrating” that the move only came following pressure from survivors and pledged to ensure “that this commitment is fulfilled in a timely fashion”.
She said it was offensive to survivors that Bishop Brooks was honoured “in any way, let alone (with) an ornate mosaic in a sacred place of worship”.
“All such regalia in any public place must be removed to protect those who have suffered from further distress and trauma. It was deeply upsetting for survivors of Malachy Finegan that those who knew what was going on failed to act and protect them,” she said.