A friend of mine recommended that I should visit the parish church in Ballymurn if I wanted to see something rather surprising. So off I went one fine day, and while wandering about the inside of the church I noticed a modern stained-glass window behind the balcony (pictured above). However, my eyes nearly popped out of their sockets and shattered the glass when I saw the dedication on the left window (pictured below).
As is well known, Fr. Sean Fortune was a Catholic priest and serial child rapist who killed himself in 1999, before his trial for multiple counts of child abuse against 29 victims. A documentary, Suing the Pope, which was devoted entirely to his monstrous activities and the role of the Church in covering them up, was broadcast in 2002 by the BBC. Yet seven years later, and ten years after he killed himself, the dedication is still there (as of two weeks ago, when I photographed it). To me, it beggars belief that the people in the parish would not have demanded its removal, and boycotted the church until this was done. How difficult would it be to simply paint over it with opaque red paint, if they can't afford to remove the actual pane? I mean, would an Austrian church keep a window with a very visible dedication from Josef Fritzl on display? Or a Cheshire church keep one from Harold Shipman? Just what is wrong with this country that the name of a notorious predatory paedophile can adorn the window of a church, and nobody cares enough to have it removed? Here's a description of Fr. Fortune's behaviour in Ballymurn, from The Sunday Business Post in 2005 (full article here):
Curiously, the offending panel has been airbrushed out in the church's official website, seen here. (There's no link to the exact page, but click on 'Photo gallery', then 'Ballymurn Church', and it's the last picture in the row). I wrote a letter to the bishop of Wexford recently about this and, while I received a reply from his secretary, I am still awaiting his response. The following is the text of the letter (I won't publish the bishop's reply as it would be discourteous, for I didn't inform him that I have a blog when I sent the message).So, despite the numerous complaints and warning signs over the previous years [in Ferns], Fortune was allowed to make a full-time return to parish life in September 1989, when he was appointed to the Co Wexford village of Ballymurn ... As part of the job, he was appointed chairman of the board of management of Ballymurn National School, and gave classes in religious instruction in the Bridgetown VEC. Serious problems arose during Fortune's time in Ballymurn. Complaints were made in 1991 by a number of parents about the content of religious classes given by Fortune. They said he encouraged children to tell lewd jokes, used sexually inappropriate language and "asked prurient questions while hearing confessions". When confronted once again by [Bishop] Comiskey, Fortune vehemently denied the allegations. He was forced to leave his VEC position in 1991, but remained as curate and on the primary school board until December 1995, at the nomination of Comiskey. “He also continued to give classes there until he was arrested by the gardai in March 1995,” said the report.
Dear Bishop Brennan, I was recently in the church in Ballymurn and found it to be well maintained and very interesting, especially the Meyer of Munich stained glass window. However, I was extremely surprised - shocked may be more appropriate - to see there a modern window containing the inscription "Dedicated by Fr. Sean Fortune 31st Oct. 1993." I was curious as to whether there are any plans to replace this with glass which doesn't contain the name of this ... well, it is hard to think of a phrase that one would use in civilised company to describe him, frankly. Omnium bipedum nequissimus, I think. (I notice that the offending phrase has been airbrushed from the photo of the window on the parish website.) Although I am not a practising Catholic, I feel that from a community - indeed, from a human - viewpoint, to have the name of this person on display is grossly inappropriate. I was wondering what your feelings are on this matter. [The Latin phrase translates as "Of all two-footed creatures the worst".]