Jewish Minister 'has agenda to damage Church'

By Padraig Reidy and Jessica Elgot, August 4, 2011
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Despairing: Alan Shatter

Despairing: Alan Shatter

A priest in County Kilkenny, Ireland, has accused Jewish Justice Minister Alan Shatter of having a "vested interest" in damaging the Church through the government's investigation into child abuse.

Father Eddie Conway made the accusation during a sermon at the Black Abbey in the Irish midlands last weekend. He allegedly told congregants that the current wave of criticism over child abuse is the result of a "bigger agenda" set by people out to damage the Church, including Mr Shatter. He described Mr Shatter as "Jewish and non-practising and an atheist".

Several parishioners walked out in protest, with one telling the local paper, the Kilkenny People: "At the start of his sermon he said that the Church had been in the news over the sex abuse scandals and that it had been a bad week for the Church.

"He said that the sex abuse scandal was bad but that there was a lot more going on. I was disgusted by his remarks. They were bizarre and off the wall. I was not having any of it so I walked out and brought my children with me".

A spokesman for the Dominican Order of priests, to which Father Conway belongs, said that he "could not stand over those comments if they were made".

Father Conway has been told not to speak to the media, but Father Louis Hughes, Prior of the Black Abbey, said he had not received any complaints about the sermon from congregants.

Mr Shatter, from Dublin, is the only Jewish member of Ireland's Dáil Éireann, its lower house. As Minister for Justice, he was responsible for the release of the Cloyne Report last month, looking into the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic diocese of Cloyne in southern Ireland.

When the report was released Mr Shatter called the diocese's response to complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse "totally inadequate and inappropriate." He said: "It is difficult to read the Cloyne Report and avoid despair."

Last updated: 12:26pm, August 4 2011