Visit to St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, May 2008

New Bishop in place Michael Burrows. Discovered that Bishop before him Peter Barrett had maintained the discipline of Archbishop John Neill before his own resignation.  Discover that Willi Stewart is being allowed limited ministry and that re licensing is a possibility. I phone Bishop Burrows and explain I am addressing this on behalf of the family. He replies that I do not have a locus standi to represent the family.

This was my final reply to the Bishop. I then took the view I no longer had just a duty of care to the victim only but if Michael Burrows allowed Willi Stewart to re enter ministry I would have to pass what I had to those who would look at these issues. So as in March 2004, January 2005 we decided to hold our fire. The feeling was that that Bishop Burrows was totally ignoring the assurances given by the Archbishop on his behalf by Archdeacon Pierrepoint.

DIALOGUE IRELAND letter to Bishop Michael Burrows

Dear Bishop Michael,                                                                         May 8, 2008
Thanks for reply to my call last night. It is clear that we have very different understandings of the outcome of the court case involving Willi Stewart in 2005. I have confirmed with the mother of the young man concerned that she wishes me to pursue the issue with you and that this would be the wish of her son. He is currently in the UK and she will only talk to him face to face at the end of the month. Also I have written to the sexual assault unit at Harcourt Square to get clarity in regard to the sentence and the probation act in light of the fact that Willi Stewart is resident in Ireland. After I brought another earlier case to the attention of Archdeacon Linney in 2004, I could not believe the evidence he gave in court, and subsequently the Archbishop of Dublin broke off all communication with my organisation.

In Jan 2005 I attended a trial at the request of the victim’s family. The defendant pleaded guilty. Please find my report of the case enclosed. The sentence of the court was that Judge Dunne found him guilty.

“It has cost him his ministry and he will be professionally exiled. He had been personally humiliated, before his friends, community and church community.  This was a terrible fall from grace and it has resulted in permanent exile. Judge Dunne then commended Mrs xxxx for her concern for the Stewart family.”

I should point out that this in fact did not result as the story was not reported in the press, and in fact the new Archdeacon did not even know what had happened when he went to the court.

In fact the general view that got abroad was that Willi had had a minor misdemeanour and that the Archbishop had been hard on him. The verdict of the court should have been published to protect young men and show the seriousness of what happened. This was a sexual assault after a period of grooming someone who Willi was mentoring.
The judge saw his granting him the Probation act was so he could go into exile, get help but he would never minister again. Also the grace shown by the man abused would have led to the assumption that Stewart would not be licensed again. In correspondence with the Archdeacon of Dublin I received this assurance for the family: “I can confirm that Willi Stewart has lost his licence in the Church of Ireland.  For any other church in the Anglican Communion to take him on as a priest, they would normally require clearance from the archbishop and under the circumstances he is not prepared to give this.” Here the assumption was that he would reside in the USA and would not be allowed to minister in Ireland or anywhere for that matter.

After a relatively short period he in fact returned to Ireland, I understand he was not able to remain the States and settled in his wife’s home area of Co. Kilkenny. For the past year there have been rumours that he was to return to ministry and today you confirmed that he was on course to have his licence restored and to begin small steps of ministry.
The only problem is that following the conviction the family understood that the Church of Ireland Archdiocese of Dublin would respond to the family as from their perspective nothing had happened from March 2004 until the court case in Jan 2005. After that the Archdeacon David Pierrepoint had promised to respond to the needs of the young man affected. He claimed to me in correspondence that he understood that the young man would contact him, but at my insistence understanding the psychology of a victim he promised me three years ago that he would propose some form of support for him and contact him. I have kept in touch with the family, but they have heard nothing too date from the Church of Ireland. How a process of forgiveness can be seen to be in place which has not even begun at the institutional level to address the victim(s), not to mind the victim(s) themselves I do not understand. I believe the breaking off of relations between the archbishop and myself and the lack of process to bring about reconciliation will prove to be a serious stain on the Church of Ireland when the story of this saga comes into the light of day. I have all the correspondence between the Archbishop, Bishop Harold Miller, the Archdeacons and myself. When a level of trust has been established I will share their contents with you as part of finding a solution to this problem. My primary concerns are the victims of this grooming and sexual assault, and even if I am treated as a pariah by the Church of Ireland leadership I will persist till the truth is seen to be done. I look forward to hearing from you when you have time to consider what I have told you, as I sense you are not aware of the full facts surrounding this case.

Regards

MIKE GARDE
DIRECTOR

DIALOGUE IRELAND TRUST
Phone: 353 -1- 8309384 or mobile 353 – 87 2396229

Web site http://www.dialogueireland.org
Charity number: CHY 14004
IRELAND and IRISH representative on the General Assembly of the European Federation
of Centres for Research and Education on Sects (FECRIS). http://www.fecris.org

One Response

  1. This is clearly a matter for the Press since the C of I itself is deliberately ignoring the facts of the matter. In such a situation, the Press is the only proper place to take the issue. That the C of I can continue to behave like this in the current climate smacks of desperation and arrogance on their part-neither of which strike one as truly Christian values. Thank goodness the Church and the faith are not one entity.

    Like

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