Catholic Church parish split on future of ‘monument to a monster’ parochial house

Hilltown Parochial House is no longer in use
Hilltown Parochial House is no longer in use
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A child sex abuse survivor has urged the Catholic Church to show more “transparency” as it grapples with the future of a building described as a “monument to a monster”.

Sean Faloon, from Hilltown in Co Down, spoke publicly for the first time last year about the sexual abuse he suffered as a boy at the hands of paedophile priest Fr Malachy Finnegan.

Mr Faloon described his treatment by the late Fr Finnegan in harrowing detail during a BBC Spotlight documentary aired in February 2018 – including abuse he said took place at the parochial house in Hilltown, Co Down where Fr Finnegan lived during his time as Clonduff parish priest in the 1990s.

The diocese of Dromore confirmed last year that it had settled a number of cases linked to Fr Finnegan, a former teacher and president of St Colman’s College in Newry.

The church also admitted that “several parishioners” had expressed concerns about the future use of the parochial house, given the horrific crimes alleged to have taken place there.

The building is no longer in use and the current parish priest, Fr Charles Byrne, lives elsewhere.

Several parishioners have called for the building’s demolition but the diocese has said it is carrying out “consultation within the parish” about its future.

Mr Faloon, speaking to the News Letter, described the building as a “monument to a monster” and a “constant, visible reminder of the rape of children”.

But, he is calling for a compromise between those who wish to see the building demolished and those who wish to see it brought back into use by the church.

“People don’t call it the parochial house any more, they call it a monument to a monster,” he said.

“Those aren’t my words but I do agree with it. It gives people the creeps. It is a constant reminder to everyone in the village of the sexual abuse and rape of children.

“I want to make clear that I don’t live in Hilltown and I never will because of what happened. I have relatives in Hilltown still and I tend to visit them in hours of darkness so I don’t have to see the parochial house. Those that do live in Hilltown are reminded of what happened in that house on a daily basis – you can’t miss it.”

He continued: “There’s a split in the village, in the parish. Some want it demolished and forgotten about, some want it modernised and left in a liveable state.

“What I am asking for is something in the middle, to have the facade of the house changed and for the layout, the plan changed so that people don’t have to use those rooms in the future knowing what happened. But if they leave the building alone half the community will be upset and if they flatten it the other half will be upset. The middle ground is to change it.”

A survey was recently sent by the church to a number of Mass-goers, seeking views on the way forward for the parochial house. But Mr Faloon believes more should be done.

“The diocese has to make sure they are being inclusive, rather than exclusive. There should be a public meeting with every member of the community invited.”

He continued: “The Catholic Church has lost a lot of trust. If they want to regain that trust they must show transparency. The diocese have said they have consulted with victims – they haven’t consulted with me.”

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Dromore said: “The diocese of Dromore is aware that the parish of Clonduff is currently conducting a consultation within the parish regarding a future residence for the parish priest. The diocese awaits the outcome.”