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‘He used to ask me to wear short skirts and invite me to the seaside’: Priest accused of abuse in Scotland and California faced allegations from five girls

Father Joseph Dunne at home in Ireland, left, and when he was ordained
Father Joseph Dunne at home in Ireland, left, and when he was ordained

A Catholic priest accused of abuse in Scotland and California has faced allegations from five separate children, we can reveal.

The number of allegations against Joseph Dunne has increased calls for a full explanation from the Catholic Church as to when concerns were first raised.

He was told to leave Scotland but later got a berth at a church in California where similar allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards young girls.

A woman, now in her 50s, is the latest alleged victim to come forward to voice concern about Dunne’s behaviour when she was a 15-year-old girl attending his Glasgow church.

She says the priest, who denies all allegations of wrongdoing, encouraged her to wear a short skirt at tennis matches he organised, and once offered her money to go with him to the seaside.

Dunne was sacked by the Archdiocese of Glasgow in 1988 after complaints about his behaviour by two other schoolgirls.

He moved to Los Angeles and established himself at two new churches, where he was later accused of inappropriate behaviour by two young parishioners.

In January, we told how Dunne was investigated by police in LA, but never charged. He continues to deny any wrongdoing.

The latest victim to come forward made a formal statement to the Archdiocese of Glasgow about Dunne’s behaviour after reading about him in the Sunday Post.

She said: “He came over as sleazy and devious.”

The woman believes Dunne was grooming her while she was a teenage worshipper at St Paul’s Church in Whiteinch, in the 1980s.

She said: “Father Dunne would visit our house and be friendly towards my parents.

“But his behaviour was creepy. For a number of months he would organise tennis matches for me at Scotstoun Showground, near St Paul’s Church.

“He would book a tennis court and invite me and other teenagers.

“He would phone me up at our house. He asked me to wear a short skirt. He really liked it on me.

“He would say, ‘Could you please wear your short tennis skirt?’

“I was not a pretty looking kid but he would lavish attention on me.”

She became frightened when Fr Dunne asked her to go to the seaside in his car.

“He then called me up and said, ‘Would you like to go to the seaside? He said he wanted to give me money to go.

“It was then I became really scared.

“I didn’t want to go because it felt wrong.

“Everyone knew he had a bit of a reputation, by then, for hanging around teenagers.

“As far as I knew someone else had been asked by him to go to the seaside. Another teenage girl.

“I told my mother. When Father Dunne came to the door my mother answered and shouted at him, ‘Leave my daughter alone!”

“She gave him a real bawling out and I was embarrassed at the fuss she made, but I was only a teenager and probably didn’t realise the consequences of what was happening to me back then, being groomed.”

The family did not report Dunne to church authorities, but he later moved to a different parish, St Mary the Immaculate. In 1988 he was sacked from the Archdiocese of Glasgow.

The woman, now married with a child, said: “As I grew older I realised what had happened and how I was groomed by a predatory priest,” she added.

“It has stayed with me and I have looked online for years, wondering if he had ever been caught grooming other teenagers.”

She added that her experience of grooming is one of the reasons that she gave up the Catholic faith.

“I am no longer a Catholic. What happened to me, the grooming and other reasons, made me leave.”

Dunne, now 77, returned to Glasgow after his spell in LA, where church bosses told him never to work again as a priest. He then moved to Ireland.

Scottish police were only finally told about Dunne in 2013, but decided to take no action.

A church source said the original allegations against Dunne included him touching teenage girls, asking them to do things that they felt uncomfortable with and behaviour that was “unacceptable”.

It is understood church officials made several attempts to get Dunne to address his behaviour, but that he refused to accept he had done anything wrong.

But the police and other Catholic churches were not told, allowing Dunne to find a position in LA.

One LA parishioner, Amanda Bare, now 38, told how she was just 12 when Dunne began to single her out.

She said: “He’d touch my hair and shoulders, tell me I was pretty.

“I vividly remember his favourite game was chase and tickle and he kept wanting to play it in the dark.”

US church leaders only learned of his past when they contacted his former bosses in Glasgow.

A Catholic Church spokesman declined to “comment on individual cases”. But he said that all such allegations are reported to the police in line with church safeguarding policies.

He added that in addition to reporting Dunne to police in Scotland, the church had also reported him to the Garda in Ireland.

He said: “Joseph Dunne is not permitted to exercise ministry as a priest, dress as a priest, or commend himself to anyone as a priest. This sanction has been in place for more than 30 years.

“Although he has never been convicted by the courts, the Archdiocese has shared his files with the police in Scotland and in Ireland.”

Dunne refused to speak to us when we tried to contact him at the home he shares with his sister in Geashill, County Offaly, last week. He has denied all allegations against him.

Cardinal Winning ‘knew of abuse’

© David Cheskin / PA
Thomas Winning

Concern about Fr Joseph Dunne’s behaviour towards young girls was so great that it was reported to Cardinal Thomas Winning, it has been claimed.

One church insider said he was called in to speak to the then head of the Catholic Church in Glasgow about the speculation concerning the priest.

He said: “I told Cardinal Winning about the rumours I had heard. Three or four different families had said that they didn’t like the guy, and what he was doing. I counselled parents who approached me with complaints about Fr Joseph Dunne. I was asked by three parents.

“Their accusations were that they were unhappy with the closeness of Fr Joseph to their children. Nowadays you might call it grooming.

“I always told those abused to approach the bishop or archbishop with complaints. I don’t know if they did.

“People talked about it but no one took him to task.

He added that even though church authorities were told about abuse, he does not believe every complaint would have been properly recorded.

“In 2000 just before Cardinal Winning died, he did a TV interview in which he said it was not his responsibility to report it (sex abuse) to the police.

“It was up to the victim, he said.”

Cardinal Winning sacked Dunne in 1988.

Campaigners: Now tell us how claims were handled

Abuse victims and campaigners want an independent inquiry into how the church handled complaints against Father Joseph Dunne.

Amanda Bare, 38, the US mum who was singled out by Dunne when she was a 12-year-old girl attending a Los Angeles church, said: “It is vital to know where he has been and what he has been doing for almost 30 years.

“Keeping what happened hidden and secret all these years may well have exposed many others to Dunne.”

Amanda’s mother reported Dunne to his superiors after he came to their house one night. She told the priest to leave after she witnessed him rubbing his crucifix up and down her schoolgirl daughter’s bare leg. But it wasn’t until a second family complained that LA church authorities acted.

Clerical abuse campaigner Alan Draper said: “We believe the only way forward now is for an independent inquiry. All the dioceses involved in this case still have many serious questions that must be answered.

“How many alleged victims were there, for example? When did Dunne return to Ireland and has he been continuing to function as a priest there or anywhere else? Should police have been told sooner?”

Father Gerry Magee, who has supported victims of abuse, said: “They have been so badly let down over the years they feel abandoned and abused all over again by the church and its intransigence, and it is little wonder.”