Church removes safeguarding support for man who reported clerical abuse

Denis Cairns speaking to the Sunday World in August.

A MAN who reported historical sex abuse allegations has said he feels “abandoned” by the Catholic church after it withdrew safeguarding support to him.
Derryman Denis Cairns (42) slammed a decision by Nottingham Diocese to cut off his access to a safeguarding officer in the final stages of a canonical investigation into his claims surrounding an Ulster priest.
The elderly cleric is accused of abusing the father-of-two in 1991 when he was just 13 years-old.
In August, Mr Cairns told the Sunday World how a church run probe into his alleged abuser had “stalled” and his fears that the north-west born clergyman would not be defrocked.
Now it can be revealed that weeks after going public with his concerns, Mr Cairns was informed by the investigating diocese by telephone that he would no longer have essential church support.
“They have just severed all ties with me,” Mr Cairns told the Sunday World. “Everything must go through your lawyer, Nottingham diocese has told me.
“It’s unacceptable, the church has a responsibility to look out for victims and survivors.
“Even in the Vatican’s summit last year in February 2019, it was made very clear that all victims and survivors should not be dropped by the church, so they are kind of going against canon law.
“I haven’t had a safeguarding officer in Derry since October, they haven’t replaced the man who was helping me, who was excellent by the way.
“Bishop Donal McKeown has also been excellent to me and I have faith there, but in terms of safeguarding support I have nothing now.
“It is October now, this canonical investigation has been going on since April 2019. It’s delay tactic after delay tactic.
“I believe they are waiting for this priest to die or for me to crack, which I am not going to do.”
He added: “I feel abandoned but not surprised, they can’t kick me anymore. I’ve been kicked down that much that the only way is up hopefully.
“In my eyes they are immoral, they aren’t standing up for Christianity.”
Mr Cairns first reported the sex abuse claims to RUC officers in 1997 at the age of 18, but a decision was made not to prosecute the clergyman.
In 2014, after years of mental health struggles, the dad-of-two contacted the Diocese of Derry and disclosed what happened to him.
Enquiries made between the church safeguarding officers revealed Nottingham diocese probed the claims in 2002, five years after Mr Cairn’s initial report to police.
The diocese said at that time, it “supervised” and “monitored” the cleric for a two-year period.
After numerous meetings with senior church figures in both Ireland and England, Mr Cairns was informed last year his alleged abuser was suspended from his parish role.
However, little has been done since to hold the cleric to account, with the church-run probe coming to a standstill.
Mr Cairns said his distress was further compounded after discovering that the alleged abuser’s parish continued to pray and raise funds for the priest as he was being investigated.
In response to Mr Cairns’ concerns in August, Nottingham Bishop Patrick McKinney blamed the “deteriorating health” of the priest involved for the delay in the church’s investigations.
The Bishop confirmed that the canonical investigation was now at its “final stage”.
“As a result of my meeting with Mr Cairns in Derry I instigated a preliminary investigation into the allegation he made,” he said in a statement.
“Following this preliminary investigation into the allegation, a formal canonical process was begun in November 2019.
“This process has been delayed by the deteriorating health of the priest against whom the allegation was made. His poor health has affected his ability to defend himself.
“I am not personally involved in this canonical process, but I am informed that it is now reaching its final stage. I have always taken Mr Cairns’ allegation extremely seriously, and the Diocese continues to make support available to him.”
The Sunday World contacted the diocese over the removal of Mr Cairns’ access to its safeguarding officer.

Denis speaking to the Sunday World in August.

A spokesperson for Nottingham Diocese said: “Mr Cairns is currently pursuing a civil claim against the Diocese of Nottingham, and all communication between Mr Cairns and the diocese is being carried out through their respective solicitors. “For this reason, I am not now in a position to provide you with any further detailed information in response to your question.”
Denis said: “My PTSD has been severely, severely tested recently. The last year has been very hard, but I won’t give up until I can get my justice should that take my whole life. I will not give up.”

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