Canon Francis Brown to return to ministry

Newry Cathedral News

Statement of Archbishop Eamon Martin, Apostolic Administrator, concerning the re-instatement of Canon Francis Brown

In May 2018 Canon Francis Brown voluntarily stepped aside from all pastoral duties to facilitate the full investigation of information that had been received regarding a historical safeguarding concern.

Canon Brown and the Diocese of Dromore cooperated fully with the statutory authorities responsible for investigating such matters. Following a full investigation by the relevant authorities, no charges were brought by the Public Prosecution Service with regard to Canon Brown.

The Diocese of Dromore then initiated the Church processes that are required in such cases and these have also concluded that the case against Canon Brown is unsubstantiated. This means that he can immediately return to ministry.

I know that Canon Brown has been greatly supported by the prayers and encouragement of many over these past two difficult years. I would ask you to continue to support and help him to settle back in as he begins to resume his duties. I am grateful to Fr Des Loughran who stepped in as Administrator for the duration of Canon Brown’s leave and to all who have helped in any way.

This has been a difficult time for all involved and we offer our prayers for all concerned. The Diocese of Dromore continues to recommend anyone who has suffered abuse of any kind to report it immediately to the local Health and Social Care Trust, and to the PSNI.

They may also contact the Safeguarding Office of the Diocese of Dromore on 07789917741.

The Catholic Church also provides confidential services for those who have suffered abuse through Towards Healing and Towards Peace. Towards Healing is a confidential service for those who suffered abuse and can be contacted on 0800 0963315. Towards Peace offers spiritual guidance and support to those victims who wish to engage with their Church and can be contacted on +353 (1) 505 3028.

Statement of Canon Francis

On 14th May 2018 I was informed by Bishop Boyce the Apostolic Administrator that an individual had made an allegation of a historic nature against me. In accordance with Church guidelines I voluntarily stood aside from my duties on 19th May 2018 to allow this allegation to be investigated by the Civil and Church authorities.

A period of over two years has now passed and during that time I was spoken to on one occasion by police and once separately by the Church authorities. Otherwise, during that time. I remained at home while the investigation of the allegation took place. I accept that these procedures must be rigorous and thorough and that they must be conducted with transparency and diligence.

On 9th August 2019 the Public Prosecution Service confirmed with me that they had looked into the investigation carried out by the police and that they intended to take no prosecution against me whatsoever. Their file was closed.

Thereafter the Church authorities conducted further investigation into the allegation made by the individual and I have been informed by Archbishop Martin on 23rd June 2020 that, following an investigation by the Diocese and further consideration by the Holy See at Rome, there were no grounds for me to remain out of Ministry. I was invited by the Church to return to my duties as a priest of the Diocese of Dromore.

I wanted to take this opportunity to explain to my Parishioners, fellow Priests and Deacons that, during those two years and more which have gone by I co-operated fully with any of those who were deployed to investigate this matter.

Since May 2018 I have stated publicly and repeatedly that the allegation against me was false and completely without foundation. The various investigations which have taken place by Civil and Church authorities have confirmed that I spoke the truth about this matter from the beginning.

I welcome this opportunity to thank all of those who supported me through this very trying time including all of the Parishioners of this parish and beyond, my fellow Priests, Deacons, Religious, my many friends and family who have reached out to me with support and encouragement. I extend a very sincere word of thanks to Archbishop Eamon for his support and the great empathy he has shown me since he became Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese. A word of thanks also to my brother priests, Fr Des, Canon Hackett, Fr Kryzsztof, Fr Colm, Fr Robert, and Deacon John for their work in my absence.

On a personal note, I say that I was forced to walk through a dark valley which challenged me in many ways. I was comforted by the fact that I knew that what was said about me was untrue and that I spoke only the truth from the outset.

I am of course incredibly pleased that the just outcome has arrived at last. I want the Parishioners and all my fellow Priests and Deacons to know that I will be returning forthwith as the Administrator of the Parish of Newry. I look forward to fulfilling my work as a priest which I have done faithfully since my ordination on 9th June 1974. I have always been, and I remain, a priest in good standing.

Thank you,

Canon Francis Brown