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Melbourne-based Mayo priest denies rape charge

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Shock in south Mayo over clerical abuse charges


Melbourne-based Mayo priest denies rape charge

Edwin McGreal

A well-known south Mayo priest has strongly refuted claims that he raped a woman in the 1970s and molested two young sisters in the 1980s.
Fr Padraic Maye, a native of The Neale, who has been based in Melbourne, Australia since 1957 has pleaded his innocence over the charges, despite church authorities in Australia finding him guilty of doing so and forcing him to retire in 2005.
News of these charges only emerged in south Mayo last week when a national newspaper carried a report stating that Fr Maye had said Mass despite being barred from doing so. It would appear that nobody in south Mayo, not even Fr Maye’s family, were aware of the case up to that point.
Speaking to The Mayo News from his Melbourne home yesterday, Fr Maye described the charges as ‘a beat-up story’ and pleaded his innocence.
“That raping allegation was a terrible allegation which I deny vehemently. The two young ladies - well that is another thing that was magnified out of all proportion. The bottom line is this - they reported it to the police and the police called me in and they said that if I didn’t hear from them within a couple of weeks, that I had no case to answer. I never heard from them.”
Maye (pictured) claims the church authorities acted with injudicious haste in dealing with the charges and states that the molesting charge was ‘greatly magnified’.
“It is zero tolerance with the church in Australia. If there is any sort of a sniff of a scandal, you are asked to stand aside. It (the molesting charge) is like if you give somebody a hug and you are accused of molesting them. It was quite distressing. To be accused of rape, that is the ultimate, isn’t it? For that to appear in a paper … but as I told you no charges have ever been laid against me. The police told me they are not making a case.”
The village of The Neale and the wider south Mayo area were in shock when the news emerged. Fr Maye was considered a local hero after winning an All-Ireland Junior medal at midfield for Mayo in 1957, the year of his ordination. He has been a regular visitor to the area since and celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination with Mass in The Neale in 2007, two years after being ‘retired’ by church authorities in Australia.
Famously he also presented Ronnie Delaney, Ireland’s gold medal winner at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, with the tricolour which was hoisted at that medal ceremony. The tricolour had been in Maye’s possession for some time and a presentation was arranged in The Neale at the turn of the millennium. Locals are now in deep shock.
“The area is stung by the revelations,” one local, who didn’t wished to be named, told The Mayo News. “There is definitely a sense of confusion - this has been going on for a while and no one knew anything about it. People are hurt and angry and feel betrayed. It is definitely an armageddon day locally. Everyone in the area has got a major shock.
“He (Maye) is a figure people have really looked up to over the years and to hear this, well it would leave you stunned. He carried the flag for the parish all over the world, he was an ambassador, a local hero after winning the All-Ireland Junior title. It is a small community here and we don’t have many people like this so it makes it all the worse.”
Fr Maye said that he understood the reaction locally and had spoken to his family, who he says weren’t aware of the case up to then. His brother Tommy still lives locally.
“I have used a quotation from the bible and changed it a little bit - ‘let he or she who is without sin or spin cast the first stone’ in relation to these allegations. If you throw enough mud, some of it sticks. People in the area would be shocked and horrified. I have spoken with my niece too. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.”
The news of the charges against Maye only emerged in Ireland last week following Australian newspaper reports that two Irish priests conducted services despite church inquiries finding they were paedophiles. Maye twice celebrated the annual Irish Mass for Victoria’s Irish community since being retired. He defended saying Mass, on the basis that he was the only Irish speaking priest available.
In 2004 and 2005, Father Maye continued his work at St Augustine’s Primary School in Yarraville, outside Melbourne, while police and the church investigated abuse claims. The girl he allegedly groped in the 1980s said the church should not have allowed this, saying “I was feeling sick about the thought of him possibly abusing kids there”.
While the police inquiry didn’t proceed to court, the complaint against him was upheld by the church.