Black Abbey priest is charged with sexual assault

A KILKENNY-BASED priest, who was previously convicted of indecently assaulting children, appeared before Cork District Court last week charged with sexually assaulting a minor over an eight-year period.

A KILKENNY-BASED priest, who was previously convicted of indecently assaulting children, appeared before Cork District Court last week charged with sexually assaulting a minor over an eight-year period.

Fr Vincent Mercer (66), from the Black Abbey in Kilkenny City, is facing 39 counts of sexual assault against a teenager over 20 years ago. He was remanded on bail last Thursday, to appear again in court in January. The alleged abuse began when the juvenile was aged 11, in 1986, and continued until February of 1994, in a number of locations in Cork and Limerick. A statement from the Dominican Order said it is understood that Fr Mercer intends to plead guilty.

Fr Mercer is a serving member of the Order, but is not presently in ministry. He was moved to the Black Abbey a number of years ago, following his conviction in 2005 of a string of indecent assault offences against young boys in the 1970s, when he was headmaster of Newbridge College.

He received a three-year suspended sentence for his crimes and then re-located to Kilkenny. A spokesperson for the Dominican Order previously said he was living under strict supervision and had no access to children.

Locals have reacted with a weary and resigned anger, but not surprise, to the fresh charges. “He has been living right on our doorstep, so obviously it’s still quite shocking,” said one Abbey Street resident. “It’s difficult to reconcile such a beautiful church like the Black Abbey being associated with someone like this.”