101 priests in single diocese accused of abuse in 40 years

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The Irish Examiner

Diarmuid Martin: Efforts have been remarkable.

Diarmuid Martin: Efforts have been remarkable.

The number of priests formally accused of sexually abusing children in the country’s biggest Catholic diocese over the past 40 years has topped 100, according to the latest figures.

The cost of compensating victims of paedophile priests in the diocese has exceeded €20m, with €14m paid out in settlements and €6.4m spent on legal bills.

The review of the Dublin Archdiocese by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church found that allegations were made against three more priests in the last year, bringing to 101 the total of diocesan priests accused of abuse since 1975.

Concerns about 40 of them arose in the past 10 years. Of those, four were convicted in the criminal courts and 23 were found to involve concerns that were credible, although not proven. In those 27 cases, the diocese substantially restricted or terminated their ministries.

Of the total 101 accused, 49 are deceased, 34 are living and remain priests of the diocese, and 18 have left the priesthood and/or the diocese. In total, they faced 432 separate allegations of abuse.

Only nine priests have been convicted of abuse in the criminal courts since 1975, and just 12 in total since 1940, but the diocese has accepted civil responsibility for many more.

Some 236 civil actions have been taken against 51 priests or former priests of the diocese, of which 187 have been concluded at a total cost of €20.4m, with 49 cases still continuing.

While acknowledging the legacy of unacknowledged abuse in the diocese, the board described its current performance on child protection issues and abuse allegations in glowing terms.

Selecting Archbishop Diarmuid Martin for particular praise, the report states: “He has people of skill and integrity in all the key roles within the very effective Child Safeguarding and Protection Office, and their combined achievements in turning around a shocking and grievous situation have been remarkable.”

Garda vetting within the diocese is particularly strong, with almost 6,000 clergy, diocesan staff, support staff in schools, and agency workers across the diocese’s 199 parishes vetted in the past 12 months alone and some 38,000 in total vetted through the diocesan system.

The board made some recommendations to further improve safeguards, including providing child-safeguarding materials in languages other than English and developing guidance on the appropriate use of cameras, smartphones, email, and the internet.

Director of safeguarding in the diocese, Andrew Fagan welcomed the positive comments but said there no room for complacency and he encouraged anyone affected by abuse, who had not yet come forward to try and do so in order to get the help and support they need.

Watchdog warns orders on child protection measures
By Brian Hutton

A Catholic Church watchdog has hit out at some religious orders for being slow to enforce child protection measures.

In the latest series of inquiries, it was found some priests evaded new protocols to continue ministry despite admitting to child abuse.

Teresa Devlin, CEO of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, commended dioceses for improving protection but warned about a lack of progress in orders. “For the religious congregations and missionary societies, progress appears slower,” said Ms Devlin.

“There has been a sea change in that all are now conscious of their obligations around reporting, [but] unfortunately, in two cases, we saw that priests continued in ministry, even though admissions were made and, in another order, cases against deceased brothers, former brothers, and lay teachers were not always notified to the gardaí.”

The latest reviews focused on the Archdiocese of Dublin, the Dioceses of Cloyne, Killaloe, and Meath, and congregations the Presentation Brothers, the Patrician Brothers, Benedictine, Glenstal, and the Missionary Societies of the Columban Missionaries, and the Society of Divine Word. It found two priests in the Society of Divine Word were allowed to continue in their ministry despite having admitted to child sexual abuse.

Fr Patrick Byrne, provincial of the order, admitted that they were slow to implement child protection measures. “We unreservedly apologise to all who were abused by members of our Society, and express our deep and sincere sorrow to all those who have been hurt by any member of our Society,” he said.

“There are allegations against six members. Of the six, one is deceased, four are out of ministry, two members deny the allegations being made against them, and one priest has served a prison sentence.

“All allegations received have been passed to the Gardaí and the Health Service Executive, who have and will continue to have our full co-operation.”

In another case, the Presentation Brothers was found not to have notified the authorities about abuse.

Brother Andrew Hickey, Province Leader of Presentation Brothers in Ireland,apologised on behalf of the order. “During the fieldwork period of the review, I noticed that an additional file which had been labelled ‘physical abuse’ — and was thus outside the terms of reference of the review — also contained references to sexual abuse against deceased brothers,” he said.

“I immediately contacted the National Board and notified the gardaí and the HSE. I take responsibility for the error and apologise for this reporting failure.”

The watchdog said offences largely took place between 1940 and 2000, with some priests starting to abuse very quickly after ordination. A number of the abusers were “charismatic” priests, while a number had addiction problems.

Support group One in Four said the reports will bring some reassurance to survivors that real progress has been made in child protection measures.

Towards Healing — a free confidential counselling service — can be contacted on 1800 303416.

Whistleblower policy proposed for Cloyne diocese
By Conall Ó Fátharta

A specific whistleblowing policy has been suggested for the Cloyne diocese so members of the Church can use it to express concerns about child safety.

In its review of safeguarding practices in the diocese, the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church said it had made “excellent progress” in improving child protection standards in the past three years.

The NBSC issued a total of eight recommendations in its report, including one calling for the implementation of a specific whistleblowing policy in the diocese “to include procedures a member of the Church can use to express concern about a child”.

“It may be helpful to outline a number of reporting options which could be utilised by an individual who is considering making a report, regardless of who their concern is about,” said the report.

Other recommendations included further printed child protection information, increased victim support, and increased lay recruitment and training.

Commenting on the NBSC report, Bishop of Cloyne William Crean said it was a “good day for Cloyne”, but admitted there was some concern about the extent of Garda vetting of people working in the diocese.

“I think there has been some concern, rather than resistance, around the extent of Garda vetting that is required,” said the bishop. “We would now be asking people who would have worked for many years in parishes to subject themselves to Garda vetting and that can be disconcerting to people.

“It’s almost like requesting that is a measure of distrust or something. But when it’s explained, the intent and purpose of it and the end reason for it, people generally won’t have difficulty with it.”

Bishop Crean said the diocese “had come a long way” in the past few years and repeated the apology to “all those who suffered abuse at the hands of a minority of priests of Cloyne”.

“I accept the recommendations for the direction they give for progressing the vital work of safeguarding children,” said Bishop Crean. “We have implemented and are continuing to implement them.

“The ongoing support of the National Board is very much appreciated.

“The report has been very complimentary of all the effort that has gone into ensuring the safety of all children in the Diocese of Cloyne. That will, I am sure, be welcomed by all the people of Cloyne, clergy and laity.

“It does, however, also show us how certain improvements can be made and this is most welcome.”

The diocese was at the centre of a child abuse scandal in 2009 and was heavily criticised in the 2011 Cloyne Report for its handling of child abuse allegations against some 19 clerics going back some 20 years.

The report by Judge Yvonne Murphy severely criticised former bishop Dr John Magee and his child protection delegate, Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan.


HSE National Information Helpline: 1850 241 850

Cork Sexual Violence Centre: 1800 496 496

‘Terrible thing’ that abuser stayed in ministry
By Gordon Deegan

A Catholic bishop yesterday admitted it was “a terrible thing” that an abusive priest was allowed remain in ministry after complaints of sex abuse had been made against him.

At the launch of the audit of the Diocese of Killaloe’s Child Protection practices, Bishop of Killaloe Dr Kieran O’Reilly that said it was “inexcusable” that a priest referred to as Father A in the report had remained an active priest until retiring in 1993.

Father A is the late Fr Tom MacNamara, who served as a priest in the east Clare area of Mountshannon-Whitegate during the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s.

The report published yesterday reveals there were 26 complaints of allegations of abuse concerning Fr MacNamara between the period 1955 and the mid-1980s. The first allegation of abuse was made in the mid-1960s, with most of the complaints coming after 1975.

The report states that, at the time of the first complaint, Fr MacNamara’s ministry was not restricted but he was provided with therapy.

At a press briefing held yesterday at the Inn at Dromoland to mark the publication of the report, Dr O’Reilly confirmed it was the late Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Michael Harty, who had referred Fr MacNamara to therapy.

“It is a terrible thing that happened and we apologise for it,” Dr O’Reilly said.

“Dr Harty did his very best within the limits of understanding of that time and, as we know, it goes beyond this diocese.

“There was a different perspective and different understanding. The literature of the time is very scant, as you know. That is no excuse — it is a terrible thing that happened and our task is now to ensure that can’t happen again and won’t happen again.

Dr O’Reilly expressed the fear that there are more allegations out there against Fr MacNamara.

“I would like to apologise again because I believe that the 26 allegations have come — the vast amount of those people are alive and there may still be others,” Dr O’Reilly said.

“How could this happen? Someone trusted in this community as a priest given his special role and the fact that the Church, perhaps through ignorance or lack of knowledge, weren’t fully abreast about the damage that could be done. That’s inexcusable.”

Dr Walsh travelled to the Clare parishes of Mount-shannon and Whitegate in June 2004 to issue a public apology from the pulpit for the abuse perpetrated by Fr MacNamara.

The abuse pre-dated Dr Walsh becoming bishop in 1994.

Dr O’Reilly said yesterday that the complaints of abuse went “back to a time in Ireland when all of these matters seem to be in a very different kind of space to where they are now, where information and knowledge and concern was very different”.

The Killaloe audit found that the diocese had received 65 allegations of abuse, including 59 claims reported to the gardaí since 1975 made against 19 priests. Thirteen of these priests are since decreased, with six still members of the diocese. Two remain in ministry, with three “out of ministry, but still members of the diocese”, while one has since retired.

In relation to the two priests in ministry, the reviewers supported the assessments made by the diocese, that neither reached the threshold of a credible allegation and both cases were reported to the civil authorities.

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