Diocese had 'relatively few cases to deal with'

Thu, Sep 6, 2012, 01:00

Kildare and Leighlin:EIGHTEEN ALLEGATIONS of sexual abuse were made against 10 priests in the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin between January 1975 and last May, according to the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.

It made 12 recommendations which the diocese “accepted in full”, its administrator Msgr Brendan Byrne said. The diocese has been without a bishop since Dr Jim Moriarty resigned in April 2010, following publication of the Murphy report.

The audit noted that the Kildare and Leighlin diocese “has had relatively few cases to deal with”. The diocese covers 56 parishes in Co Carlow and parts of Kildare, Laois, Offaly, Kilkenny, Wicklow and Wexford.

Of the 10 priests against whom allegations were made, two are still alive. One of those, Fr Peter Cribben, was convicted of the abuse of a 14-year-old boy in March 2009. Charges have not been brought against the second priest. Msgr Byrne said both were “completely out of ministry” and under diocesan supervision.

Two other priests were alive when allegations were made but have died since. One of those was charged with a serious sexual offence but died before a trial could take place. The remaining six priests were dead when the allegations were made.

The audit noted that a further five priests who lived in the diocese but were not of the diocese, had allegations made against them arising from their past ministries.

None are in ministry in the diocese. Two were from other Irish dioceses, two from religious orders and one from a UK diocese. He was suspended by his diocese because of child safeguarding concerns. The audit said it was important that greater clarity and certainty about the management and supervision of this priest was achieved between the priest’s home diocese and Kildare and Leighlin. Msgr Byrne said he was working with the HSE and gardaí to supervise the priest.

The audit does not include allegations made against members of religious orders in the diocese, such as Dominican Fr Vincent Mercer, a former headmaster of Newbridge College who was found guilty of sexual offences against boys in 2003 and 2005.

Kildare and Leighlin has contributed to the settlement of two civil cases involving its priests. It gave €175,000 to the settlement of a civil case against Fr Cribben and also paid more than €51,000 in legal fees in 2008 and 2009. It contributed €133,835 to a financial settlement in the case of the priest who died in 2002 while facing serious criminal charges. No other civil actions against the diocese are pending, chancellor of the diocese Fr Bill Kemmy said.

Msgr Byrne said a review of diocesan policies and procedures was almost finished and would address most of the recommendations. These include the appointment of a lay person to act as a deputy designated person; the appointment of support persons for victims; an audit of diocesan files; and annual meetings between the diocese, the HSE and An Garda Síochána. It said the diocese had “not always made timely notifications to gardaí and the health services although its performance in this area has improved over time”.

Msgr Byrne said the diocese was asking the board to return in a few months to ensure that the recommendations had been followed up. His thoughts were with the survivors of abuse and their families “and I respectfully apologise to them for the hurt and offence they have carried and are still carrying”. He said, “We’re here to help them in every way we possibly can.”

Patricia O’Neill, a diocesan trainer on child protection issues, said 316 priests and lay people had been trained in the diocese on issues surrounding the safeguarding of children.