What the audits by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church of Ireland say about six dioceses
In Cashel and Emly the audit found that all allegations were now promptly referred to the civil authorities
Archbishop Dermot Clifford: reiterated his “sincere apologies” to those who have been harmed by priests of the diocese
The audit found that all allegations were now promptly referred to the civil authorities, usually within three days of receipt by the diocese.
It said there was considerable communication between the diocese, the Garda and the HSE on all matters, including new allegations and management of men out of ministry.
It found there had been 19 allegations or concerns reported against 13 priests since 1975: “This is a relatively small number in comparison to other dioceses.”
Of the living priests following civil authority notification and church inquiries, five were currently in ministry and two out of ministry .
“Having read all files, the reviewers support the position of the five living priests who are in ministry and agree that the allegations were not substantiated or based on evidence that there was or is current risk to children, consultation in all cases took place with HSE and An Garda Síochána.”
In response to the report, Archbishop Dermot Clifford reiterated his “sincere apologies” to those who have been harmed by priests of the diocese. “What happened to them was an outrageous betrayal of the priests’ calling and deserves our complete condemnation.”
Records show 11 priests from the diocese have been subject of child abuse allegations received since 1975.
Of these, nine were deceased. In the majority of these cases, the abuse is alleged to have happened at least 30 years ago and there were substantial delays in reporting to the Garda or social services.
The reviewers were satisfied the remaining two cases had been appropriately managed by the diocese since 2008.
While making a broadly positive report, the reviewers were unable to source any evidence of activity to develop a strategic safeguarding plan for the diocese. It said good progress had been made in recent years, but the work had not been fully documented or co-ordinated.
The reviewers were informed there were no current allegations relating to safeguarding being managed by the diocese, nor have any new allegations been made since Bishop Kelly was appointed in late 2007.
The report also states that the diocese did not have a safeguarding policy and procedures document prior to 2008. There had also been little evidence of any systematic process for filing or managing information about allegations relating to child abuse prior to this date. This has since been addressed.
Responding to the report, Bishop Kelly said the diocese was intent on maintaining and reviewing its practices and structures to ensure the safety of all children. “Vigilance will be maintained as an absolute priority in this critical area. That is our assurance to all parents and children.”
Records show 67 allegations of abuse against 21 priests have been received by the diocese since the mid-1970s.
Of the eight living priests against whom allegations of abuse have been made, four have been laicised and one has been dismissed from the clerical state. The reviewers were satisfied notifications have been made to the Garda and social services in all of these cases.
One case of concern raised in the report relates to a priest who died before any allegations were received about him.
At least 25 allegations have been made about the man who had access to all Catholic primary schools due to his specific role as diocesan inspector. This abuse was perpetrated in these schools in the 1950s and 1960s.
Overall, the report states that the bishop and the diocese are committed to child safeguarding. In general, cases of clerical child sexual abuse in the Kerry have been appropriately managed, with improved practices evident since the introduction of guidance in 1996. “Bishop William Murphy has met his responsibilities well in this regard,” it states.
However, reviewers found no written protocol for dealing with priests against whom an allegation might be made. The diocese said it was completing a revised policy.
In response to the report, Bishop Ray Browne – who has since been ordained as bishop of Kerry – expressed “sincere sorrow and regret” that such crimes were committed.
“I have met and listened to survivors of abuse and I am horrified at the abuse they have suffered and how it has profoundly affected their lives.”
A total of 27 allegations of abuse have been made against 14 priests over the past four decades. Only two were made over the past six years and relate to two living priests.
These allegations were appropriately managed with timely notifications to civil authorities. Neither case proceeded to a canonical investigation as one allegation was withdrawn and the other was considered not to be an allegation of child abuse.
The report’s reviewers were satisfied that in both cases the status of the priests, in full ministry, was appropriate.
It found most case files that were constructed prior to Bishop Séamus Freeman taking up office contained handwritten illegible notes with significant gaps in recording. Overall, the report shows the diocese is broadly complying with safeguarding practices, although it contains a number of recommendations.
Speaking on behalf of Bishop Freeman – who is on sick leave – Msgr Michael Ryan confirmed the Garda and social services have been made aware of all allegations to date.
He also said the diocese fully accepted the findings of the review and all 12 recommendations aimed at improving the safeguarding practice
“The diocese remains committed through our inter-agency meetings to working with the statutory agencies to ensure that all aspects of children’s welfare are managed promptly and professionally,” he said.
A positive review reported there have been no allegations of priestly child sex abuse in the diocese since 2000. It found the diocese was fully committed to safeguarding children and young people.
Armagh, which comes under the authority of the Catholic Primate Cardinal Seán Brady, consists of 61 parishes. It has a Catholic population of 221,000 with 111 priests in ministry supported by 20 priests from 25 religious orders.
Since January 1975, there have been child sex abuse allegations against 16 priests involving 36 alleged victims. All the allegations refer to the period 1950-2000, with 19 allegations between 1950 and 1980, 13 between 1980 and 2000 and with no dates recorded for four cases.
All 36 cases were reported to the PSNI with one priest convicted in 2004 for abusing five children. He served six years of a 12-year sentence.
The report states “several of the allegations have been and some still are extremely complex and contested”. Nine priests are still alive and seven deceased.
Down and Connor
The audit found the diocese had produced an “excellent result” in fully meeting 46 of the 48 criteria for protecting children, with the two other standards partially met. These related to delivering appropriate support for abusers to “help them face up to the reality of abuse” and to providing a “written plan” showing what steps will be taken to keep children safe.
The result indicated “the very successful and effective investment of time and resources” in protecting children.
The diocese, headed by Bishop Noel Treanor, is the second largest in Ireland with 88 parishes and a Catholic population of 336,272. It has 150 churches with 130 active priests. In addition, religious orders provide 54 priests, 28 brothers and 233 sisters.
Since January 1975, there have been 59 allegations made against 42 priests, all of which were reported to the PSNI or RUC. Twenty who faced allegations are deceased. Three priests have been convicted since 1975.
The assessors reported the 14 allegations made against priests since the appointment of Bishop Treanor in June 2008 have been “properly managed”. They said the diocese was well-supported by some 470 “committed, trained and enthusiastic volunteers”.
Bishop Treanor said this audit complemented external reviews. “The report will enable us as a diocese to ensure that the Catholic Church and all Catholic organisations are a safe zone where we do everything humanly possible to guarantee the safety of children and of vulnerable adults.”