Report praises Tuam archbishop

Wed, Nov 30, 2011, 00:00

A review into the handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations in the Diocese of Tuam has praised the current Archbishop Michael Neary for his actions.

The report said serious harm was done to children by a few priests of the archdiocese but Dr Neary met allegations “with a steadily serious approach, taking appropriate action under existing guidelines, and rapidly assimilating the lesson of the necessity for the removal of the priest, where there is a credible allegation, pending investigation.”

It said prior to Dr Neary’s tenure, “there were on occasions delay in taking such action”.

The report said it is clear from the “excellent records” that a genuine effort was made to gather evidence from victims and their families during the Church inquiry stage and such “thoroughness is to be commended”.

“It is also a fair reflection to say that the archbishop has met resistance in asking a priest to step aside from public ministry.

“It is to his credit that in spite of opposition, Archbishop Neary has maintained his authority and kept some men out of ministry where there is evidence to suggest that they should be viewed as dangerous and should not have access to young people.

“The fieldwork team has been impressed by the archbishop’s quiet resolve to do what is right, and by his industrious and diligent case management team,” it added.

Later Dr Michael Neary said he is both "pleased and saddened" by the findings of the safeguarding children audit, and says he wishes to reiterate his sincere apology to all survivors of abuse.

Speaking to The Irish Times at Tuam Cathedral today, Dr Neary said that an “abhorrent” situation experienced by so many victims had been compounded by the fact that “they weren’t listened to, and they weren’t believed, and consequently the suffering was far greater for them and their families”.

“They came expecting to find that their situation would be addressed, and found that the church was slow to act,” Dr Neary said.

The audit notes that 26 allegations of abuse in the Tuam archdiocese were reported to the authorities since 1975, and 18 priests were the subject of such allegations.

Ten of the 18 priests have died, and eight are “out of ministry” or have left the priesthood.

The audit commends Dr Neary’s actions and those of his colleagues in the Tuam archdiocese, noting that since his installation in 1995 he had met such allegations with a “steady, serious approach”.

Dr Neary said that the earliest allegation dates back to the 1940s, and the most recent allegations date to 20 years ago.

“There has been no abuse of a minor by a priest in this archdiocese in the past 20 years,” he said.

However, he warned against complacency, and urged “constant vigilance” in safeguarding children.

“I’d be anxious to try and bring some hope and healing to those who have been hurt,” Dr Neary said, and he would “welcome and encourage” contact by any victim of abuse in the archdiocese who had not reported it so far.

He paid tribute to the inter-agency team work and to the priests and parish representatives who had worked with him to ensure that all procedures were followed.

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