Clogher clerical abuse report: retired bishop accepts criticism over handling of allegations

Church watchdog says overall picture on child protection now ‘very positive’

Former bishop of Clogher Joseph Duffy. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Former bishop of Clogher Joseph Duffy. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill


The former Bishop of the cross-border Catholic diocese of Clogher Joseph Duffy has been criticised for unsatisfactory responses to child abuse allegations and risky behaviour by priests there in a report published today.

A review by the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC), the Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog, found that “opportunities for preventive interventions were consistently missed when concerns of abuse by clergy were highlighted in the past” in Clogher.

Bishop Duffy, a former spokesman for the Catholic bishops, led the diocese for 31 years until his retirement in 2010.

The NBSC review, published this morning, covered the period from January 1st, 1975. It found a line had been drawn “between the practice of this diocese today and some of the practice that existed previously”.

That was its general conclusion for all six dioceses and one religious congregation reviewed and for whom reports were published today in the third tranche of such reviews.

Its review of Galway diocese found that in the 1980s and 1990s two previous bishops there, Bishop Eamon Casey and his successor Bishop James McLoughlin, did not handle separate, credible allegations of abuse against priests there appropriately.

The NBSC review of Ferns diocese found that 12 further allegations were received b y the diocese, involving six priests investigated by the Ferns Inquiry, after the Ferns report was published in October 2005. In all cases the alleged abuse took place prior to April 2002.

It found that three priests of the diocese were the subject of allegations that had not been examined by the Ferns Inquiry, which investigated 21 priests. Allegations against the three priests were received by the diocese in 2011 and 2012.

The NBSC review found that in all three cases the priests were asked to step aside from ministry and that Bishop Denis Brennan “took every appropriate action”.

The seven NBSC reports published today included the dioceses of Killala, Elphin, Galway, Ferns, Waterford & Lismore, and Clogher. A report of its review into the Society of African Missions was also published.

Today’s findings have been described as “gratifying” by NBSC chief executive Ian Elliott. “The overall picture is a very positive one with the vast majority of the criteria used to assess performance against the Review standards as being fully met,” he said. There was, he said, “clear evidence of steady progress in developing robust safeguarding structures in all these authorities”.

He noted that all 20 Church authorities reviewed by NBSC to date had invited the reviews and had and co-operated with them. All review findings had been fully accepted and the recommendations were already being implemented, he said.

NBSC chairman John Morgan said the reviews were “a critical building block for the future for the Church” and that “work on the fourth tranche begins immediately when a further eight Church authorities will be reviewed”.

The report on Clogher diocese found 23 allegations had been made against 13 priests there, two of whom had been convicted. In Elphin diocese, there had been 19 allegations involving 16 priests, none of whom had been convicted. In Killala, there had been just four allegations against three priests, none convicted.

In Galway 38 allegations had been made against 14 priests, one of whom was convicted. In Ferns, 100 allegations had been made against 24 priest and three were convicted. In Waterford & Lismore 30 allegations had been made against 15 priests. None were convicted of any offence.

Where the Society of African Missions were concerned 32 allegations had been made against 21 priests one of whom had been convicted.

All reviews are available at or, separately, on each relevant diocesan website and that of the SMA congregation.