Child protection review severely critical of Divine Word
‘Not acceptable’ that it waited until 2012 to implement child protection policies
It said it was ‘not acceptable that any Church authority in Ireland would have waited until 2012 to begin the process of implementing accepted and agreed Church child safeguarding policies’, the review said. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times
The fact that no child safeguarding case management files existed in the Divine Word (SVD) missionary congregation prior to 2013 “is of great concern and indicates a lack of any focus on child protection within the society over the last 20 years,” the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI) review has found.”Case files were constructed by the society in advance of the review taking place,” it said.
The existence of child safeguarding case management files within the congregation “can only be traced back to the beginning of 2013,” it said. “A lot of documentation was either never generated, or was removed or destroyed by parties unknown, or was kept in some file or files the existence of which has not yet been discovered.” it said.
It said it was “not acceptable that any Church authority in Ireland would have waited until 2012 to begin the process of implementing accepted and agreed Church child safeguarding policies, procedures and practices and while there may be explanations offered for this state of affairs, there are no excuses for it.”
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It also described as “ truly unfortunate and a great injustice that it is almost impossible to identify the victims of historical child sexual abuse who live in developing countries and whose abuse took place many years ago.
“The behaviour of the few SVD members who perpetrated this abuse has severely undermined the integrity of a Christian brotherhood that aspires to bring the Good News to people who have not yet heard it,” it said.
The congregation fully met none of the four criteria for complaince with training and education as “child safeguarding has only really been actively taken up by the SVD IBP within the past year and much remains to be done.”
Nor did the congregation “place a notice on its website announcing this NBSCCCI review and inviting anyone who had a child safeguarding concern to make contact,” as is required.
What was missing in the congregation’s approach “is a clear and systematic consideration of the potential to identify victims of member.” The reviewers found evidence “on the files of some attempts to assess the risks posed by members about whom there were child safeguarding concerns. However, this approach was hit and miss,” it said.
A total of eight abuse allegations were made against six Divine Word missionaries since January 1st 1975, with one convicted in the courts, according to today’s review. The reviewers read case files on seven accused men, however.
“One of these men had spent some of his formation period in an SVD seminary, but he transferred to a diocesan seminary, from which he was ordained. He was subsequently found to have abused children as a diocesan priest, but no information suggesting that he had abused while an SVD seminarian was found.”