Bishop apologises for 'dreadful harm done' to victims of abuse and families
BISHOP OF Raphoe Dr Philip Boyce received no direct complaints of clerical abuse in the diocese before the trial of Fr Eugene Greene in 2000, the bishop told a press conference in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, yesterday.
Bishop Boyce apologised for his failures and that of his predecessors, Bishop Séamus Hegarty and Bishop Anthony McFeely, in relation to the high incidence of priestly child sexual abuse in the diocese of Raphoe from 1975.
Bishop Boyce said that during the trial, it emerged that a father of two of Fr Greene’s victims had said in the 1970s that he wrote to a local parish priest to complain about the priest, who was imprisoned for 12 years.
“We did not know of that letter,” he said. “At the time the information on these terrible things . . . weren’t handed up as far as the bishop’s office. There was no reference . . . to any allegations in the files which I saw when I came [in to office].
“A lot of it happened in Bishop McFeely’s time [1965-1982] and then in Bishop Hegarty’s [1982-1994], at the beginning, but there was not any knowledge or allegation of this child sexual abuse at the time.”
He added: “And that is amazing; it is very hard to credit that he [Greene] could have done such destruction, if you like, on young children, and no word was ever passed along to the authorities, to the State authorities or the church authorities – apart from the letter.”
Bishop Boyce said he was aware of rumours that some files were destroyed but he knew of no such occurrence.
Asked if he felt there should be a full-scale public inquiry into allegations of abuse in Raphoe, Bishop Boyce said he would be open to any kind of inquiry that would be felt to be “profitable”.
However, he was somewhat heartened that the review chief, Ian Elliott, had not sought such an inquiry in Raphoe or the other five dioceses that were examined in these audits.
“I will accept whatever is asked for, and whatever is good for the safeguarding of children. There have been very poor judgments and mistakes made,” he said.
“There were horrific acts of abuse of children by individual priests, that should never have happened and if suspected should have been dealt with immediately in the appropriate manner.
“Insufficient emphasis was placed on the needs of victims, often in the misguided attempt to protect the reputation of the church,” he added.
“We offer our humble apologies once more and seek their forgiveness for the dreadful harm that has been done to them, their families and friends.”
Bishop Boyce said he hoped “these grave errors” would not be repeated.
“I am glad to say that this review has concluded that the diocese now has a robust safeguarding policy and procedure in place for safeguarding children.
“The sexual abuse of a young person by a member of the clergy in whom that child placed unhesitating trust inflicts a terrible wound in the lives of victims, families, communities and in the church,” he added.