Church and abuse: Previous reports


The following is a summary of previous reports on abuse in the Catholic Church


Investigated complaints made by 100 people against 21 priests, among them Seán Fortune. It strongly criticised the Catholic Church’s handling of allegations of child sexual abuse over a period of 40 years. From the 1960s until 1980, the report found Bishop Donal Herlihy regarded priests who sexually abused children “as guilty of moral misconduct” but said he did not seem to recognise “the wrongdoing was a serious criminal offence”. His successor, Dr Brendan Comiskey, “failed to recognise the paramount need to protect children, as a matter of urgency, from potential abusers” and the report accused him of providing erroneous information to one Garda inquiry and failing to co-operate fully with another.


Investigated cases involving 46 priests and more than 320 children, most of them boys. It found four successive archbishops of the Dublin archdiocese had handled allegations of child sexual abuse with “denial, arrogance and cover-up” and did not report the abuse to gardaí. It said the structures of the church facilitated the cover- up of abuse.


Found that thousands of children suffered physical and sexual abuse over several decades in 216 residential institutions run by religious orders, implicating more than 800 priests, brothers, nuns and lay people. The Department of Education was found to have failed to carry out its “statutory duty of inspection” out of deference towards the religious congregation. The report said the religious congregations were not prepared to accept responsibility for the sexual abuse carried out by their members and did not listen to or believe people who complained of sexual abuse.


Investigated allegations and complaints of clerical child sexual abuse between 1996 and early 2009 concerning 19 clerics. It deemed the response of the Cloyne diocese inadequate and inappropriate. It found that, in nine cases, complaints which should have been reported to gardaí were not while none of the complaints between 1996 and 2008 were reported to the HSE. It accused the Vatican of giving comfort to dissenters within the church to the Irish bishops’ procedures for handling child sexual abuse and revealed that, in a secret letter to the bishops, the Vatican described the 1996 rules as “merely a study document”.

CHILD ABUSE AUDIT (December 2011)

Independent reviews into the past handling of sex abuse in six Catholic dioceses – Raphoe, Derry, Dromore , Kilmore, Ardagh Clonmacnois and Tuam archdiocese – by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church. A total of 164 allegations of child abuse were made against 85 priests in the six dioceses since 1975. The diocese of Raphoe came in for the heaviest criticism with the review concluding that “significant errors of judgment” were made by successive bishops in responding to the allegations. The diocese of Kilmore was described as a “model of best practice” in child protection. Overall the audit found “major improvements” in safeguarding practice in recent times.