An audit of 20 religious congregations by the Catholic Church child protection watchdog has found allegations of sexual abuse are now being reported promptly in almost all cases to the relevant authorities .
The latest traunch of reviews, published on Wednesday, looked at congregations including The Legionaries of Christ, The Oblates of Mary Immaculate and The Mercy Sisters, which continue to have substantial public ministry with children. The remaining 17 congregations are elderly and have had little or no contact with children. No allegations of sexual abuse had been levelled against them.
Teresa Devlin, chief executive of the Catholic Church’s Maynooth based National Board for Safeguarding Children, said the latest reports showed the safeguarding of children had now become “a reflex” and a “first consideration” with religious congregations.
“Reporting to the civil authorities is prompt, case files are recorded correctly and risk is properly assessed,” she said. What was “most heartening” she said, was that “child safeguarding is an ingrained component of the religious life and child related activities” of religious congregations reviewed, she said. “It has become a reflex and their first consideration, ” she added.
The latest reviews show four allegations were made against four Legionaries of Christ priests since January 1st 1975, one who could not be identified, and one who is now deceased. All allegations were reported to the police. None was convicted in the courts and two have since left the congregation.
Currently the Legionaries have eight priests and four religious at Leopardstown in Co Dublin. It runs a Faith and Family Centre in Blackrock Co Dublin and two language academies in Kilcroney, Co Wicklow. The language academies are on a residential basis and are for non-Irish students aged between 12 and 16 who come to Ireland for a year to learn English. In Kilcroney they have two second level language academies for overseas students.
The average age of the congregation’s priests based in Ireland is approximately 40. At the time of the review last July there were also eight brothers in Ireland, all seminarians on pastoral placement, with an average age of 25 years.
In 2006 an investigation by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith removed from public ministry Fr Marcial Maciel, founder of the congregation, following sexual abuse allegations made against him. He died in January 2008.
A review of the Sisters of Mercy found that a total of 31 allegations had been made against 17 Sisters since January 1st 1975, 29 of which had been reported to police. None was convicted in the courts. Just eight were living at the time of the review this year with three of those still in ministry. The congregation currently has approximately 2,000 members.
A total of 18 allegations had been made against 13 Oblate priests since January 1st 1975, 11 of which allegations had been reported to the police. None of the priests was convicted in the courts. Just one is still in ministry
The Oblates were involved in the running of two reformatories in Ireland, at Glencree, Co Wicklow until 1940 and St Conleth’s at Daingean, Co Offaly until 1973. When Daingean closed the congregation worked in Scoil Ard Mhuire, Oberstown until 1984.
At present the Oblates have six communities in Dublin. They also have two priests working as chaplains in different parts of the country. In total the congregation has 49 members living in Ireland, with 18 in active ministry. Currently eleven are engaged in parish ministry in the Dublin archdiocese.
Two are engaged as residential chaplains and team members of Cuan Mhuire centres, which deal with people suffering from addiction and related issues.
The National Board for Safeguarding Children board has been reviewing all Catholic institutions on the island of Ireland including all diocese and religious congregations and will complete these reviews with its next report.