More than 300 allegations of abuse were made against 141 priests or brothers relating to the period between 1941 and 2003, resulting in eight convictions, newly released audits reveal.
The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church published 43 reports on Wednesday including audits of eight male religious orders.
The audits revealed discrepancies in the number of allegations of sexual, physical and emotional abuse made to two orders and those reported to gardaí.
The report states that of 79 allegations made against 36 members of The Society of Jesus (Jesuits), just 57 were reported to gardaí. The last incident occurred in 2003.
The reviewers found that this latter case, in which a Jesuit touched a child’s breast, was “most certainly a situation of child abuse”. However, when the incident was reported to the civil authorities the response was that incident did not meet the threshold for reporting. The member was removed from ministry.
In reviewing a number of case files, the reviewers concluded that safeguarding practices in the order had developed over time: “At one time allegations were dealt with through internal processes and then reported to the civil authorities. That practice changed after 2002 and since then all allegations have been promptly notified to An Garda Síochána”.
In a statement the Irish Jesuits welcomed the board's report and said all recommendations contained in the report would be implemented in full.
“We are ever conscious of the terrible damage inflicted on people who are victims of abuse... One allegation is one too many, and words of apology can sound so inadequate in face of the heinous crime of child abuse. Nonetheless we wish to unreservedly apologise to any person who has been abused under our care,” a spokesman for the order said.
Of 11 allegations made against nine members the Salesians of Don Bosco, six were reported to gardaí or the PSNI.
In a statement the Salesians said one of the allegations related to physical abuse, and four, “following professional review, were considered false”.
At the time the review was carried out in January four of the accused members of the Salesians were deceased. None of the order’s members has been convicted of child abuse.
The order said it accepted and would implement all recommendations made by reviewers.
“We accept and acknowledge that in the past a small number of our members abused young people who had trusted them. This truth is for us a painful and shameful reality and we regret and apologise unreservedly to anyone who has been abused by a member of our Congregation in Ireland,” the statement said.
A total of 43 audits were published by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church today including audits of eight male religious orders and 35 female religious orders.
The review found there were 325 allegations of abuse made against 141 priests or brothers of six of the eight religious orders leading to eight convictions. The two remaining orders had no allegations made against members.
In its overview report the watchdog has reported “significant improvement” in safeguarding practices and said the orders reviewed had “shown a determined effort” to put in place good prevention standards.
"Overall there is considerable improvement in safeguarding practice evidenced in these reports," the chief executive of the board, Teresa Devlin said.
“The history is undeniable, that once again a significant number of children were abused in the care of religious [orders]. What is strikingly different from the past in relation to the reports is a determination to respond pastorally, to report to the civil authorities promptly and to seek guidance in order to minimize risk to children.”
The reviewers found there were no outstanding cases requiring reporting action in any of the orders or congregations audited.
Fieldwork for the audits was carried out between January and July 2015 and followed the signing of a deed which allowed reviewers to access data held by the orders and congregations and cover allegations made in the time period between January 1st 1975 to present.
The purpose of the reviews is to ensure compliance with the church’s safeguarding standards adopted in 2009.
The board encouraged complainants to come forward if there are still unreported allegations of abuse.
The organisation encourages those who has suffered abuse to contact Towards Healing, a counselling and support service for survivors of clerical and religious congregations’ abuse, which is totally independent although funded by the Catholic Church.
Towards Healing, a counselling and support service for survivors of clerical and religious congregations' abuse, which is totally independent although funded by the Catholic Church, can be contacted on free phone 1800303416 in the Republic of Ireland or 0800 0963315 in Northern Ireland from 11am-8pm Monday to Thursday and from 11am-6pm on Fridays. Click to visit the website: www.towardshealing.ie
Towards Peace, a body which provides spiritual support for survivors of abuse by Catholic Church personnel in Ireland can be contacted at 01 5053028 from 10am-5pm Monday to Thursday. Its website is www.towardspeace.ie.
Connect, which provides free professional telephone based counselling and support to abuse survivors, can be contacted on 1800 477 477 from the Republic of Ireland and on 00800 477 477 77 from Northern Ireland and the UK between Wednesday and Sunday from 6pm-10pm.