Church board receives 116 new sexual abuse allegations

Incident from last year shows ‘a risk to children still exists’, says safeguarding group

Allegations against diocesan priests in 2015/16 came to 65, with a further 51 made against priests who were members of religious congregations, brothers and sisters.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

Allegations against diocesan priests in 2015/16 came to 65, with a further 51 made against priests who were members of religious congregations, brothers and sisters. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

 

A total of 116 new allegations, suspicions or concerns of sexual abuse were reported to the Catholic Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children, in the year to the end of March last.

There were a further 37 allegations of physical and emotional abuse against one religious congregation.

In total, 153 allegations were made to the board in the year April 1st, 2015 to March 31st, 2016.

It represents a reduction of 112 on the 265 total (including those from one organisation as a batch) reported to the board in the 2014/15 year.

The figures were published on Thursday morning in the board’s annual report for the 2015/16 year.

Allegations against diocesan priests in 2015/16 came to 65, with a further 51 made against priests who were members of religious congregations, brothers and sisters.

These figures indicate an increase in sexual abuse allegations against diocesan priests from 2014/15 (58 allegations) and a significant decrease of those allegations against religious from last year (126 allegations).

The majority of allegations related to incidents in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. However, one related to an incident last year.

“This one case (2015),” the report said, “ deserves particular mention as it happened so recently, demonstrating that a risk to children still exists”.

“What is reassuring about this case is that the child felt empowered to immediately inform the parents, who in turn informed the order, who took immediate action to inform the civil authorities, put support in place for the child and family, and removed the offending member from all ministries with children.”

New allegations

On the overall drop in allegations made this past year, the report commented that it was“too early to assess if these figures represent a downward trend.” However they did “still demonstrate a significant number of new allegations during the period under review,” it said.

It also said that “An Garda Síochána advised that they received significantly more notifications than those received by the (board’s) National Office.”

The board was “anxious to identify whether those allegations not notified to the National Board, and therefore not to the diocese and religious order in question, have been assessed by Tusla. Those discussions have not yet concluded”.

Relevant parties wanted “to ensure no priests or religious against whom there are credible allegations continue in ministry without their Church authority having been made aware of the allegation against them”.

Reviews of child safeguarding in 26 dioceses and 138 religious orders/congregations in Ireland have been completed and published by the board except for four which, due to the the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in Northern Ireland, cannot be published until that inquiry reports in 2017.

Twelve religious orders/congregations were not reviewed due to their small size, aging profile and absence of any ministry with children.

In preparation for its second round of reviews of Church bodies, the board has set up a working group to develop a consultation paper on proposed methodologies for their conduct.

These future reviews will not be repeating the detailed historical retrospection to January 1st, 1975, as has been the case to date. Their primary emphasis will be on current practice, the report said.