Church body ‘disappointed’ at tardy compliance by orders

‘For some practice did not improve until 2013’

Teresa Devlin CEO of the National Board for the Safeguarding  Children. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Teresa Devlin CEO of the National Board for the Safeguarding Children. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

The failure by some male religious congregations to comply with the Catholic Church’s own child protection guidelines has been criticised by the Church’s own child protection agency in its latest review.

Teresa Devlin, chief executive of the Maynooth-based National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) said: “I’m disappointed that, for the majority of Orders, the whole area of safeguarding is only being bedded down in the last couple of years.”

She was referring to the Augustinians, Passionists, Franciscan Friars, Franciscan Brothers, the Servites, Discalced Carmelites, and Marist Fathers. She also found that where some congregations were concerned known abusers were allowed to remain in ministry in the 1990s while, when it came to delays in reporting abuse to civil authorities “for some practice did not improve until 2013.”

Of nine congregations reviewed in reports published on Tuesday, she said “only two Orders (the Dominican Sisters and Sacred Heart Fathers) have demonstrated good compliance with the standards, and have demonstrated their commitment to putting in place good safeguards for children as well as prompt responses to allegations of abuse. For the other seven there is considerable work to be done.”

The NBSC found that a total of 285 allegations were made between 1940 and 1998 against 98 priests and brothers in these nine congregations, with eight criminal convictions.

In all, 16 male and female congregations were reviewed but in the case of seven of the female congregations there was limited ministry with children and an absence of child sex abuse allegations.

Where the remaining nine congregations, eight male and one female, were concerned she found “poor record management in many cases making an assessment of practice difficult” and that “opportunities to safeguard children were missed, known abusers allowed to remain in ministry in the 1990s.”

Management plans relating to accused priests and brothers and sisters had “improved significantly over time, though there is still room for improvement, in terms of clarity of roles, review of restrictions, and sharing of information.”

She found that support for complainants was “good in many cases.” There was “good evidence of pastoral support, outreach and direct contact between the Provincial and the survivor.”

But there has been “variable delays in reporting allegations to the civil authorities up until 2009 (introduction of Safeguarding Children, Standards and Guidance) for most Orders and Congregations, however for some practice did not improve until 2013.”

Concerning the relevant seven congregations Ms Devlin said: “A series of recommendations have been made within each report and the Board expects that these will be acted upon. We will request an update on their progress in implementing those recommendations in nine months.”

The seven ageing female congregation which faced no allegations of child sexual abuse and had limited ministry with children were the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary; Holy Faith Sisters; Holy Family of Bordeaux; Sisters of Charity of Nevers; Infant Jesus Sisters; Society of the Holy Child Jesus and the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of Mercy.

According to Ms Devlin this latter group “demonstrated a strong sense of commitment to working positively with the National Board, in spite of their limited ministries.”

Of the eight male and one female congregations reviewed, there were 109 allegations against 28 Franciscan Friars with 3 convicted in the courts; 42 allegations against 28 Passionists with no convictions; 56 allegations against 14 Franciscan Brothers with 3 convictions; 33 allegations against 11 Augustinians with no convictions; 18 allegations against 7 Marist Fathers with no convictions; 11 allegations against 6 Discalced Carmelites with no convictions; 8 allegations against 6 Servites with 2 convictions; 5 allegations against 3 Sacred Heart Fathers with no convictions; 3 allegations against 3 Dominican Sisters with no convictions.