Congregations, missionaries make ‘slow’ progress on child protection

All dioceses making ‘very good progress’ , watchdog review says

Progress in child safeguarding remains ‘slower’ for religious congregations and missionary societies, the Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog has found. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Progress in child safeguarding remains "slower" for religious congregations and missionary societies, the Catholic Church's child protection watchdog has found.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) makes the observation in a general comments on the reviews of four dioceses and five religious congregations it will publish this afternoon.

It found that “all dioceses are making very good progress” in adhering to the required NBSC standards but that “for the religious congregations and missionary societies, progress appears slower”.

However it felt that “there has been a sea change in that all are now conscious of their obligations around reporting, unfortunately in two cases ( one congregation) we saw that priests continued in ministry even though admissions were made and in another order cases against deceased brothers, former brothers and lay teachers were not always notified to the gardaí”.


Generally though it said “reporting to the civil authorities in relation to allegations against living priests/ brothers is now very prompt but the delays in the past are acknowledged”.

Overall patterns it found include that “offences largely took place between 1940 -2000, with a decline in notified offending behaviour after 2000.”

But it emphasised "there is still a need for vigilance and constant oversight and prompt action as noted in the conviction of a priest who abused children up until 2011". This was a reference to Fr Denis Nolan who was sentenced to seven years last March for his recent abuse of a boy over four years at Rathnew Co Wicklow.

Other patterns the NBSC uncovered included that “some priests in particular abused very quickly after ordination, which leads to questions about formation” and that “a number of the abusers were charismatic priests, who were popular among people”. Some abusers it found “had other addictive problems such as alcohol addiction”.

Overall it found that since January 1st 1975, 46 allegations had been made against 30 priests in Cloyne diocese with one convicted.

In Dublin there were 432 allegations made against 101 priest with nine convicted. In Killaloe diocese there were 65 allegations against 19 priests with one convicted, while in Meath diocese there were 23 allegations against 11 priests with one convicted.

Where religious congregations/ missionary societies were concerned, it found that 28 Presentation Brothers faced 54 allegations with none convicted, 15 Patrician Brothers faced 22 allegations with none convicted, 12 Columban missionaries faced 41 allegations with one convicted, six Benedictines at Glenstal Abbey in Co Limerick faced 10 allegations with none convicted, while six Divine Word missionaries faced eight allegations with one convicted.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times