Jesuits confirm sex abuse cover-up at Belvedere College

The order said the late Fr Joseph Marmion, who died in 2000, abused boys while he was on the teaching staff in the 1970s

Allegations that pupils were sexually abused by a Jesuit priest in Belvedere College in the 1970s were not properly investigated, or brought to the attention of the Garda Síochána, a former school headmaster has told a Jesuit-ordered inquiry.

Last night, the Jesuits said the sexual abuse of pupils at the Dublin school was a “shameful” chapter in the order’s history, following the disclosure of some of the draft contents of an inquiry into the affair.

Last March, the Jesuits said that the late Fr Joseph Marmion, who died in 2000, had abused boys sexually, emotionally and physically while he was on the teaching staff at Belvedere College in the 1970s.

In 1977, a “credible” sexual abuse allegation against him was brought to the attention of the college authorities “in order that they would deal with it”, a draft report written by the Jesuits says.


However, the matter of reporting the abuse to gardaí "did not arise in any conversation at the time", the school's former headmaster, Fr Noel Barber told the inquiry, according to an extract read on air by RTÉ Liveline presenter Joe Duffy. The quote's accuracy has been confirmed by the Jesuits.

Fr Barber accepts that there was a concern shared by him and two colleagues “that what had happened ought not to become known”, and he “believed he was acting in the interests of the institution in protecting it from scandal”.

‘Profoundly sorry’

Last night, the Jesuits said: “Decisions were made that should never have been made and decisions that should have been made were not. There are no excuses. We are profoundly sorry for the terrible wrongs that were done to survivors.

Seeking forgiveness, the order continued: “We understand that words are never enough, no matter how sincerely meant or felt. But it is our deep hope that this first step in owning our story, shameful as it is, and acknowledging fully the role we played as an order in allowing this abuse to happen and go on for so long, will be the beginning of a new way for us of taking responsibility for our failings.”

The full contents of the confidential report has not been released, though the Jesuits said “it may be published at a later date”.

In April the order appointed two independent experts, Barbara Walshe and Catherine O'Connell, to assist former pupils who were abused by Fr Marmion.

Fr Marmion taught in Belvedere from 1969 until 1978. He stayed in the college after the 1977 allegations until the end of that academic year. He then spent a year on sabbatical with a Jesuit community in Paris.

He was then assigned to the Gardiner Street Jesuit Community. In 1990 he was appointed chaplain to St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Dublin. He died in 2000.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times