Kiltegan congregation criticised in latest Church reports

325 Christian Brothers faced a total of 870 child abuse allegations from 50s to 70s

The Kiltegan fathers religious congregation has been heavily criticised in the latest tranche of reviews on child protection carried out by the Catholic Church.

The Church's National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) said, where St Patrick's Missionary Society, Kiltegan, was concerned that "abuse that has been identified outside the Irish region has not in every case given rise to an appropriate and robust response."

The reviews which also include six Catholic diocese and the Christian Brothers this morning, have been generally positive where the dioceses are concerned.

However the NBSC reviews has been very critical of past handling of allegations in most instances, particularly by the St Patrick's Missionary Society based at Kiltegan, Co Wicklow and of the Christian Brothers.

It has disclosed that 325 Christian Brothers faced a total of 870 child abuse allegations most of which related to the 1950s, 60s, 70s period. All had been reported to the gardaí and health authorities with 12 Brothers convicted in the courts. The NBSC reviewers found that the Christian Brothers’ initial response to reporting allegations to the statutory agencies “was not systematic and was inadequate.”They also found that “in the vast majority of cases reviewed, the Christian Brothers did not have direct contact with the alleged victim and the files developed contained significant correspondence between legal representatives of the parties involved.”

This, they said, “was to the detriment of pastoral care and restorative practices, which the Province could provide.”

However the reviewers also met with representatives of the HSE and said they were “impressed by the positive working relationship between this agency and the Christian Brothers.” They go on to say that their review “clearly mirrors the historically progressive understanding the Christian Brothers have developed of child protection issues. It also reflects the positive attributes of their work and the extensive positive experiences they have of working with young people.“

For their part the Christian Brothers have pointed out that they have received juse one allegation against a member of the congregation in the past decade with a total of ninereceived this past 23 years.

Where St Patrick’s Missionary Society is concerned, it has received 50 allegatoins made against 14 members . All had been reported to police and one member convicted in the courts.

In a fairly damning observation about this congregation the NBSC reviewers said that “abuse that has been identified outside the Irish region has not in every case given rise to an appropriate and robust response.” They said it was “ important to emphasise that all children deserve the same respect and attention regardless of where they are geographically located, or of their ethnicity. The reviewers are concerned that this has not always been reflected in the practice of the SPMS (St Patrick’s Missionary Society), as detailed in the case files.” It gives examples to illustrate the point.

They also say that they “were not satisfied that canonical sanctions against many of the priests who are known to have abused children were being sought as a matter of course.”

The review also says that “there has been confusion in the SPMS with regard to confidentiality. It was reported to the reviewers that historically, the interpretation of ‘confidentiality’ had in effect been ‘secrecy’. As a consequence, there was real reluctance to share information about safeguarding matters in the Society.”

It says “two key principles apply. Firstly, that all children should be protected from harm regardless of where they reside in the world. Secondly, those who harm children should be held accountable for their actions and the Church as a whole, if seriously committed to the safeguarding of children, needs to remove from the clergy all those who have caused harm to a child.”

It continued that “neither of these principles is assisted by a failure to share relevant information with the appropriate authorities both within the Church and outside. It is surprising and disappointing to find that the penalties that exist within the code of Canon Law within the Church have not been applied to the members of the Society who have committed serious delicts.”

Fr Seamus O’Neill, St Patrick’s Missionary Society leader said in response to these findings that it has “renewed its commitment to robust child protection standards.” It “accepts fully the findings of the review” and “apologised ‘unreservedly’ on behalf of the Kiltegans to all those who have been abused by members of our Society and to their families”.

In the Archdoicese of Armagh the review there has found that the Catholic primate Cardinal Sean Brady "provided leadership and has set out to create an open, participatory and transparent process." In what is a positive review it found that 16 priests there had faced 36 allegations of abuse. All allegations had been reported to police with with one priest convicted in the courts.

In the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly it found that Archbishop Dermot Clifford was "direct in his communication and shows leadership as well as giving support for all matters relevant to safeguarding children." Archbishop Clifford, it said " promptly removed priests from public ministry, usually within days of the allegations being brought to his attention."

Meanwhile it said "responses from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in the Vatican, to Archbishop Clifford have been slow, accounting for the delays in processing cases canonically."

In Achonry diocese 11 priests faced 15 allegatoins with none convicted in the courts. The reviewers confirmed “that commendable efforts have been made by the diocese since early 2008 to establish and maintain a viable and secure management system for information relating to safeguarding.” However it found that “there had also been little evidence of any systematic process for filing or managing information about allegations relating to child abuse in the diocese prior to 2008 .” There was, they said, “an absence of appropriate response by the previous bishop to allegations of risk, or to victims.”

In Down and Connor 42 priests have faced 59 allegations, all reported to police. Three priests have been convicted. In Kerry 21 priests faced 67 allegations with one convicted in the courts, while in Ossory 14 priest have faced 27 allegations with two convicted in the courts.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times