Papal visit to Ireland prompted increase in abuse allegations

Trend of decline reversed as claims rose by six to 20 in 2017, Dublin Archdiocese says

Pope Francis at the celebration for 2018 Festival of Families, at Croke Park, Dublin. Media coverage of clerical abuse  and the publicity leading up to the visit impacted those abused as children. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Pope Francis at the celebration for 2018 Festival of Families, at Croke Park, Dublin. Media coverage of clerical abuse and the publicity leading up to the visit impacted those abused as children. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Publicity surrounding the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland last year for the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) led to an increase in the number of abuse allegations made against priests, Dublin’s Catholic Archdiocese has reported.

In 2018, a total of 20 new allegations of clerical child sexual abuse were reported to the archdiocese, compared to 14 in 2017. “This is a reversal of a long-term trend of a declining number of new allegations,” the archdiocese’s annual report for 2018 concluded.

Of the 20 new allegation made in 2018, it said 10 “related to priests of other dioceses, religious and lay people. Ten related to nine priests or former priests of the Archdiocese of Dublin. Only one of the Dublin priests was in ministry at the time the allegation was made.”

Media coverage

The priest concerned “stood aside, pending investigation of the complaint made against him. The other priests and former priests were all either deceased, retired or laicised,” the annual report said.

“WMOF, media coverage of clerical abuse issues and the publicity leading up to the visit of Pope Francis impacted on those who were abused as children by priests and religious. People to whom CSPS [the diocese’s Child Safeguarding and Protection Service] had offered support in the past, contacted the service again, sometimes after many years. In addition, people with whom there had been no previous contact approached CSPS for the first time in 2018,” it said.

It continued how “other organisations that provide support to victims and survivors of abuse also reported an increase in the numbers making new allegations in 2018. At the end of 2018, CSPS held records on 114 Dublin diocesan priests against whom allegations of child sexual abuse have been made.”