'Strong' archbishop and 'industrious' case management team commended


TUAM REPORT SUMMARY:THE AUDIT into the response to clerical child sexual abuse allegations in the Tuam archdiocese has paid tribute to Archbishop Michael Neary’s “quiet resolve to do what is right”.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church review says “serious harm was done to children by a few priests” of the Tuam archdiocese.

However, it says that since Dr Neary’s installation in January 1995, he had met such allegations with a “steady, serious approach”, even though he met “resistance” in asking a priest to step aside from public ministry.

The audit records 26 allegations levelled against 18 priests in the archdiocese, dating back to 1975. Ten of these priests had died, while eight are “out of ministry” or have left the priesthood. There have been two convictions.

A “disproportionate” number of allegations were made against priests working in a secondary school that had served as the archdiocesan junior seminary, with all allegations referred to statutory authorities.

Five priests who are not of the archdiocese but who reside in it are the subjects of an allegation arising from their past ministry.

The audit notes that before 1995, the commitment to safeguarding children “appears not to have existed” and “many of the cases that were managed by the archbishop’s predecessors contain practice that is defensive and internally focused, which would be entirely unacceptable today.

“These cases showed a lack of awareness of the suffering caused to victims by abusers,” the audit notes, adding it is “very much to the credit of those currently involved . . . that no trace of this practice remains today”.

The audit says that what is “striking” from examination of the case records was the “considerable interrogation of information by the designated persons”, and it says the bishop has an “industrious and diligent” case management team.

“It is clear from the excellent records that a genuine effort was made to gather evidence from victims and their families during the church inquiry stage. Such thoroughness is to be commended,” it says.

“It is also a fair reflection to say the archbishop has met resistance in asking a priest to step aside from public ministry,” it says.

“It is to his credit that in spite of opposition, Archbishop Neary has maintained his authority and kept some men out of ministry where there is evidence to suggest that they should be viewed as dangerous and should not have access to young people,” it says.

The board’s fieldwork team, which spent three days in the Tuam archdiocese last June, found that a “disproportionate” number of allegations were made against priests working in one local second-level school.

“It is recorded on a case file that one young person indicated that when he tried to raise his distress about how he was being treated by one member of staff, this was met with aggression from another member of staff,” the audit says.

“However, all allegations were referred to the statutory authorities. These incidents took place over 20 years ago, and considerable change has taken place since then within the school.”

The audit notes a “very positive relationship” between the Tuam archdiocese and the Health Service Executive, with regular inter-agency meetings taking place.

The fieldwork team’s “overwhelming assessment” was of a “solid case management team”, led by a “strong archbishop”.

“It is his leadership which has laid the path for allegations to be dealt with promptly and appropriately,” it says. “We are confident in his decision-making and in the support he gives to those responsible for dealing with allegations as they emerge.”

The audit makes eight recommendations relating to aspects of procedures followed, including a recommendation that the archbishop sets down in writing the restrictions imposed on a priest removed from public ministry, and the supervision, management and reporting arrangements for same.

All recommendations have been implemented, according to the archdiocese.