The Reports into the handling of the claims of sex abuse by clergy in Ireland has been published today. As we covered this fairly extensively back in the Spring and Summer, it is logical for us to share the subsequent findings.
Bishop Philip Boyce was speaking as a review of the County Donegal diocese found “a significant level” of clerical abuse cases in past decades
The Catholic bishop of Raphoe has apologised for “poor judgements” in managing priests accused of “horrific acts of abuse” against children.
Bishop Philip Boyce was speaking as a review of the County Donegal diocese found “a significant level” of clerical abuse cases in past decades.
The case of Father Eugene Greene, the convicted paedophile, stood out.
The review is one of six, including two from Northern Ireland dioceses, published on Wednesday.
A report for the Derry diocese said it had dealt with allegations of sex abuse against 23 of its priests.
A total of 31 allegations had been reported to the police in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The report said 33 allegations had been made to social services.
A total of four priests against whom allegations were made had left the priesthood or were ”out of ministry”.
The Derry report said: “Those who have suffered child abuse should receive a compassionate and just response and should be offered appropriate pastoral care to rebuild their lives.
“Those who have harmed others should be helped to face up to the reality of abuse, as well as being assisted in healing.”
However, John Heaney, 53, from Strabane, who was abused by other children at a home run by the Catholic Church in Derry, said the review was “a PR exercise by the Church to get people back into Mass”.
“It’s a disgrace, this is only about saying ‘look at what we’ve put in place, look how great we are now’. Well it’s too late, not even a hint of an apology,” he said.
The Raphoe report draws attention to “significant errors of judgement” by “successive bishops”.
It said “judgements were clouded, due to the presenting problem being for example, alcohol abuse and an inability to hear the concerns about abuse of children”.
The review said allegations were made against a total of 14 priests, including Greene, between 1975 and 2010.
Greene, the most notorious offender, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 1999 for abusing 26 boys over 20 years.
The Irish police received 52 allegations concerning priests in the diocese during the period from 1975 to 2010.
Eight priests against whom an allegation was made are now “out of ministry” or have left the priesthood.
Four have been convicted of abuse. Six priests against whom an allegation was made are in ministry or had retired at the date of the review.
The people of the Diocese of Raphoe have suffered much over the last 20 years with a proportionately high number of priests with complaints of child sexual abuse made against them”End Quote Bishop Philip Boyce
Bishop Boyce said the clergy were “truly sorry for the terrible deeds inflicted on so many by a small minority of priests”.
“Insufficient emphasis was placed on the needs of victims, often in the misguided attempt to protect the reputation of the Church”, he said.
“This review has concluded that the diocese now has a robust safeguarding policy and procedure in place for safeguarding children.”
The bishop said the diocese intended to make renewed contact with survivors of sex abuse to ensure that their needs were met.
“The people of the Diocese of Raphoe have suffered much over the last 20 years with a proportionately high number of priests with complaints of child sexual abuse made against them,” he said.
“The number of allegations was also high. It is to our shame that we admit this. But this fact makes us all the more determined to create a safe environment for our children.”
In Dromore in Northern Ireland, the audit revealed 35 allegations of abuse made against 10 priests since 1975.
Three of those are now dead and the remaining seven are out of ministry. It said there had been no convictions.
Twelve recommendations have been made, including that Bishop John McAreavey should consider writing to all complainants upon receipt of an allegation, offering them support and counselling.
The bishop said he would “continue to give my best energy to the work of safeguarding in the diocese and in support of all those involved in this crucial area”.
The review in the Diocese of Kilmore, which comprises 36 parishes mainly in Counties Cavan and Leitrim – but also in Fermanagh, Meath and Sligo – found there were allegations of abuse against seven priests in the diocese, one of whom is currently in jail for abuse of a minor.
Bishop Leo O’Reilly said: “Each allegation represents a person who has suffered and my thoughts today are very much with survivors of abuse.”
The audit on the archdioceses of Tuam was sharply critical of the way in which allegations of child abuse were handled in the past and said “serious harm was done to children by a few priests of the archdioceses”.
Twenty-five allegations of child abuse were made against 18 priests of the dioceses since 1975. Two priests were brought before the courts and convicted; 10 of the 18 are now dead – including one of those who was convicted.
The remaining eight are not in ministry.
The report for the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise found 14 allegations were made to Irish police concerning 13 priests in the diocese since January 1975 and of those only one is alive and he is no longer in ministry.
One priest was convicted of offences against a child during the period.
There are two other retired priests against whom allegations were made currently resident in the diocese.
Maeve Lewis, of the abuse victims’ group One in Four, said: “The audits show that real progress has been made in putting in place child protection measures in the six dioceses.”
However, she expressed concern “regarding the number of priests against whom allegations have been made who are still in ministry”.
All six reports have been conducted by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.
In a summary of the findings, the Board for Safeguarding Children said a “marked improvement” had taken place in two key areas.
“Firstly, reporting allegations to the statutory authorities occurs promptly and comprehensively,” it said.
“Secondly, the need to create and maintain a safe environment for children in the Church is comprehensively accepted and implemented.”
The board helps to protect children in the Catholic Church from being abused by priests or anyone else. It was set up in the wake of various child abuse scandals.
The board is now reviewing every diocese in the country, examining what was done wrong in the past.
Summary Report – Extract
Key Findings of the Reviews
Across all of the six dioceses that have participated to date, a marked improvement in two key areas of safeguarding practice is evident. Firstly, reporting allegations to the statutory authorities occurs promptly and comprehensively. All known details are regularly shared and each of the dioceses has established a sound working relationship with their relevant statutory agencies. This represents a major development as past practice did not always reflect this commitment. Secondly, the need to create and maintain a safe environment for children in the Church is comprehensively accepted and implemented. Each of the dioceses examined had developed a safeguarding framework which mirrored that as set out in “Safeguarding Children: Standards and Guidance”. This framework is almost entirely volunteer led.
The critical role of “delegate” or “designated officer” has in many cases been undertaken by a member of the clergy. In some of the Reviews, a recommendation has been included that where possible this role should also be undertaken by a suitably qualified and experienced lay person. We would believe this to be necessary as that role is critical to the effective running of the safeguarding framework within the diocese. It would be our view that it is significantly more difficult for a member of the clergy to perform all of the tasks that are involved in the successful discharge of their responsibilities.
The picture that is presented by all of these dioceses is an improving one. There is greater awareness and much greater commitment to safeguarding children than was once the case. Individuals that are seen as being a risk to children are reported quickly to the authorities and steps are taken to eliminate their access to children. There are some differences that occur in terms of approach but these are being worked on and addressed.
Each of the dioceses and their respective bishops, are to be commended for their willingness to engage in the Review process. For some, this involved considerable anxiety with regard to opening their files for an independent body such as the National Board to scrutinise. It is to their credit that they did this and provided the support and co-operation which they did to the reviewers.
A key element in the process of improving practice in any Church authority is the provision of training. It has previously been commented upon that bishops often fail to avail of training opportunities when they arise. They are the group that carries the heaviest responsibilities within the Church with regard to the safeguarding of children. It is interesting to note that an increasing number of bishops are now present regularly at training events set up by and provided through the National Board. It is also gratifying to report that these six bishops are amongst the most frequent attenders at those events.
The fact that each of the Reports is being published is also a tangible demonstration of the extent of their commitment to not only effectively safeguard children, but to be shown to be doing so. They have all expressed to me a desire to reassure the lay faithful in each of their dioceses that practice in their diocese is as good as they can make it, and that they are all committed to ensuring that it becomes even better in the future.
In the past, good practice may have happened through the commitment of an individual bishop. However, if that bishop retired, then the practice may also change with him. This difficulty was commented upon by Judge Yvonne Murphy in her Report on the situation in the Archdiocese of Dublin. The National Board has worked hard to try to introduce uniform and consistent standards for adoption and implementation across all of the Church authorities. By advocating standards based approach, it is hoped that any vulnerability to being too dependent on individuals would be eliminated. It is gratifying to report that these six dioceses would be amongst a number who regularly consult with and draw upon the experience and expertise that lie within the National Office. They have sought to implement in their dioceses the framework and the policies that have been put forward by the National Board. If any of these dioceses were to face change in terms of leadership, the framework would continue and the approach should not alter significantly.
Report of National Board Audit and Statement of Archbishop Neary
Please find below a link to the report of the audit carried out by the National Board for Safeguarding Children on the Tuam Archdiocese
Statement of Archbishop Michael Neary to accompany the Launch of the Audit of the National Board on Child Safeguarding
Wednesday November 30th, 2011
The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church has reported on the Audit which it conducted in the Archdiocese of Tuam. The Report is being published today.
The report illustrates that strong procedures have been put in place to ensure that children are safe and cherished here in the Archdiocese of Tuam.
I warmly welcome the Report of Ian Elliott, the CEO of the National Board, and am very happy that he has adjudicated so positively on the way things are being addressed in our Archdiocese. This is an enormous tribute to all working in this area. It is very encouraging to see that their work has been recognised, affirmed and appreciated in the Report. They convened and worked long hours to address the problems of sexual abuse in a fair and transparent manner. I want to thank all who were involved in this important work for the way in which they have given so generously of their time and expertise. Each parish now has a trained Child Safeguarding Representative.
I am grateful to Ian Elliott, the members of the National Office and the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church for their guidance, availability and on-going support.
As Archbishop I have had to address these sad situations. I was convinced that it would be impossible to do so without involving lay people, particularly parents and especially mothers who have been nurturing, cherishing and protecting children day in day out. I appointed an Advisory Panel, men and women, professional and highly qualified lay people, religious and priests from whom I have taken advice in dealing with cases of abuse. Conscious of the urgency and centrality of safeguarding children the Safeguarding Committee has worked diligently and voluntarily to ensure that the safest possible environment is created for children in the Catholic Church in our Archdiocese.
This is not something, however, about which we can become complacent. The safeguarding and cherishing of children in the Catholic Church must continue to remain a challenge for all of us.
Foremost in my thoughts are the survivors of child sexual abuse and their families, the harm and the hurt which they have experienced and the courage which they displayed in telling their story. I have apologised to them in the past and wish to reiterate my apology today. I invite anyone who has been abused to come forward and report the matter either to the Archdiocese and/or to the statutory authorities. Counselling help is available at the dedicated helpline; Towards Healing – Freephone 1800 303416 or log on to www.towardshealing.ie.