Watchdog says Catholic Church must respond better to abuse victims

Thursday 01 May 2014 19.07
The number of allegations of child sexual abuse made in the past year has fallen to 164
The number of allegations of child sexual abuse made in the past year has fallen to 164

The Catholic Church's child protection watchdog in Ireland will meet the Vatican's chief prosecutor soon to discuss how church investigations could deal more quickly with urgent cases of clerical child sexual abuse. 

The announcement was made by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.

The National Board's chairman also said that he would favour, in principle, church leaders here publishing photographs of convicted abusers to encourage victims to report further crimes to the authorities

The National Board Chief Executive Teresa Devlin said the Church must learn better and more compassionate ways of responding to victims of clerical child sexual abuse.

She said that in her experience, church processes, if used properly, provide a really good framework for restoration and justice to the complainant.  

To address the delays, the board has invited Monsignor Bob Oliver, the Vatican's Promoter of Justice, to discuss with it and church authorities how they can identify and deal with urgent cases.

Ms Devlin revealed the number of allegations made in the past year has fallen to 164.

She added that in the 12 months to the end of March, the board received 64 allegations, suspicions or concerns of child sexual abuse relating to priests from dioceses and 100 against members of religious congregations. 

As some clerics were subject of more than one complaint, it is not clear how many were concerned.

Some of the allegations date back as far as 1948.

She said the board's reviews of dioceses and congregations shows their response to complainants is inconsistent, with some church authorities compounding the impact of the initial abuse.

Ms Devlin added that reports on the final four of the country's 26 dioceses are now complete and that they, along with reports on four religious orders, are expected to be published within weeks.

Ms Devlin also said the church needs to have clear standards regarding the support and supervision of priests and members of religious orders who have been placed out of ministry because they sexually abused children.

She said frameworks need to be developed for assessment, clarity around canonical processes (concerning church law) , good supervision, and support plans, so that we reduce the likelihood of re-offending and therefore safeguard future children.