Church watchdog issues child protection reviews

Monday 12 May 2014 23.05
Nine reviews of child protection procedures are being published today
Nine reviews of child protection procedures are being published today

The Catholic Church's child protection watchdog has begun publishing reviews of four dioceses and five other church entities.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church assessed the adequacy of current child protection processes. It also examined how complaints of abuse were managed as far back as 1975.

The NBSCCC based its audits on an examination of church records of how complaints were dealt with.

It also interviewed key personnel involved both within and outside the church.

The review found the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin moved to significantly restrict or terminate the ministries of 27 of a sample of 40 priests about whom safeguarding concerns have arisen over the past decade.

The NBSCCC described as remarkable the success of the Dublin archdiocese's child safeguarding team in "turning around a shocking and grievous situation".

According to the review, over 400 allegations of child sexual abuse were made against 101 priests of the Dublin Archdiocese over the past 38 years.

Rather than duplicate the work of the 2009 Murphy Commission, which exposed a policy of cover-ups up until shortly before the appointment of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin in mid-2004, the NBSCCC examined the files of 40 local priests or former priests about whom safeguarding concerns had arisen since that time.

It found that the Archdiocese acted to significantly restrict or terminate the ministries of 27 of those 40 priests.

Ten are still in ministry and three have retired, and remain priests "in good standing".

Four have been convicted of the sexual abuse of minors; none of these is in ministry.

The audit sampled ten out of a further 111 files concerning priests from other dioceses (75) and from religious orders (36) who had given cause for concern while serving in the Dublin dioceses.

It says all these files are up to date and the appropriate actions have been taken in all cases examined.

The Archdiocese met or partially met all the NBSCCC's safeguarding criteria.

Among the recommendations for improvement is one that the diocese look at increasing awareness of safe practice where online communications and social media are concerned.

Cloyne should adopt whistleblower policy

Elsewhere, the review of the Cloyne diocese recommended that a specific whistleblowing policy be introduced, whereby a member of the church can use it to express concerns about a child.

The NBSCCC said that major progress had been made over the past three years in Cloyne in enhancing child-protection measures.

The Cloyne update was released at a briefing in east Cork by the Bishop of Cloyne, Dr William Crean.

Dr Crean welcomed the review and said that he accepted its recommendations. He said that the diocese was adopting a whistleblowing policy.

The Cloyne diocese said its review only looked back to 2008, when a landmark audit of how two abusers were managed led to Bishop John Magee's resignation.

Meath: Safeguarding treated with utmost seriousness

The review of safeguarding practice in the Diocese of Meath concluded that safeguarding of children was treated with the "utmost seriousness" under Bishop Michael Smith.

In a statement, Bishop Smith welcomed the report, which found that 44 of the 48 criteria used to decide on safeguarding standards had been met. The remaining four criteria are "partially met" by the diocese, it said.

The report noted that since January 1975, 23 allegations had been made against 11 priests in the diocese. One priest was convicted in court and the diocese was found to have fully cooperated with gardaí.

Seven priests who are now deceased had complaints examined, mostly relating to the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

In relation to single complaints against three priests who are alive, the review found the complaints were deemed unsubstantiated by statutory authorities and the diocese took all necessary steps to deal with these complaints.

It notes the diocese had a good, cooperative working relationship with the gardaí, HSE and the NBSCCC.

Bishop Smith said guidance in relation to ongoing risk assessment and management given by reviewers was welcomed.

Of the 23 allegations received in the diocese of Meath since 1975 against 11 priests, seven priests are now deceased, four are alive.

Of the four living priests, one has been jailed, three have had allegations against them found to be unsubstantiated, of these one is retired and out of ministry and two remain in active ministry.

Fr A was convicted in 2012 of child sexual abuse against a total of ten children in the 1960s and 1970s.

The allegations, which were admitted, related to the abuse of boys in different settings.

Fr A was sentenced to two years imprisonment and was due for release this spring.

The report found concerns about this priest were first made known to Bishop Michael Smith in 1999 by a bishop in another diocese after which Bishop Smith "immediately removed this priest from ministry" and arranged that he reside in a monastery.

He remained out of ministry but eventually left the monastery and went to live in a rural location.

A fresh garda investigation in 2008 [following an earlier High Court judicial review which dismissed earlier charges] resulted in his prosecution.

The diocese was not informed of developments in the garda investigation and felt this undermined its ability to seek to engage in a timely manner with the complainants.

Following the priest’s conviction, Bishop Smith went to the parish where most of the victims came from to apologise at Mass and express his personal sadness.

The three cases involving living priests related to single complaints in 1974, 1990 and 2004.

Garda investigations were conducted in all three cases and none led to a prosecution.

The report said the reviewers are satisfied that the status of both priests in active ministry is 'an appropriate one'

Bishop accepts recommendations for Killaloe

The Diocese of Killaloe has fully met 44 out of 48 criteria for dealing with allegations of abuse.

Today's Review of Safeguarding Practice says the remaining four criteria have been partially met.

The report makes four recommendations, which have been accepted in full by Bishop Kieran O'Reilly.

The review shows there have been 65 allegations of abuse recorded against 19 priests in the diocese since January 1975.

A total of 59 of these were referred to An Garda Síochána.

Thirteen of the priests are now deceased. Two of the remaining six are still in ministry. The report says neither reached the threshold of a "credible allegation".

In the cases of the other four, there was prompt removal from ministry when credible allegations were received.

The report says however that bad advice was given to the then Bishop, about allowing priests to return to ministry due to poor quality assessments.

The review also considered records relating to a "Father A" who died in 1997. There are 26 known complainants who allege abuse by this priest between 1955 and the mid 1980's.

The first allegation of abuse was made in the mid-1960s and other complaints were made after 1975, the timeframe covered by this review.

The report says the priest in question was offered therapy after the initial allegation. His ministry was not restricted.

After the second complaint in 1984, Fr A remained in ministry until he retired in 1993.

Most victims came forward after Willie Walsh was appointed Bishop of Killaloe in 1994.

The review says he offered "considerable personal support" to victims and that counselling was provided to them. 

There has been one allegation of abuse taking place since 1990.

The alleged abuse took place in 1993 and the complaint was made in the past three years. It did not reach the threshold of a "credible allegation".

The review pays tribute to the efforts of former Bishop Willie Walsh, who retired in 2010.

It says he was responsible for good support work and that he "engaged personally in a very pastoral and caring way with complainants".

Bishop of Killaloe Kieran O'Reilly has welcomed the findings of the review but says there should be no complacency regarding the need to safeguard children.

Bishop O'Reilly said allegations were still being notified and he appealed to anyone with concerns to make contact with the diocese.

At a news conference this afternoon, he said his predecessor was "unstinting" in his efforts to assist the victims of sexual abuse.

Dr Willie Walsh personally apologised to parishioners in Mountshannon - Whitegate ten years ago, when he revealed their former parish priest, Fr Tom McNamara, had abused children in the area - he is the Fr A referred to in today's report.

This afternoon, Bishop O'Reilly said another predecessor of his - Bishop Michael Harty - "did his best, within the limits of understanding at the time" to deal with initial allegations against Fr McNamara.

He described the abuse perpetrated as a "terrible, terrible thing" and said he regretted the way in which the church reacted at the time, "through ignorance or lack of knowledge".

Bishop O'Reilly said he understood many of Fr McNamara's victims were still alive and he reiterated the diocesan apology to them.

The late priest ministered in the area between 1973 and 1993. He died in 1997.

Presentation Brothers delayed contacting gardaí

The Presentation Brothers delayed for months telling gardaí about alleged child sex abuse in their schools and for years in informing the HSE, according to the child protection watchdog.

The delays amounted to a breach by the congregation of the church’s own guidelines published in 1996.

The National Board reports that preparations for the current review turned up three additional files relating to deceased brothers which the Brothers had not sent to the authorities.

Fifty-four allegations of child sexual abuse have been made against 28 Presentation Brothers since 1975.

Most of the alleged incidents are said to have occurred in schools between 1940 and 2001.

Sixteen of the brothers concerned were deceased at the time of the review. 

Four had retired, another four had left the congregation, two were out of ministry, but are still members of the Congregation and just one remained in ministry.

One of the subjects of an allegation was not named.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church says most of the allegations relate to abuse in schools.

In the time period under review there have been no convictions as a result of child sex abuse allegations against Presentation Brothers.

No Patrician Brothers convicted

The Review of Safeguarding Practice at the Patrician Brothers Missionaries found that a total of 22 allegations of child sexual abuse were made against 15 Brothers between January 1975 and 2014.

Nine of those accused are now deceased and five have left the congregation. One brother remains in the congregation.

No brother has been convicted as a result of the allegations made against them.

The review found that in the vast majority of cases, the events which gave rise to the allegations may have taken place several decades before they were reported and refer to alleged abuse between the 1950s and 1980s.

Whilst the current record establishes that all of the allegations have been reported to the civil authorities, the reviewers note that in 2013 the congregation carried out a full review of its files and engaged in a full re-reporting exercise to ensure of all the historical allegations were in the hands of both An Garda Síochána and the HSE Child Care services.

The congregation mistakenly believed that a report made by the congregation to An Garda Siochana would automatically be notified to the relevant Health Board.

The reviewers state that the Patrician Brothers committed to the NBSCCCI safeguarding standards in 2008 and cases coming to their attention since then have been reported promptly.

Shared campus main challenge at Glenstal Abbey

The review found that in general, the Benedictine Community in Glenstal Abbey has managed the concerns that have arisen well and there is no evidence that any child was placed at risk due to any inaction on the part of the various abbots involved.

44 out of 48 safeguarding criteria were fully met in Glenstal Abbey, with the remaining four criteria partially met.

Overall, the reviewers stated that they were impressed that the monastic community at Glenstal was aware of and took seriously their responsibilities towards any person who has been identified to them as having been abused at any time by one of their number. 

The review also found the Glenstal community had developed good working relationships with the relevant HSE Children and Family Services.

The review also finds that the existence of the boarding school on the same campus as a monastery that houses 39 professed monks and a guest house that welcomes up to 14 adults at a time constitutes the main child safeguarding challenge and responsibility to the Benedictine community in Glenstal Abbey.

The review says that allegations have been made against six Glenstal Abbey Benedictine monks in the period between January 1975 and the date of the review.

Two of the monks against whom allegations were made are still members of the community.

Two are deceased. One of the monks against whom an allegation was made remains in ministry. One is retired.

Two of the monks against whom an allegation was made have left the priesthood/community.

No Benedictine monks from the Glenstal community have been convicted of having committed an offence against a child or young person since 1 January 1975

A total of ten allegations have been received by the Benedictine community at Glenstal Abbey during this period.

Ten allegations involving Benedictine monks at Glenstal Abbey have been reported to An Garda Síochána during this period.

Of the six monks about whom concerns have arisen at the Glenstal community two are deceased.

The review found the first of these deceased men admitted his abused and had been referred for assessment to "an appropriate clinical facility."

This monk was removed from contact with children and was eventually subject to a formal Canonical Precept issued by the Abbot in 2005.

The review found that in the case of this monk, there were unacceptable delays in the notification of the complaints against him to the two statutory authorities, An Garda Síochána and the Mid-Western Health Board.

The review found this monk was only allowed to reside in the monastery during school holiday periods and a risk management plan was in operation.

His case was referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which determined in 2007 that he was not allowed to exercise priestly ministry.

In relation to the second Benedictine monk, an allegation was received long after this man's death, and the review found the veracity of the complaint could not be established.

In the cases of both of these deceased men, four complainants who were identified were provided with counselling

In the cases of both these men, the four complainants who were identified were all provided with counselling and other supports by the Benedictine Community at Glenstal.

Two former monks against whom allegations were made left the Benedictine Community at Glenstal.

The review found the whereabouts of one of these monks against whom allegations were made are no longer known, and that this is of concern, as he was believed to pose an ongoing risk to children.

He is not believed to be in Ireland.

The review found this monk had left the Glenstal Community following allegations that he abused an adolescent boy during a work trip abroad.

It found notification was made to the Irish statutory authorities which in turn attempted through Interpol to make a notification to the statutory authorities in the country concerned.

The Review found this monk sought and has been granted dispensation from his vows by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in Rome.

The monk was psychiatrically assessed and attended counselling.

The victim has been identified and supports have been offered but have been declined.

The review found that the other monk who had left the Glenstal community following allegations of abuse had admitted to abusing a student in the school 14 years previously.

The monk involved was removed from contact with children once the allegation against him was received, and he was subject to restrictions on the Glenstal Abbey campus.

The review found he was provided with "appropriate therapeutic intervention", and was dismissed from monastic life and from the clerical state by Papal decree following a process involving application to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome.

The review found the Benedictine Community at Glenstal provided the victim in this case with a range of appropriate supports.

The review found there was a delay in the Abbot informing the Board of Management of the Glenstal Abbey School of the allegation received about the monk, who had been a member of staff of the school.

The review found notifications to the two statutory authorities were made in a timely fashion.

The review found that in general, the Benedictine Community in Glenstal Abbey has managed the concerns that have arisen well and there is no evidence that any child was placed at risk due to any inaction on the part of the various abbots involved.

The review found a past student of Glenstal Abbey has written a series of letters to the Abbot and to the NBSCCCI about a form of sexual initiation which he believed was used in the past in the school as well as in other boarding schools in Ireland.

The review states that this person has not made any allegations.

This correspondence has been given to An Garda Síochána and the writer has been invited to come forward to share any information he might have about alleged historical abuse at Glenstal or anywhere else. 

'More works need to be done'

The board said that "more work needs to be done" in the Missionary Society of St Columban "to develop a safeguarding culture to emphasise prevention".

In a statement welcoming the review, the Society said of the eight recommendations made in the report, seven will be in place by 12 June.

The remaining recommendation regarding the establishing of a Safeguarding Committee will be in place by the end of July.

It said the review found that all allegations of abuse have been reported to the civil authorities and that the society works closely with Probation Officers, An Garda Síochána, and HSE/Tusla.

The statement noted that the majority of allegations made against Columbans in Ireland relate to one ex-priest featured in the Murphy Report.

Concern over Divine Word member

There are allegations against six members of the Divine Word Missionaries (SVD), one of whom is deceased.

Two members deny the allegations against them.

Four members are now out of ministry as a result of concerns about abuse. One of them has served a prison sentence.

The four men are currently living in an SVD community house, and in the case of three of them, supervision arrangements and restrictions are in place.

The reviewers say they are "very concerned about the potential risks involving one member who has admitted to extensive abuse of children in mission countries over a 20-year period, but against whom there are no complaints or allegations".

The man was moved from one country where the local bishop did not want him, to another country.

The review found that recent evidence indicated that the man abused children until he was returned to Ireland - there have been no allegations against him in this country.

Overall, the reviewers found that all allegations received by the missionaries were passed to gardaí and the HSE.

The Divine Word Missionaries currently undertakes no specialised ministries to children or young people.

It administers two parishes: at City Quay in Dublin, and Kilbegnet in Elphin, Co Roscommon. Some members also assist in a number of other parishes.

In a statement, SVD said it wished to "unreservedly apologise to all who were abused" by members of the society.

The organisation said it accepted that it was "slow to begin the process of implementing accepted and agreed church child safeguarding policies, procedures and practices", but was now committed to safeguarding.

The society said it has engaged a professional lay delegate to manage the area of child safeguarding.

The Provincial of the Society of the Divine Word missionaries has said he was shocked when he realised that two priests who had admitted to abuse had not been taken out of ministry.

Fr Pat Byrne was commenting on the Review carried out by the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church.

The Review reported that last year it emerged that two of the society's priests who had made admissions of abuse, including one who had admitted to abuse over a 20-year-period, were still in ministry.

Both men have since been removed from ministry.

Fr Pat Byrne said he and the order were shocked that this situation wasn't taken care of.

He acknowledged that there wasn't a sufficient response to the situation.

One in Four welcomes audits

Abuse survivor group One in Four has welcomed the publication of the audits.

Advocacy Director Deirdre Kenny said: “The audits show how some dioceses and orders have embraced a policy of transparent child protection and are working hard to implement good practice.

In each case there has been a vast improvement in cooperation between the Catholic Church and the statutory agencies and all allegations are now reported to the civil authorities.

However it is shocking to read how the Society of the Divine Word neglected crucial safeguarding protocols until 2013. "