Audits highlight delays in reporting child abuse

Wednesday 05 September 2012 23.43
The audits found that full compliance with guidelines was still some way off
The audits found that full compliance with guidelines was still some way off

Seven reports reviewing child protection practices in a number of Ireland's Catholic dioceses and religious orders have been published.

The audits have found a higher incidence of abuse allegations against members of religious congregations than against priests in the four dioceses that have been audited.

Reports on the audits say full compliance with child protection guidelines is still some way off.

The audits were conducted by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the four dioceses and, for the first time, three religious congregations.

They deal with more than 330 allegations of abuse against 146 priests and members of those congregations.

The reports found good practice in places, contrasting with very poor practice elsewhere.

Helplines for those affected by abuse are on Aertel page 127.

The authors discovered examples where offenders were able to continue abusing children for longer than they should have, because individuals who were known to be a risk were not properly managed.

They also uncovered allegations of abuse that had not been reported to gardaí, commenting that full compliance with child protection practices agreed three years ago is still some way off.

Those allegations were immediately reported on the insistence of the board, resulting in several new garda investigations.

These are expected to lead to criminal charges in a number of cases.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Six One News, Chief Executive of the National Board of Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church Ian Elliott said he was shocked and disappointed with what the audits found in religious orders.

Mr Elliot said the level of abuse was much higher in the orders than in the any diocese examined so far.

He said there was evidence of very poor practice and the safeguarding framework that existed was not of a nature or stage that they would have wanted.

He said one of the most concerning discoveries was that a number of the individuals who identified as abusers had worked in schools, and the abuse had taken place within schools.

Mr Elliot said in some cases the bad management involved them being moved from one school to another - something that should never happen.

He said in dioceses, the bishop is such an important person that everyone who occupies that role needs to be competent with regard to safeguarding children. He said it is not acceptable for a bishop not to be up to the mark.

Audits of dioceses: Cork and Ross, Limerick, Clonfert, and Kildare and Leighlin.

Audits of religious congregations: Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, the Dominicans and the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans).

Key points:

Limerick
- 45 allegations received against 26 priests
- 12 priests still alive, eight out of ministry, four retired
- Four priests against whom allegations were made still in ministry
- Most allegations relate to 1960, 1970s and 1980s
- One "potentially dangerous" case in 1980s identified
- 44 of 48 national criteria fulfilled

Kildare and Leighlin
- 18 allegations made against ten priests between 1975 and 2012
- Eight priests dead, two out of ministry
- One priest convicted of sexual abuse offences
- One priest faced serious criminal charges but died before trial took place
- Diocese without a bishop since resignation of James Moriarty in 2010
- Progress in relation to protection of children across all parishes

Cork and Ross
- 50 allegations made against 26 priests since 1975
- 18 priests living at time of review, eight dead, 15 out of ministry
- Four priests convicted of offences against children
- Seven retired, three in ministry
- The diocese met 42 of the 47 review criteria
- Five administrative issues were highlighted, which are to be resolved by year end
- Report voiced concern about the need for better information on any allegations or convictions held by priests retiring in Ireland from overseas

Clonfert

- 11 allegations against three priests (two subsequently withdrawn)
- Two priests living at time of review (one has since died)
- Two priests out of ministry or retired
- One priest convicted of offence/s
- New cases should all be recorded using the NBSCCC case file template
- Diocese has signed up to engaging with NBSCCC in rolling out the new church specific training

Irish Province of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit
- 142 allegations against 47 members were reported to gardaí and HSE since 1975
- Eight members still alive, 36 dead, one in ministry, three out of ministry
- Three convicted of offence/s against children
- Allegations before 1994 not reported for significant number of years
- Possible other victims who have not come forward
- Provincial since 1994 has greater awareness of child abuse

Missionaries of the Sacred Heart
- Allegations against 17 priests
- Six priests dead, seven out of ministry, three left the society
- Allegations against one priest not substantiated
- One priest received a prison sentence
- People who were aware of abuse saw no need to report that fact to gardaí
- Actions in past demonstrated complete disregard for the victims
- Considerable efforts made to address the poor practice that took place previously

Dominican Friars
- 52 allegations against 27 friars since 1975
- 12 living at time of review, 15 dead, four out of ministry, four left the order
- Two friars convicted of offences against children
- Long delays in dealing with allegations prior to 2010
- Significant gaps in written records
- Order now shows a real sense of accepting past failures and offered redress

Updates:

1730 Executive Director of One in Four Maeve Lewis has said while there is an awful lot that is positive with the audits, she was very shocked and alarmed at the glaring failures in some dioceses and orders.

1611 Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has described the reports as shocking and disturbing.

She said information from the congregations about serial abusers continuing in ministry and moving between schools was very disturbing.

Asked if there is now a need for a full statutory inquiry into allegations of abuse in the Catholic church, she said the primary task is to make sure that children are safe and that investigations by Ian Elliot of dioceses and orders continue.

She said if there is a need for a statutory inquiry following that work being completed it could be examined.

Ms Fitzgerald also said the Government is committed to putting the Children First guidelines and mandatory reporting on a statutory basis and to holding a referendum on children's rights.

1542 Head of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Fr Joseph McGee has said he is satisfied that there is no evidence to suggest that six priests, alleged to have abused children at the same school in Cork, had any knowledge of each other's activities.

Fr McGee said it was important to point out that the six priests were not all working at the school at the same time, however it is understood that three were.

He said that over the course of the last year, he had scrutinised the files relating to abuse at the school and that there was no evidence of "any sort of a ring or sharing of knowledge between the alleged abusers".

However, he said that gardaí are currently investigating allegations relating to abuse at the school so he could not comment any further on that issue.

1432 The audit of the Diocese of Clonfert was carried out in November last year.

It found that allegations were made against three incardinated priests in the diocese, two of whom were moved to different parishes in the 1990s by Dr Kirby.

Five separate complaints were made against the first priest - two were withdrawn. He served a prison sentence and is laicised.

Two allegations were made against the second priest who moved to another jurisdiction and has since died.

A complaint against a third priest was made in 2010. The alleged incident took place over 40 years ago and the priest has since died.

The complaint is being dealt with and is not yet resolved.

The report found that Bishop Kirby had been naive and should have managed the cases in a more child-centred way.

It goes on to say that he is now fully clear in his responsibilities in relation to the immediate removal of a priest against whom a credible allegation has been made, as well as the immediate reporting of such an allegation to both gardaí and the HSE.

Bishop Kirby had notified the then Western Health Board in relation to complaints about the priests, but gardaí were not the first to be informed.

Dr Kirby says deficiencies highlighted in the report have been addressed and all eight recommendations implemented with a far more robust system of child protection procedures in place.

The bishop has also divested himself of the responsibility of dealing with allegations alone.

1427 Retired bishop of Limerick Donal Murray said it is unacceptable that anyone who was abused as a child did not receive all the understanding and respect they had every right to expect.

He said he was pleased that the text of the review has been published in full by the diocese.

"The diocese continues to improve its safeguarding practices in the light of the lessons of the past and the guidance of the National Board," he said.

1409 NBSCCC Chief Executive Ian Elliott has said it had found some cases of extremely bad practice during its latest audit.

He said he had been "shocked and disappointed" at the findings involving the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.

An essential difference between dioceses and religious orders is that the leadership of the orders changes regularly, with a new team every five or six years.

The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, he said, had no protocol in place whereby essential information relating to risk that was known within that Order was passed on from one leadership to the next.

1346 Fr Joseph McGee, the Provincial of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, has said he is "full of shame" in the wake of the report.

He said he offered his sincere and deep apology to people abused while in the order's care, or who were not listened to when they made allegations of abuse.

1344 Bishop of Clonfert John Kirby said he was unaware of the recidivist and compulsive nature of child sex abuse when he moved two accused priests to other parishes in the early 1990s.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, he said his understanding of paedophilia at the time was that it was "a friendship that had gone astray or wrong".

Bishop Kirby said he apologises profusely for the mistakes made and he is now more sympathetic to the issues involved.

He said that has a deeper understanding of the "grossness and criminality" involved.

The bishop said all eight recommendations in today's report have now been implemented.

When asked if he felt it was a resigning matter, he said it would be now because guidelines are in place and he would be in breach of them, but at the time there were no guidelines and he had reported the matter to the civil authorities.

1338 Relating to the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, the report found that only in the last year have cases been referred to the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith in Rome, which has responsibility for making decisions on dismissing a priest.

The hurch says this is despite the existence of church guidance directing that this should happen in 2001.

It says the guidance from the church in Ireland from 2009 is very clear, that following the completion of the civil investigations, the church processes must be re-initiated.

The report says there is no documentary evidence that this process was complied with until recently within the Spiritan Congregation.

In discussion with survivors, the review team says there is a real sense of a lack of accountability for abuse, particularly for those priests who have not been prosecuted.

Survivors feel that an absence of any internal disciplinary action further adds to their pain and hurt.

The report says that as recently as 2011 there is evidence that one accused priest was still in limited ministry and another had entered an online forum.

However, overall it says there is much evidence to demonstrate recent commendable initiatives and a serious approach to accepting responsibility for past failures and ensuring that in the future children will be safe from harm.

1325 In relation to the Spiritans’ involvement in schools, the report recommends that a training plan needs to be developed that identifies needs and delivery of training for all those who hold safeguarding responsibilities.

In the past the Spiritans established a network of five secondary and three junior schools.

These schools are now managed by Boards of Management under a trusteeship of a company in line with Educational act. Spiritans were and are now involved in missionary work.

The review acknowledges that there is limited contact now between Spiritans and children unless through school chaplaincy or parish work.

It says both of these areas of work are governed by policies and procedures of the school or diocese and where Spiritans must sign-up to those policies and procedures in relation to contact with children.

The reviewers noted the absence of safeguards in the past while saying the current procedures are robust.

There are currently no Spiritan members teaching in schools in Ireland, but there are Spiritans who minister as chaplains in them.

1315 The audit reveals that 18 allegations were made against ten priests of the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin in the period between January 1975 and May 2012.

However, the audit does not cover allegations against priests from other religious orders who were convicted of sexual abuse offences in the diocese during the same period.

Eight of the priests, against whom allegations were made, have died.

Two priests, against whom allegations were made, remain out of ministry.

Out of the 18 allegations only one priest has been convicted before the courts.

He was Fr Peter Cribbin, former parish priest in Rhode Co Offaly, who was convicted of sexual abuse offences in 2009.

Kildare and Leighlin contributed to the settlement of two civil cases involving priests of the diocese.

In one case a priest was facing very serious criminal charges but died before the scheduled trial took place. The diocese paid out €133,835.

In the second case, the diocese contributed a total of €175,000 to the settlement of a civil case against Fr Cribbin who was convicted in 2009.

At the moment there is no bishop sitting in the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, but the diocesan administrator Monsignor Brendan Byrne welcomed the audit publication.

He reaffirmed the commitment of the diocese to be fully accountable to the highest safe guarding standards.

Monsignor Byrne acknowledged that the priest responsible for the most serious number of offences convicted before the court in the diocese was Fr Vincent Mercer, a Dominican priest and former Head Master of Newbridge College.

However, he said responsibility for Fr Mercer's actions and his ongoing monitoring lay with the Dominican Order with whom the diocese has excellent relations and regular communications.

1307 Catholic Primate of All Ireland Cardinal Seán Brady is not expected to make any comment on the reports.

A spokesman for the Catholic Communications Office said that none of the reports relate to the Cardinal's own diosese and it is up to each individual Bishop to comment.

1302 The report on the Dominicans also praises the way the current leadership has dealt with its responsibilities in relation to child protection and they way it has shown determination to improve practices.

It says the order has shown a real sense of accepting past failures and has offered remorse.

It also recommended the financial contributions it has made to the redress process and its desire to make the settlement process easier for victims.

It recommends that the approach by the Dominicans should be considered by others.

1255 "[Report] prompts us to be mindful once again of the stories of people who have suffered great pain over many years." Monsignor Brendan Byrne, Diocesan Administrator of Kildare and Leighlin.

"My thoughts today are with the survivors of abuse and with their families and I respectfully apologise to them for the hurt and offence they have carried and are still carrying."

1243 The report on the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans) says there are a number of worrying features to cases. The board noted misleading advice from psychologists & psychiatrists around the likelihood of re-offending.

It says that assessment reports appeared to believe that recidivism was low, based on poor evidence, often simply what the accused priest said. The report says there are examples of overly optimistic advice about returning the perpetrator to ministry following assessments.

It also notes that there is a tension between legal advice and providing a pastoral response to the complainant. It says it was confirmed that the congregation had settled with a number of survivors that they had wanted to meet but had never been able to meet.

The board says it recognises that lawyers are necessary in reaching financial settlements, but it is equally important for a pastoral response to be made.

Survivors
There is an absence of records relating to what pastoral response and counselling was offered to victims and a number of victims contacted the board to express their concerns about their abuse and need for redress by the congregation.

The report says that if the Provincial at the time of receiving information about concerning behaviour had taken action to remove the offending priest/brother, it is entirely reasonable that some children could have been spared.

It says this was unacceptable and the current leadership has to carry the responsibility for the past failures of others.

It also says it is reasonable that there are other victims of Spiritans who have not yet come forward.

These victims may be located in Ireland, Canada, the US, Sierra Leone and any other country where the offending priests/brothers worked. The report recommends appointing a lay designated person for engagement with survivors.

1232 Allegations of clerical sexual abuse were made against 17 members of the Order of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Ireland.

The allegations range from the late 1940s to the early 1990s.

Allegations against one member have not been substantiated and one priest has served a prison sentence.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children says that practice within the order was deeply flawed.

The order did not pass on admissions to gardaí and even failed to alert those within the church.

People in positions of power failed to protect the most vulnerable, it said.

They maintained a culture of secrecy, which allowed known abusers to live within the community.

There was no attempt made to manage the risk posed by known abusers.

The child protection guidance in the church and wider society were not adhered to even as recently as 2004.

The board says that the actions of the order demonstrate a complete disregard for the victims and a misunderstanding of the nature of the problem.

A lot of the abuse could have been prevented had the order taken action.

Those who could have taken action effectively chose not to, or were blocked by a wall of secrecy within the order.

People who were aware of the abuse saw no need to report it to gardaí. Even when it was reported to higher authorities in the church, it was done in an informal, verbal way.

1228 The report into the Dominican Friars has found large gaps in the records kept by the order and says it believes that early information about safeguarding and allegation of abuse were not recorded.

It also found that prior to new procedures being put in place in 2010, there were long delays in dealing with allegations, and that allegations were not reported to the health authorities as a matter of course.

The report says that the order has 12 living friars against whom allegations of abuse have been made since 1 January 1975.

The order ran an orphanage in Dublin until 1994, currently runs three primary and one second level school, one of which used to be a boarding school, and a holiday complex in Cork.

It says that on the whole, action was promptly taken to remove men from ministry. However, it is critical of how the order dealt with four men who left the ministry against whom allegations were made.

The report says that as far as the Dominicans were concerned when the men left the order it was the end of the matter, when in fact the health authorities should have been informed, particularly as some of these men have since married and have children.

It also highlights two cases where it says "earlier safeguarding action should have been taken".

It details how a priest named only as Father X, who was the headmaster of a school, abused a boy after he came to him to tell him about another incident of abuse.

When the boy reported the abuse, Father X denied it and the boy was not believed.

When a second boy made an allegation against him, Father X admitted it but said he would not do it again.

He was allowed to remain in ministry but he went on to abuse other children and was later convicted and jailed.

The report says it is clear that the inaction of the order placed other children at risk.

The report says similar issues arose with a priest named as Father Y, who it says was also in a position of responsibility in a second level school.

It describes as "alarming" the fact that Father Y also participated in national Church initiatives aimed at improving the response of the Church to allegations of child abuse after allegations were made against him in 1990 and up to the point where he was withdrawn from Ministry in 1995.

It recommended that the Dominicans extend an invitation to anyone who may have been abused in the schools in which these friars work to come forward so they can be given help and support.

1221 The review of Limerick Diocese commends the work carried out by Bishop Murray in dealing with allegations and praises. Bishop Murray was forced to resign two years ago after the publication of the Murphy Report.

He is praised for the practice he started in 1996 of meeting gardaí and the health authorities to share information on allegations received by the diocese and it states that he understood his obligations to safeguard children.

It adds, however, that he should have been more forceful in challenging priests subject to allegations, who sought to thwart restrictions put on them and who were very demanding.

1215 The review found that there was no attempt by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit to hide any information and its case records are in excellent condition and set out very clearly the action and inaction of the congregation to allegations of abuse.

However, the report noted an absence of detailed narrative accounts of recent contacts with survivors and recommends that all contact with survivors be recorded.

Cases
The report said the case files make very sad reading with evidence that there were serial abusers who worked in school communities in Ireland.

The review says they went undetected and unchecked giving them unmonitored access to children during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

It says it is clear there was no awareness of the impact of child sexual abuse on the part of the congregation's leadership during that time and there was a failure in these instances to create a safe environments for children.

Father A
The report says that the prolific abuser abused 28 children between 1968 and 1993. He was not removed from ministry until 1996.

The records suggest that there may have been other children abused in the US and in Ireland who have not yet come forward. Father A is now dead.

Father B
Another prolific abuser, Father B "had an abusive career which is known to have lasted 13 years". Concerns were raised but he continued in ministry and abused children for a further ten years. He was removed from ministry in April 1995.

The report says this priest has recently been brought under the management of the monitoring panel.

However, as recently as November 2011, he appears to have had a public profile by participating in an internet forum. The review team said they would hold grave concern with regard to his involvement in this activity.

Father C
The report says that Father C was until recently and unknown to the Provincial Leadership team, carrying out ministry elsewhere on a temporary basis.

The report says this raises two issues - one relating to the effectiveness of the monitoring arrangements within the congregation.

The second issue concerns the practice of asking all visiting priests to produce a current 'celebret' prior to being engaged in public ministry. This priest was not in possession of a celebret.

1158 A total of 47 allegations were made against religious belonging to the Congregation of the Holy Spirit since 1 January, 1975, to the date of the review.

Some 142 allegations involving religious members of the congregation were reported to gardaí and the health authorities since 1975.

Three have been convicted of an offence or offences against a child or young person since 1975. Of those against whom an allegation was made, none are retired.

The review found that the records of individual case files would indicate that some allegations of child abuse brought to the congregation were reported to gardaí from 1994 onwards.

However, allegations notified to the congregation before that date had not been passed onto gardaí or the health authority for a significant number of years.

Some allegations, post the requirement to report following the publication of the Church's Framework Document in 1996, were not reported to the civil authorities for up to four years after the congregation was informed.

All allegations have now been reported to the gardaí and the HSE.

In 1994, a new Provincial took up post, who had greater awareness of child abuse than those who went before him.

There is written evidence in the files that he removed men from ministry who were thought to have caused harm to children and from contact with children.

However, previous Provincials maintained men in ministry after being informed of abuse. The review says it is distressing to report that some of the men went on to abuse again.

In some cases it says that priests or brothers were moved out of the country or to other ministries where they continued to abuse children.

The report says in some cases this abuse could have been prevented, if the congregation had responded to the information that was available at the time regarding risk to children.

The review says it is possible there are other victims who have not yet come forward. It recommends that the Provincial Leadership team invite people who have not yet disclosed their abuse to come forward.

They should be offered counselling and support.

1150 "I unreservedly apologise to all who were abused by members of our Society." - Provincial of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Fr Joseph McGee.

"We express our deep and sincere sorrow to all those who did not receive a proper response from us after they had shown the courage to report abuse or to express concerns about the possibility of abuse occurring.

"It is abundantly clear that we failed in our attempts to reach out to many people who reported allegations to us."

1140 Figures given by Limerick Diocese this morning, however, show that 45 allegations were received by them against 26 priests in total.

Diocesan authorities said the difference arises as eight of the priests either retired to the diocese or temporarily worked or visited there.

All allegations were passed to the gardaí and health authorities and all 26 files were given to the board for the review that took place in March.

The review states that most of the allegations related to abuse in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, but some go back to the 1940s. The most recent allegation was made in 2012.

It further states that prior to the arrival of Bishop Donal Murray, the practice of dealing with allegations was very poor and in one case "potentially dangerous".

This particular case goes back to the early 1980s and involved a priest who came from England.

He was allowed to minister even though the bishop at the time apparently had knowledge of the priest's abusive behaviour.

The review found that the diocese has fulfilled 44 of the 48 national criteria for safeguarding children, and the other four have been partially met.

1132 Speaking in Loughrea this morning, Bishop of Clonfert John Kirby said there were no guidelines in place when he moved the two priests and he had not considered his position.

If it were today, he said he would be gone in the morning.

1120 The review of the Limerick Diocese found that allegations were made against 18 priests since 1975.

Gardaí and the health authorities dealt with between 34 and 41 allegations, the majority of which were passed to them by the diocese.

Of the priests against whom allegations were made, 12 are still alive and five were put out of ministry by diocesan authorities, even though criminal investigations never led to any prosecutions.

Four others are retired and three remain in ministry.

1119 The Bishop of Clonfert has personally apologised for moving two priests to different parishes in the 1990s, after they sexually abused young people in the diocese.

Bishop John Kirby said this was a grave mistake and one that he profoundly regrets.

He said he would act very differently now and in the future.

1116 The four-person team carried out the audit in Cork and Ross over a three-day period last March. The diocese includes 68 parishes, including Cork city and several islands.

The team reviewed all records of all 18 living priests in the diocese against whom an allegation has been made since 1975.

It also checked the files of five priests from the UK, who have retired into the Cork area, and some case files relating to deceased priests.

Welcoming the findings of the report, Bishop John Buckley said the review would be a source of assurance to the people of the diocese and a confirmation that it is taking its obligations in relation to child protection very seriously.

1112 The report on Cork and Ross, which runs to 29 pages, voices concern about the effect of unfounded allegations on priests, and the need for better information on any allegations or convictions held by priests retiring in Ireland from overseas.

In particular, it noted that information on three priests, who retired to the diocese from the UK and who had convictions of abuse against them, was "not as forthcoming as it should have been from their home dioceses", which resulted in a lack of awareness of potential risk.

The writers said this underscores the need for all priests "in good standing" to have a celebret or "licence to minister".

The audit into child protection procedures in the diocese revealed 50 allegations against 26 priests were made to gardaí since 1975.

Four priests were convicted of committing an offence in that time, while some 15 priests who were accused of child abuse, have left the priesthood, or are out of ministry. Three had returned to active ministry.

1105 The review of the Diocese of Cork & Ross has found that it fully met 42 of the 47 criteria.

It has made seven recommendations to copper-fasten existing diocesan policy.

These recommendations include:

- Setting a timescale for resolving complaints
- Developing an action plan on the steps being taken to keep children safe
- Annually reviewing the dioceses' safeguarding training strategy
- Reviewing policy, if necessary, in light of new guidelines issued last year
- Bishop John Buckley should issue a pastoral letter inviting victims of clerical child abuse to come forward

1100 The audits on the first six Catholic dioceses published last November dealt with 164 allegations of child abuse made against 85 priests.

At the time, the board's chief executive, Ian Elliott, said the picture being presented by those dioceses was an improving one.

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