A senior priest, who later admitted to abusing 100 children, was allowed unfettered access to minors for two years in the 2000s despite allegations against him.
The revelation emerged in the latest and last batch of reports published by the NBSCCCI (National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland) as part of its audit of child protection in dioceses and religious orders.
The NBSCCCI report noted that “the seniority of Fr A seemed to impede clear thinking by the congregational leadership” and, as a result, the allegations were not believed. Clear church guidelines on how to deal with sexual abuse allegations had been put in place in 1996.
The report revealed that Father A, a Salvatorian or member of the Society of the Divine Saviour, would befriend the family of girls aged 6 to 9 and abuse the children in their home. He served as a priest in Dublin, the UK, Rome and Australia from the time of his ordination in the 1950s until his death seven years ago.
“Fr. A is still esteemed by some members of his congregation for his work and personal piety, and they seem to be able to separate this out from his admitted behaviour as an abuser of small children. This ability to dissociate — or split off — is a source of genuine concern to the NBSCCCI,” its report said.
Father A worked as a teacher and a seminary lecturer in the UK, a member of the General Council of the Order in Rome, a parish priest in Australian and Dublin parishes, and as a congregational archivist and hospital chaplain in Rome.
The first allegation against him was made at an unknown date in 2002 when a female relative reported he abused her as a child. As a result, he was taken from his parish in Dublin by the order and it was recommended by an expert he not have access to children. However his provincial or boss did not tell the Archbishop of Dublin, the health board or gardaí about the abuse allegation. He sent the priest to Rome in early 2003 but no information is available to reveal where Father A was in the period between the allegation and going to Rome.
Neither is there a record of restrictions on him saying mass or having access to children. Nobody in Rome was told of the allegations so, again, there was no supervision of him when he worked as a hospital chaplain. He returned to Dublin in 2004 on holiday and, again, was allowed to travel without restriction by the order.
Father A was referred to a residential assessment unit in the UK in August 2004 and it was there when he admitted to having sexually abused over 100 children.
He was convicted of child sexual abuse in December 2007. The case related to his abuse of ‘several girls’ over a 25-year period.
The NBSCCCI audits shows that out of 30 orders reviewed, 288 allegations of sexual abuse were made against 90 priests, brothers or sisters. Just 10 criminal convictions resulted from these complaints. The allegations related to 1950-2002 with one incident in 2013.
“The vast majority of these reports are positive and reflect orders that have taken on the goals of child safeguarding and made it integral to what they do,” said Teresa Devlin, CEO, NBSCCCI. “Unfortunately, in two cases, the Salvatorians and the Blessed Sacrament Fathers, we have seen little evidence that the standards have been properly implemented. The Salvatorians were particularly poor in relation to the monitoring of an accused priest. And in a number of cases poor record-keeping took place.”
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