The fact that a dozen paedophile priests were active in Dublin in the 1970s has been described by the city’s Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin as a tragedy.
That child sex abuse took place to such an extent within the Church as it did historically was inexcusable, he said. But while immense progress is being made in Ireland to deal with the issues, Archbishop Martin said there was a very strange situation in which people did not seem to realise the dangers of allowing abusers move around.
“The statistics will tell us that the number of paedophiles in society always remains the same,” Archbishop Martin told RTÉ radio’s This Week programme.
“The more you make certain areas no-go zones for paedophiles, then they appear somewhere else and they could appear somewhere else in the Church as well.
“For me, the big tragedy is: Why was it that, in the 1970s, there were 12 serial paedophiles active in the Dublin diocese at the same time. Something happened in those years, I don’t know, we haven’t got the analysis of it.”
Archbishop Martin said the recent European Court of Human Rights judgment in the case of Louise O’Keeffe, abused as a child in 1973 by her primary school principal, stated that the prosecution of child sex abusers waned a little after the 1960s.
He agreed abusers had been moved because people believed it was right to protect the Church rather than the child, but added that it was sometimes to protect the offender.
“In one of my files that I went through, there’s a letter from the Department of Education asking a parish priest to appoint a teacher to his school after he being convicted in the courts of child abuse, saying he needs just one and a half years to get his pension,” said Archbishop Martin.
He said he has removed two priests from ministry who were abusing during his time as archbishop, a role he took up a decade ago, and the problems were discovered by the Church’s current systems.
He said all cases brought to Church authorities are reported to gardaí and the HSE, and reports are only sent to the Vatican after Garda investigations end.
Archbishop Martin added that the pace at which Catholic primary schools are being handed over to alternative patrons is too slow, and it could be another decade before the process is complete.
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