Religious orders are still failing to respond adequately to victims of clerical child sex abuse, the latest tranche of monitoring reports reveals.
While practices have improved in terms of acting quickly on allegations of abuse and alerting the gardaí and health authorities, orders are subsequently running scared of complainants and cutting themselves off from contact with them.
“They miss that human bit,” said Teresa Devlin, chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) which yesterday published reviews of safeguarding practice in 18 orders and congregations.
“After they have notified the civil authorities, they should be writing and inviting those people to come and meet with them. Survivors can get angry and can get upset, but that’s what they have to put up with.”
The latest tranche of reports shows that many orders are still having to actively manage members against whom allegations have been made but where there has either been no criminal investigation — because the complaint relates to a time when the member was working overseas — or no conviction.
Ms Devlin said in cases where the complaints arose overseas and criminal proceedings did not follow, it was increasingly the norm for the accused to be returned to Ireland and housed under restrictions here.
In those cases, she said Church inquiries were critical in establishing if there was truth in the allegations, in assessing the level of risk associated with the accused and in managing that risk.
NBSCCC inspectors found some significant delays in such church inquiries taking place. In one case handled by of St Joseph’s Society for Foreign Missions, also known as the Mill Hill Missionaries, it took more than eight years for the canonical inquiry to get under way.
In another case, the society didn’t begin its own inquires for three years after the Garda investigation ended, and the complainant then died before a civil case was concluded. “The Society missed a vital opportunity post the conclusion of the Garda inquiries to pursue the Church inquiry,” inspectors said.
The NBSCCC reviewed the handling of the case of Mill Hill priest Fr Kevin Reynolds, who was wrongly accused of abuse in the infamous RTÉ Mission to Prey programme and who subsequently won a defamation case against the State broadcaster. The inspectors said they supported the decision to return Fr Reynolds to ministry.
Most of the orders reviewed have an aging membership, with average age usually in the 70s, but the reports show that some of the accused are still considered an offending risk.
The Pallottine Fathers are currently supervising a serial offender, identified as Fr A, who admitted sexual abuse of nine children more than 30 years. The inspectors reported: “It is recognised within the Pallottine safeguarding personnel that Fr A poses an active risk to children.”
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