The watchdog charged with safeguarding children in the Catholic Church received 242 new allegations last year, including one of alleged abuse.
Launching its annual report, the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland yesterday said two of the allegations dated since 2000, but the vast majority dated from the 1960s to the 1980s.
The number of new allegations last year was a slight increase on the number for 2011, and comes as the watchdog continues its review of Irish dioceses.
Reviews of 10 dioceses and three religious orders have already indicated 723 allegations involving some 320 priests, leading to 26 prosecutions.
Currently 21 dioceses have been reviewed with more to come. The reviews should be completed by year end, with progress expected on reviews of the remaining congregations and missionary unions by the end of next year.
According to the report, “During 2012–13, an increasing number of survivors reported their abuse directly to the National Office”, but the body’s CEO, Ian Elliott, said it was not yet at the stage where children were themselves contacting the board.
All the notifications of alleged abuse — some of which date back to the 1940s — were passed to the gardaí/PSNI and where appropriate to the Health and Social Care Northern Ireland/HSE, although in some cases the board was contacted after the statutory authorities.
Mr Elliott said the more recent allegations, including the one from last year, highlighted the need for continuing vigilance. “It is not just a case of mopping up past abuse,” he said.
In the previous annual report, the board said Church authorities faced a challenge when neither the criminal nor social services agencies follow through on investigating the allegation that has been passed to them.
In the latest report, the board said: “This continues to present a significant challenge.”
The report also shows there were 113 requests for advice last year. Some 52 came from the dioceses and 61 requests were made by 35 religious congregations or missionary societies.
Mr Elliott said the National Case Management Reference Group (NCMRG) — an initiative originally intended to provide advice and support to a limited group of dioceses and religious — was now expanding, with 15 of the 26 dioceses involved.
According to the report: “Between Jan 2012 and the end of Mar 2013, the NCMRG reviewed 67 cases belonging to 12 dioceses and 20 orders/missionary societies.”
“We have identified and accepted the task of undertaking another eight safeguarding reviews in the next tranche. When these are completed, we will have finished 22 of the 26 dioceses, along with seven of the major religious orders,” Mr Elliott said.
He said the Catholic Church was “vast and disparate” but said he had “no reason to believe” the work of the safeguarding team would be blocked by anybody in future.
Since May 1, Church authorities have adopted new guidelines originally drafted by the board on the way in which allegations are responded to, relating to the issue of the accused continuing in ministry.
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