The allegations relate to a mix of physical, sexual and emotional abuse by priests and members of religious orders and missionary societies across the country’s 26 dioceses. While all were historical – coming from adults who were recounting childhood suffering in some cases as far back as 60 years ago – none of them had been reported before despite the massive publicity around the subject in recent years. Ian Elliot, chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, (NBSCCC) which published its second annual report yesterday, said it was possible the publication in the past year of the Murphy and Ryan reports on abuse by religious may have prompted people to come forward who had previously stayed silent.
He said he had no idea if this was an indication of the level of unreported allegations that were likely to surface in future years.
“We don’t know if this is a high level [of allegations] as this kind of information was not comprehensively and consistently gathered within the Church previously. We are not going to be able to answer that question until we issue our third annual report this time next year.” The 197 fresh allegations represent 197 separate alleged abusers – 87 diocesan priests and 110 members of religious congregations and missionary societies – some of whom were already the subject of earlier allegations by other complainants. Since the alleged incidents, 83 of the 197 had died and Mr Elliot said the majority of the 114 still living were no longer in active ministry as they had been laicised, dismissed or retired while a small number were in some form of limited ministry.
He said the Church authorities had been asked to explain their decisions when individuals were allowed continue in limited ministry and had satisfied the board that their actions were justified.
“In each of these cases, the allegation that caused the removal from full ministry has not been confirmed through any civil or canonical court process.” In all cases, he said the complaints had been reported to the gardaí or PSNI in the jurisdictions where the alleged incidents took place.
* Connect, the National Adults’ Counselling Service, has encouraged anyone in need of support following the report’s publication to contact them free of charge on 1800 477 477.