Archbishop ‘unable’ to tell child advocate of priest’s past

The Archbishop of Dublin has defended his decision not to tell a child-protection advocate that a priest in her parish was on restricted ministry due to allegations of child sex abuse.

The priest has now been removed from ministry after new information came to light about the abuse incidents. There are two complaints against the priest, given the pseudonym Fr Benito, in the Murphy Commission report. One refers to the alleged sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy in 1988. The second is an alleged rape of a 15-year-old girl. The DPP has, to date, decided not to prosecute in either case.

Following the allegations and under the advice of the Granada Institute which works with sex offenders, the priest had been placed on restricted ministry. That was under the condition he avoid informal relationships and friendships with young people and be supervised by an experienced priest for at least two years.

The child safeguarding representative in the parish only found out about the allegations after the priest was removed from ministry last month.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin yesterday confirmed that had happened after “new information about what happened 10 years ago made me read that in a way that it was not read 10 years ago by those who dealt with the question”.

He said the legal representatives of the priest concerned would only accede to the request for him to be moved out of the parish if the number of people to whom the information was provided was restricted.

“I made a decision that it was more important that the removal from active ministry would take place and that the sharing of the information would be limited for the moment,” he told the Today with Pat Kenny show on RTÉ radio.

Archbishop Martin said: “I agree it should have been possible to have this information shared and I agree particularly that had she known this information she would have been able to carry out her work more effectively.

“But there were specific matters involved in this case which made that difficult. My attempts to do that — and attempts were made on a number of occasions — were constantly stymied.

“A child protection officer in a parish, a volunteer, a person dedicating their time, who was very committed and is very committed, was not in possession of information. That is something that I really regret. It is a classic example of the lacunas which exist in our current legislation.”

He said one of the difficulties was that there was restrictions on the information he could share about people where there has been no conviction or charge, and where “there is not a current, urgent risk to children”.

“The difficulties about making any statements and communicating information are becoming greater, strangely, than they were in the past,” he said. “This is because of a greater awareness among people of data protection legislation and their rights.”

He confirmed information in relation to Fr Benito will be shared with gardaí “as it evolves”.

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