There have been allegations of child sexual abuse made against 19 priests in the Catholic Archdiocese of Tuam, it was revealed today.
Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary confirmed allegations have been made against 19 priests, of whom six are now deceased, with the earliest allegation dating back to 1940.
Days after the shocking Ferns Inquiry into clerical child sex abuse was released, Archbishop Neary said no priest was currently in ministry who is the subject of an investigation involving child sexual abuse or about whom there has been reasonable suspicion it may have occurred.
“In keeping with my record as Archbishop, and as an expression of my determination to protect children, I welcome, without hesitation, the suggested State audit into the Church’s handling of complaints of this nature,” he said, in his homily at the Cathedral in Tuam.
“The Garda Síochana and the health authorities will continue to be made aware of all allegations received in this diocese.”
Allegations were also made against seven priests from other dioceses, one of whom is deceased, who held appointments or did occasional ministry in the Archdiocese of Tuam.
Eight priests have stood aside from ministry following a reasonable suspicion that child sexual abuse may have occurred.
Criminal charges in relation to child sexual abuse were taken against four priests and three priests were convicted of charges relating to abuse of children.
The Archdiocese revealed eight civil actions involving child sexual abuse had been brought, seven of which were settled involving compensation payments amounting to €327,000, and around €170,000 in legal fees.
“In relation to the Diocese of Tuam, I feel that it is important for me to assure you of the following - the procedures that are in place in our diocese to protect children are of a very high standard,” Archbishop Neary said.
Archbishop Neary said he had commissioned the independent review of the quality of the responses to all complaints and allegations of sexual abuse in the diocese in 2004.
The review, which went back to 1940, was carried out by Dr Kevin McCoy who is an independent social care consultant and was formerly the Chief Inspector of Social Services Inspectorate in the North.
The Archbishop said the publication of the Ferns Report on Tuesday last was an important milestone in the evolution of child protection.
The two-year long Ferns Inquiry, which was released earlier this week, uncovered one of the highest concentrations of child sex abuse anywhere in the world in parishes in Wexford.
He said: “I would like to apologise again to all those people, and their families, who have suffered lasting hurt through abuse by priests. As priests they should have been protecting and nurturing the talents of these young people. The betrayal of trust is horrendous. Today the Church is ashamed of its past failings regarding child protection.”
Archbishop Neary also said he had an extra challenge to deal with during the week when he asked a priest of the diocese to stand aside.
“I requested a priest of the diocese to stand aside from his ministry pending the outcome of investigations,” the Archbishop said.
The Archbishop said he first became aware a priest of the diocese of Tuam was subject to an allegation of criminal misconduct towards an adult and that it was under investigation by gardaí in the late summer.
Archbishop Neary said following consultation with sources, including the gardai, he was satisfied a public safety issue did not exist.
“Therefore I did not request the priest to stand aside,” he said.
Archbishop Neary said following a newspaper article mentioning the garda investigation into the allegations by a woman of rape it became apparent all serving priests of the diocese could come under suspicion.
“I therefore made this difficult decision in the interests of fairness for those immediately involved in the investigation and all who were potentially affected through the newspaper report. I believe that this decision was also in the best interests of the Parish concerned,” he said.
“It is again important to emphasise that what is being investigated is an allegation which has not been established as either true or false.”