The drip-feeding of disclosures needs to stop and a national inquiry launched, campaigners said tonight after another Irish bishop apologised for failing to deal properly with abuse allegations against a priest.
In the latest in a series of revelations about senior clergy inadequately handling complaints, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Dr William Lee admitted he waited two years before telling gardaí about claims from two people in the mid-1990s.
Dr Lee said he sincerely regretted his initial failure to remove the priest from all ministry and not informing other clerics the allegations had been made.
Irish Survivors of Child Abuse co-ordinator John Kelly welcomed the bishop’s two-page statement but questioned why he had not come forward sooner.
“I get the impression that the hierarchy in the church know the truth is going to have to come out at some stage,” he said.
“It’s in their own best interest to have a national inquiry to prove who is guilty and vindicate those who are innocent.
“Without that people will not have confidence.”
Campaigner Colm O’Gorman called for more details of the bishop’s handling of the claims.
“This may not be the full picture. It requires further examination and questioning,” he said.
“There was a bishop that received information and left that priest in ministry.
“This is a very grave and significant issue and a very grave failing.”
But Mr O’Gorman said simply singling out individual bishops for their shortcomings missed the point.
He said: “This is a systematic issue – it has been from day one.
“And now we’re learning of dioceses we’ve never heard of problems in before.”
Bishop Lee revealed he initiated a full reassessment of the accused priest’s case in 1995 after receiving guidance from the Bishops’ Advisory Committee on child sexual abuse.
“I sincerely apologise and am deeply sorry for the inadequacies of my earlier actions in this case,” he added.
The priest at the centre of allegations was not charged with criminal offences. Bishop Lee said two people who came forward first in 1993 declined to press charges and more people who made complaints in 1996 decided not to push for charges.
The Vatican has accepted two resignations – from former Bishop of Cloyne John Magee and former Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray – over the mishandling of child abuse scandals.
Three more are awaiting their fate: Bishop of Kildare James Moriarty and Dublin auxiliary bishops Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field.
Others, including Cardinal Sean Brady, have issued apologies.
John Kelly said resignations alone would not solve the problem.
“I think in themselves they can be counter-productive because it allows people not to be investigated or to not reveal the full extent of what they were involved in,” he said.
The whole truth has to come out and the only way we can do that is to have a national audit or tribunal.”