Church's child abuse watchdog details protection policies

Ian Elliot, the head of the Catholic Church's own watchdog on child protection measures, has detailed the policies now in place to prevent child abuse.

Church's child abuse watchdog details protection policies

Ian Elliot, the head of the Catholic Church's own watchdog on child protection measures, has detailed the policies now in place to prevent child abuse.

It is part of a nationwide review of each diocese and Religious Order in the wake of a series of damning state inquiries into the extent of paedophilia in the clergy and subsequent cover-ups.

Here are some of the main findings from the audit reports on each diocese and congregation.

Cork and Ross

The audit stated that allegations have been made against 26 priests in the diocese since 1975, and eight of the clerics have died.

Three priests - including two with convictions for paedophilia - have been laicised, five are out of ministry or on restricted duties, seven retired and another three returned to ministry after complaints were investigated.

Some 50 complaints of child abuse were received by gardaí and 51 by health authorities, the report said.

The audit identified another priest who had allegations against him from his time holidaying in Cork and his order has been notified. Concerns were raised about a lack of support from his diocesan bosses in Britain.

A special diocesan panel has not had to examine any new allegations about priests since 2011, the audit said.

In Cork and Ross, Bishop Donal Buckley has been told to ensure that the diocese reviews and, if necessary, revises its safeguarding children policy document.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) audit found that the advice was written in 2009, two years before the Diocesan Child Protection Committee had sight of two important national documents, Children First, and the HSE Child Protection and Welfare Practice Handbook.

Another issue it flagged up was that the diocese does not set out timeframes for resolving child abuse complaints.


Some 500 priests have ministered in the diocese since the 1940s and since 1975 complaints were made against 26 priests, 18 of whom were priests of the diocese.

The diocese has been without a bishop since Donal Murray resigned in 2009, a fortnight after the Murphy inquiry revealed his failure to investigate complaints against a paedophile priest in the Dublin Archdiocese and branded his mishandling inexcusable.

The inquiry praised Bishop Murray, who still holds his title, for putting in place robust safeguards and prompt responses to allegations in Limerick. It also noted a vacuum in the diocese since his departure and no replacement has been appointed.

"It is very apparent that the continued absence of a bishop in the diocese is not helpful either to the clergy or to the people of the diocese," Mr Elliot said.

Mr Elliot noted that church personnel are both fearful and determined to ensure the highest child protection standards.

He said two priests involved in child protection felt the loss of the bishop, the scandals of recent years and constant negative media attention had contributed to a lack of confidence in ensuring child safety.

The audit stated that allegations have been made against 26 priests in the diocese, and 14 of them have died.

Eight priests who faced allegations are out of ministry or left the priesthood, but no clerics have been convicted of an offence since 1975.

Some 34 complaints of child abuse were received by gardaí and 41 by health authorities, the report said.

Overall, Limerick was found to have met 44 of the 48 criteria for safeguarding children in the church.

Kildare and Leighlin

Allegations were made against 10 priests, eight of whom are dead while the other two left the priesthood or are out of ministry, the report said.

It also noted that 18 complaints had been made to gardaí and health authorities but that the diocese has dealt with just one allegation against a serving priest in the last ten years.

Kildare and Leighlin is home to five priests who faced allegations from past ministry, the audit said.

The audit went on to warn that the work of the Designated Person – a priest appointed to deal with child welfare – was not centrally co-ordinated which created a disconnect. The cleric was, however, credited for being conscientious and effective.

Similar to Cork and Ross, Mr Elliot raised the issue of a priest suspended from a UK diocese over child safety and who ended up living in the area.

He urged greater clarity and certainty about management and supervision of the priest between the two dioceses.

The audit also warned that canonical actions and inquiries against abuser priests were not sufficiently well progressed but improvements have been noted.

It also found anti-bullying and discrimination guidelines not in force at diocesan level but was confident this will be addressed.


On the back of Bishop John Kirby’s apology, the audit revealed the senior churchman had immediately confronted priest “A”, who had five allegations against him between 1990 and 1997.

The priest was reported to the Western Health Board and referred him for therapy before he was later jailed, removed from ministry and laicised at his own request.

Elsewhere, two separate allegations were made against priest “B”, the most recent in 2004.

He was subject to ongoing supervision on a different jurisdiction until he died in the last year.

Meanwhile, a complaint against a third cleric was raised by the HSE, but as there was no identified complainant the bishop did not remove him from ministry.

Bishop Kirby has apologised for his lack of understanding about the sinister and recidivist nature of the child abuser and the lifelong damage that the destructive behaviour has on victims.

The NBSCCC said Bishop Kirby should divest himself of the responsibility for dealing with allegations alone by ensuring that all new allegations are referred to the Designated Persons for them to notify the statutory authorities, respond to complainants and put in place any risk management plans for respondents.

The audit found three priests had allegations of abuse against them before they were transferred from religious orders in to the small diocese, which covers east Galway and parts of Roscommon and Offaly.

Nine complaints in total were made to gardaí and nine to health chiefs during the 36 years between 1975 and June 2011.

One cleric has been convicted, one is still alive, two have died and two are out of ministry or left the priesthood.

The review examined allegations against three living clergy and a fourth member of a religious order who provided three weeks holiday cover in 1981 in a parish.

Complaints were also made against three other member of orders who lived in the area but did not serve there.

The Congregation of the Holy Spirit, formerly the Holy Ghost Fathers.

Serious issues have been raised with the Order whose former leaders could have prevented abuse.

The order, which ran eight schools in Ireland, including the high profile Blackrock College, Muckross and St Mary’s in Dublin, did not pass on allegations to authorities prior to 1994.

“The case files make very sad reading. There is evidence that there were serial abusers who worked in school communities in Ireland,” the audit found.

“They went undetected and unchecked giving them unmonitored access to children during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. It is clear that there was no awareness of the impact of child sexual abuse on the part of the leadership of the congregation during that time.”

Some 142 complaints have been made since 1975, against 47 brothers, the audit disclosed.

Even after church rules called on the hierarchy to report allegations it took four years in some cases for the Order to comply.

Up until 1994, the Spiritans, as the order is known, maintained men in ministry despite allegations, some of whom went on to abuse again while others were moved overseas where they continued to abuse.

Some 44 faced allegations, eight of whom are dead.

Three have been convicted of abuse, three have left ministry and one who was accused has remained in ministry.

Mr Elliot noted that the order had received misleading advice and overly optimistic reports from psychologists and psychiatrists on the likelihood of reoffending. Some of the assessments were based on the priest’s own assurances.

It referred to two serial abuser priests – one, who is now dead, attacked 28 children between 1968 and 1993 but remained in ministry until 1996.

It is feared more victims of Spiritan fathers live in the United States, Canada, Sierra Leone and Ireland.

The second abused over a 13 year period – ten of which followed concerns first being raised. He was eventually removed from ministry in 1995 and despite being monitored he had some sort of public profile by taking part in an internet forum.

A third priest was found to have been carrying out duties without a celebret, or licence.

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