Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Ex-bishop accepts mistakes after watchdog criticises poor judgement in dealing with paedophile priests

Bishop Joseph Duffy has been criticised for unsatisfactory responses to child abuse allegations and risky behaviour of priests
Bishop Joseph Duffy has been criticised for unsatisfactory responses to child abuse allegations and risky behaviour of priests

A retired Catholic bishop has admitted mistakes after a watchdog found opportunities to stop dangerous paedophile priests were consistently missed.

Joseph Duffy, who led the Diocese of Clogher on the border in Ireland for 31 years, conceded poor judgment among past hierarchy in dealing with clerical abuse allegations.

The damning review found one serial abuser had not been taken out of ministry but moved to a new parish and eventually sent overseas for therapy.

In a second case, auditors said it was unacceptable to allow a priest facing a credible abuse allegation to continue to minister.

"I accept the criticism in the review and regret that, in the past, the standard of managing some cases fell short of what is expected today," Bishop Duffy said.

The audit, by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, sparked renewed calls for an inquiry in Northern Ireland into child abuse to be expanded.

Watchdog chief Ian Elliott identified 23 allegations reported to gardai in the Republic and 22 to the health service against Clogher priests from 1975 to November last year.

His report found the response to complaints often unsatisfactory and that risky behaviour was not adequately addressed and preventative opportunities often missed, he said.

No past priests or bishops were named in the report, or information on their victims or the type of abuse they endured. Bishop Duffy was in charge from 1979.

The allegations in Clogher relate to 13 priests.

Seven of them are dead and one faced complaints from a previous ministry, the report also found.

A notorious priest, Francis Markey, allegedly began years of serial abuse when serving in Clogher. He died aged 84 in 2010 after being extradited from the United States to answer charges of raping a 15-year-old boy in 1968 during a religious pilgrimage to Lough Derg.

Bishop Patrick Mulligan was in charge of Clogher at the time.

Markey was reportedly put in the care of the Order of Paracletes in the 1980s, first in the UK and then the US.

Audits were ordered into every Catholic diocese - 10 of which have to be completed - on the back of a series of damning inquiries into clerical abuse in Ferns, Dublin, Clogher and church and state-run institutions.

About 150 religious orders also have to be inspected.

Mr Elliott branded the mishandling of abuse in Clogher "lost opportunities".

"From the cases examined (in Clogher) it was clear that opportunities for preventive interventions were consistently missed when concerns of abuse by clergy were highlighted in the past," he said.

"The impression formed by the reviewers of past practice was that the response to abuse concerns was often unsatisfactory and that risky behaviour was not addressed as strongly as it should have been."

The Clogher report was one of seven released today from the nationwide review to ensure bishops follow adequate child protection rules.

Bishop Duffy retired in 2010 on age grounds and was replaced by Bishop Liam McDaid, who was praised in the audit.

The former bishop claimed that he had spent many years improving the safety of children in Clogher's 37 parishes.

"I am satisfied that the review acknowledges the effective child safeguarding structures and practice that operate in the diocese and which I, along with clergy and laity, spent many years developing in each of the parishes throughout Clogher," Bishop Duffy said.

Mr Elliott said, however, that a line should be drawn between how the diocese used to do its business and the rules in place today.

The Diocese of Clogher straddles the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland and has 37 parishes with 73 priests across Monaghan, most of county Fermanagh, and parts of Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan. It also includes the Lough Derg pilgrimage site.

Elsewhere, in a report on the Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora the name of the former controversial bishop, Eamon Casey, cropped up for not removing a priest from ministry when an allegation was made.

The disgraced cleric fled Ireland to a mission in Ecuador in 1992 when it emerged he had a secret love-child with American woman Annie Murphy while he was Bishop of Kerry in 1974.

He returned to the west of Ireland from ministry in the UK in 2006 after he was notified by the church of an abuse allegation and later cleared.

Bishop Casey's successor, the late James McLoughlin, removed the accused priest from ministry in 1995. The priest has since died.

Separately, McLoughlin was criticised for not properly dealing with another complaint against one of his former clergy.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International Northern Ireland programme director, backed calls for a state inquiry.

"Church-approved reviews are no substitute for a proper, independent investigation into clerical child sex abuse throughout Northern Ireland," he said.

Current failings identified in Clogher were mainly administrative including a lack of a definition of a vulnerable adult in order to comply with Northern Ireland law.

The diocese was warned about the potential for confusion if child protection roles overlapped, for example reporting abuse and recording allegations.

The diocese was urged to improve training with a focus on ensuring the bishop and others have a better understanding of sex offending behaviour and the impact it can have on the victim.

There was also an issue with an over-reliance on verbal communication to inform the bishop about meetings with an advisory panel and loose leaf filing.

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