A former bishop failed to prevent clerical sex abuse and did not remove suspected paedophile priests from the ministry, a damning new watchdog report has said.
The Irish National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) report published yesterday said there was “an unacceptable delay” in taking action against one priest.
It said Bishop Joseph Duffy’s delay came despite concerns being raised of “a credible allegation” in the Clogher diocese, which includes parts of Tyrone, Fermanagh, Cavan, Donegal and Louth.
The review said that 13 priests in the diocese faced allegations, one of whom is classified as either “in ministry or retired”, and two have been convicted.
In another case, a priest in the diocese was suspected of multiple incidents of abuse, but he was not removed, was transferred to another parish and eventually was sent overseas for therapeutic help.
He remained outside the jurisdiction and was eventually extradited back to this country several years later, but died before he could be brought before the courts.
The report said the response to past abuse concerns was “often unsatisfactory and that risky behaviour was not addressed as strongly as it should have been”.
Bishop Duffy led the diocese for about 30 years until his retirement in 2010, when Bishop Liam McDaid took over the role.
The report is the latest in a number of damning investigations both within the Irish Catholic Church and by independent judges that have exposed decades of abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy. Dr Duffy said he accepted the criticisms contained in the report.
“This review is an important assessment of, and contribution to, maintaining a positive culture of safeguarding in the diocese,” he said.
“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.
“However, 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.”
Ian Elliot, head of the Catholic Church watchdog, said: “In a number of cases, allegations emerged against priests following their death making it impossible for any investigation to take place.
“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,” he added.
One priest in the diocese was known to have faced abuse allegations from a previous ministry, the report also found.