Belfast Telegraph

Bishop Seamus Hegarty apologises for handling of child sex abuse allegations

For 29 years he was bishop of two dioceses where 37 priests were accused of sex abuse... and only now he apologises

By Donna Deeney and Brendan McDaid

A former bishop has apologised for the way the Catholic Church in Derry and Raphoe handled allegations of child sex abuse against priests.

Bishop Seamus Hegarty, who resigned last month, was criticised for moving priests accused of abuse out of their areas.

Last night he said he was “deeply sorry that anyone was hurt through my management of allegations”.

It comes as the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church published reviews yesterday of six dioceses across Ireland.

In further damning indictments of the Church's mishandling of abuse, the reviews revealed that three bishops and two archbishops, three of whom are dead, seriously misjudged how to deal with allegations from 1975.

The NBSCCC audit also found:

  • No priest in Derry was convicted of child abuse over the past 36 years, despite dozens of allegations and a number of out-of-court settlements;
  • Priests in Donegal still express reluctance to undergo Garda security clearance;
  • Just one priest has been convicted of clerical sex abuse in Ardagh and Clonmacnois over the last 35 years;
  • In Dromore, 35 allegations have been reported against 10 priests over a 36-year period;
  • Serious harm was done to children by “a few priests” in the archdiocese of Tuam;
  • All seven allegations in Kilmore were reported to gardai and health board officials, but three of the clergy had died.

The current Bishop of Raphoe, Philip Boyce, his predecessors Bishop Hegarty and the late Anthony McFeely were more concerned about the welfare of a suspect priest than victims, the report found.

Abusive priests were also moved from parish to parish under the watches of Bishop Hegarty and Bishop Edward Daly in Derry, the report said.

Both Bishop Boyce and Monsignor Eamon Martin (below), acting head in Derry, said they would not stand in the way of statutory investigations on either side of the border.

Bishop Hegarty took over the reins of the Raphoe diocese in 1982 and was bishop there for 12 years before being made Bishop of Derry in 1994. Last night, he issued an apology.

“The Derry Report indicates that the police and Social Services have full confidence in the current management of allegations in the diocese of Derry,” he said.

“However, both the Derry and the Raphoe Reports indicate deficits in the management of allegations historically, including during my time as bishop.

“These deficits cannot be undone and I am sorry that this is the case.”

Bishop Hegarty said he now realised that “my practice in the past was sometimes poor”.

“I am deeply sorry that anyone was hurt through my management of allegations historically,” he added.

Background

The audit of abuse in the Irish Catholic Church was written by Ian Elliot, chief executive of the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church. His six separate diocesan audits examined clerical abuse allegations from 1975. The Board was established in 2006 to develop policies that would foster the prevention of child abuse in the Church.

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