Belfast Telegraph

Watchdog warns orders over abuse

A Catholic Church watchdog has hit out at some religious orders in Ireland for being slow to enforce child protection measures.

In the latest series of probes launched after numerous paedophile scandals, it was found that some priests evaded new protocols to continue ministry despite admitting to abusing children.

Teresa Devlin, chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, commended church dioceses for improving protection but warned about a lack of progress in orders.

"For the religious congregations and missionary societies, progress appears slower," she said.

"There has been a sea change in that all are now conscious of their obligations around reporting, (but) unfortunately in two cases we saw that priests continued in ministry even though admissions were made and in another order cases against deceased brothers, former brothers and lay teachers were not always notified to the Gardai."

The latest reviews focused on the Archdiocese of Dublin, the Dioceses of Meath, Cloyne and Killaloe as well as the religious congregations the Presentation Brothers, the Patrician Brothers, Benedictine, Glenstal and the Missionary Societies of the Columban Missionaries and the Society of Divine Word.

It found that two priests in the Society of Divine Word, which sends missionaries around the world, were allowed to continue in their ministry despite having admitted to child sexual abuse.

It is understood both men were in ministry in Ireland for a time after perpetrating the abuse before they were removed.

Fr Patrick Byrne, provincial of the order, admitted they were slow to implement child protection measures.

"We unreservedly apologise to all who were abused by members of our Society, and express our deep and sincere sorrow to all those who have been hurt by any member of our Society," he said.

"There are allegations against six members. Of the six, one is deceased, four are out of ministry, two members deny the allegations being made against them, and one priest has served a prison sentence.

"All allegations received have been passed to the Gardai and the Health Service Executive (HSE), who have and will continue to have our full cooperation."

In another case, the Presentation Brothers was found not to have notified the authorities about abuse.

Brother Andrew Hickey, Province Leader of Presentation Brothers in Ireland, apologised on behalf of the order.

"During the fieldwork period of the review I noticed that an additional file which had been labelled 'physical abuse' - and was thus outside the terms of reference of the review - also contained references to sexual abuse against deceased brothers," he said.

"I immediately contacted the National Board and notified the Gardai and the HSE. I take responsibility for the error and apologise for this reporting failure."

He added: "I apologise sincerely today to those who have been abused by a brother regardless of how long ago that abuse took place."

The watchdog said some patterns in clerical sex abuse have emerged during their investigations.

Offences largely took place between 1940 and 2000 with some priests starting their abuse very quickly after ordination.

A number of the abusers were "charismatic" priests who were popular among people, the oversight body found.

A number of the paedophile priests had other addictive problems such as alcohol addiction.

Support group One in Four said the reports will bring some reassurance to survivors of clerical abuse that real progress has been made in child protection measures.

"However it is shocking to read how the Society of the Divine Word neglected crucial safeguarding protocols until 2013," said a dvocacy director Deirdre Kenny.

She added: ''It is very encouraging to see that appropriate procedures are now a very much part of the Church's work. However, as highlighted by the National Board for Safeguarding, it is imperative the church does not become complacent in relation to the protection of children. ''

Counselling service Towards Healing has extended its opening hours as a result of the publication of the reports.

The free confidential phone line can be contacted on 1800 303416 in the Irish Republic and on 0800 0963315 in Northern Ireland and Britain. Hearing impaired service users can text the service on 0858022859.


From Belfast Telegraph