Belfast Telegraph

Bishops 'made error of judgment'

Three bishops made significant errors of judgment when allegations of child sexual abuse were made against priests, a Catholic Church watchdog has found.

As recently as 2009 a priest was appointed to a protection body in the Diocese of Raphoe by Bishop Philip Boyce even though he was uncomfortable examining lifelong friends.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) found the priest lacked confidence, was emotionally challenged by the job and had no formal child protection training. A lay person has since been appointed to the role.

The NBSCCC audit singled out Bishop Boyce, his predecessor Seamus Hegarty, who retired as Bishop of Derry earlier this month due to ill-health, and his predecessor, Bishop Anthony McFeely for mishandling complaints against clergy since the 1970s.

The three bishops were in charge of Raphoe during the time when Eugene Greene, one of the most notorious paedophile priests in Ireland, was abusing dozens of youngsters and being moved from parish to parish.

The NBSCCC found they were more concerned with the accused than the victim - a well-documented pattern in inquiries into clerical abuse in Ireland. The report said: "It is clear that significant errors of judgment were made by successive bishops when responding to child abuse allegations that emerged within this diocese.

"Too much emphasis was placed on the situation of the accused priest and too little on the needs of their complainants. Judgments were clouded, due to the presenting problem being, for example, alcohol abuse and an inability to hear the concerns about abuse of children, through that presenting problem."

Bishop Hegarty took over Raphoe from Bishop McFeely in 1982 and became Bishop of Derry in 1994. Bishop Boyce became Bishop of Raphoe in 1995.

Complaints have been made against 14 priests in the Raphoe diocese since 1975. All were still alive when the review was completed, while two more priests now living in the diocese have had allegations made against them relating to their time in ministry elsewhere.

Four have have been convicted and six still remain in the priesthood. The review found there were 52 complaints made to gardai and health authorities about priests based in the diocese.


From Belfast Telegraph