By Sarah Mac Donald - 05 May, 2016
The last tranche of safeguarding reviews by the National Board of religious orders in Ireland was released on Wednesday and revealed some “shocking” cases of mismanagement.
The audits covered thirty orders in total and 288 allegations against 90 priests, brothers or sisters which resulted in “just” 10 criminal convictions.
The allegations relate to the period between 1950 and 2002 with one incident as recent as 2013.
In its overview of the reviews, the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCCI) said, “One case stands out as being shocking and the NBSCCCI believes that considerable work needs to be undertaken by the Order to identify and support complainants and to acknowledge the serious damage caused by the priest in question.”
This is a reference to the case of Fr A, who was a member of the Society of Divine Saviour (Salvatorians) and passed away in 2009 after he was sentenced in 2007 to four years for eight counts of sexual and indecent assault of four young girls in Dublin, Limerick and Roscommon between 1965 and 1990.
“While this Order no longer ministers in Ireland, the large number of allegations and concerns about the management of this deceased priest, presents grave cause for concern and merits particular mention,” the NBSCCCI said.
The audit revealed that the Salvatorians failed to monitor Fr A from 2002 when one of his own relatives accused him of having abused her as a child, and 2004 when he underwent treatment for his behaviour and admitted the extent of his abuse.
During those two years, the prolific abuser was allowed to travel to Rome and serve as a hospital chaplain before he went on to Australia, the NBSCCCI review reveals. He also visited a Dublin parish where he had served before the Salvatorians withdrew him and sent him to Rome.
The provincial of the order never informed the then Archbishop of Dublin, Cardinal Desmond Connell, as to the reason they were taking the priest out of ministry, nor did they inform the Salvatorian motherhouse in Rome where the serial abuser was sent.
The audit states that “nobody in Rome had been made aware that there were child protection concerns about Fr A, he was not supervised in any way while he worked in Rome.”
To date the congregation has not received any allegations relating to Fr A’s time spent in Rome as an archivist and hospital chaplain.
Speaking to RTE’s News at One, Teresa Devlin, NBSCCCI CEO, said the case “stands out as being horrific, shocking.”
She added that it seemed as if “the priest was allowed to go about his business with impunity without restrictions” despite the order’s knowledge in 2002 that he was abusing children.
Even though the Murphy Report into clerical abuse in the Dublin diocese was coming down the track, the Salvatorians allowed the priest to be unsupervised in Rome and Australia where he travelled before he returned to the UK in 2004 for treatment.
The audit also highlighted that there was no information on file about the whereabouts or activities of Fr A between the time that the Salvatorian Provincial wrote to Cardinal Connell about withdrawing him from parish ministry, though not telling him why, and when he arrived in Rome sometime early in 2003.
Fr A visited his former Dublin parish at least once, the audit states, during this time and came to the attention of Gardaí when he visited a family elsewhere in Ireland over an allegation made against him by a child in the family.
In 2004, he admitted to a counsellor in Britain to having sexually abused over one hundred children between the ages of six and nine in Ireland, most of them girls. However, just nine names are known to the Salvatorians.
In January 2008, the Provincial commissioned an independent case review of the congregation’s handling of the Fr A case.
The reviewer criticised the lack of appropriate safeguarding structures; and said existing church guidance was not followed and not known by members; recording and reporting was poor; communications were poor; there was a confusion of roles; and the seniority of Fr A seemed to impede clear thinking by the congregational leadership.
The Key Findings of this series of 30 reviews were:
|Numbers of Priests/Brothers||Numbers of allegations, suspicions and concerns
(sexual, physical and emotional)
|Brothers of Charity||43||132||4|
|Hospitaller of St John of God||24||97||0|
|Society of St Paul||1||1||0|
|Daughters of the Cross of Liege||0||2||0|
The NBSCCCI said that due to poor record keeping by the Blessed Sacrament Fathers, it could not be clear about the number of allegations made against at least six members of the order.
132 allegations were made against 46 members of the Brothers of Charity. Four accused Brothers were convicted in the courts. 36 allegations had been made against lay people associated with the Brothers of Charity.
A total of 97 allegations, complaints and expressions of concern had been made against 24 St John of God Brothers, 95 of which were reported to the Gardaí.
Where the Marist Brothers were concerned a total of 39 allegations had been made against 15 members, three of whom were convicted in the courts.
One abuse allegation had been made against an Opus Dei priest and was reported to Gardaí. The DPP decided there wasn’t sufficient evidence to pursue the case which went back 40 years.
The following positive themes emerged:
The NBSCCCI has encouraged anyone who has suffered abuse to contact Towards Healing, the counselling and support service for survivors of clerical and religious congregations’ abuse at www.towardshealing.ie or Freephone 1800303416 (Republic of Ireland) Freephone 0800 0963315 (Northern Ireland) Monday to Thursday 11am — 8pm, Fridays 11am — 6pm.