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NBSCCCI highly critical of Divine Word Missionaries

By Sarah Mac Donald - 13 May, 2014

Bishop William Crean of Cloyne. Photo: Radio Kerry.

Bishop William Crean of Cloyne. Photo: Radio Kerry.

“The diocese has come a long way but the work goes on to ensure best practice in safeguarding every child in Cloyne,” Bishop William Crean said in response to the findings of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church’s audit of his diocese.

Launching the review findings on Monday, the Bishop said the diocese of Cloyne was in the process of adopting a whistleblowing policy as recommended by the review.

The audit said progress had been made over the past three years.

The period covered by the NBSCCCI only went back as far as 2008, when the diocese was the subject of a report on child sexual abuse by the HSE.

Its audit found that the diocese had put children at risk of harm through an “inability” to respond appropriately to abuse allegations concerning two priest abusers and that it “had taken a fairly minimalistic role in terms of sharing information with the Board”. The findings led to Bishop John Magee’s resignation.

“Vigilance must be our watchword and, in an ever-changing world, we continue to review our protocols, standards and procedures so that if there are any suspicions, concerns or allegations of abuse they are dealt with expeditiously and correctly,” Bishop Crean said.

Of the four dioceses audited, Dublin and Cloyne, have been the subject of national inquiries.

The fifth tranche of safeguarding reviews of Catholic dioceses and religious orders showed progress in Dublin, Cloyne and Killaloe and praised Meath but found a slowness among religious congregations to report with allegations to the Gardaí and HSE.

The audits cover the Presentation Brothers, the Patrician Brothers, the Benedictine Glenstal Abbey and the Missionary Societies of the Columban Missionaries and the Society of Divine Word.

The fifth tranche brings the total of Catholic Church institutions reviewed to date to 37; 26 dioceses and 11 religious congregations.

Archdiocese of Dublin:

The NBSCCCI review of the archdiocese of Dublin, the country’s largest diocese, said it had met or partially met all criteria by the NBSCCCI Safeguarding practice.

The reviewers praised Dublin’s “rational, comprehensive and integrated child safeguarding system it has developed”.

It highlighted that as recently as April 2012, Dublin’s CSPS received a credible complaint regarding a Dublin priest who was immediately removed from ministry.

Subsequently, a second complaint was made directly to An Garda Síochána, who carried out an investigation leading to the conviction of the priest. He was sentenced to seven years in prison in March 2014 for the abuse of a minor.

The review found that the management of this case by the archdiocese was very good, and all necessary safeguarding tasks were properly completed.

According to the reviewers, “What is worrying about this case is how recently the abuse was perpetrated, which highlights that vigorous child safeguarding continues to be essential and that the Catholic Church in Ireland needs to remain vigilant in this regard.”

The review also recommended that Archbishop Martin direct his diocesan child protection service to develop and publish guidance on the appropriate use of information technology (such as mobile phones, email, digital cameras, websites, the Internet) to make sure that children are not put in danger and exposed to abuse and exploitation.

The review also recommended that the Archbishop initiate a diocesan-wide consultation with the priests and parishes to produce child safeguarding materials in languages other than English.

The number of Dublin diocesan priests against whom allegations of abuse have been made since 1 January 1975 up to the 31 December 2013 was 101 while the total number of allegations against priests received by the diocese since 1st January 1975 was 432.

Of these, 418 allegations against Dublin diocese priests were reported to the Gardaí and 256 were reported to the HSE/relevant Health Board.

The National Board’s audit of Dublin also revealed that the costs to date to the Archdiocese of Dublin in the settlement of claims relating to child sexual abuse by priests is currently €20.4 million, of which €14 million was paid in settlements and €6.4 million was paid in legal costs for both sides.

The review covered cases not included by the Murphy Commission and any cases examined by the Commission for which new information emerged from May 2004 up to the period of the review in January this year.

The reviewers examined the files of 40 priests of the archdiocese about whom child safeguarding concerns have arisen since 01/05/2004, 11 of whom had also been earlier considered by the Dublin Commission in respect of pre 1 May 2004.

The audit also showed that in the past 12 months almost 6,000 people were Garda vetted through the Archdiocese. This includes bishops, priests, parish and diocesan staff, support staff in schools and agency workers.

The total number of people vetted through the Diocesan system now stands at 38,000.

Among the six recommendations the National Board said the Diocese must look at was the need for regular feedback from parents and parishioners as to how safeguarding procedures operate in parishes.

Director of the Child Protection Service in Dublin, Andrew Fagan said one of the most important findings was that the child safeguarding structures in the Diocese are now found to be “sufficiently rooted and robust to survive the movement of personnel from their current positions in the archdiocese”.

He highlighted that this was an improvement on the position outlined in the Murphy Report in 2011, which referred to child protection structures being heavily dependent on just two people.

The Archdiocese of Dublin now also deploys Priest Advisers to support accused priests. The Priest Adviser is not engaged in supervising the priest to whom they are assigned; but they act as a friend and brother priest who supports them in their changed life circumstances.

The Archdiocese of Dublin had 15 priests acting in this capacity at the time of this review.

Recommendation six suggests that the archbishop directs CSPS to develop a system of Risk Management Planning, so that the Priest Support Coordinator would in future work in accordance with the tailored risk management plans that would be drawn up for each priest for whom he has supervisory responsibilities.

Teresa Devlin, CEO of the NBSCCCI.

Teresa Devlin, CEO of the NBSCCCI.

Overview – Key findings:

The NBSCCCI CEO, Teresa Devlin, said “All Dioceses are making very good progress in adhering to the Board’s Standard.” However, she said the progress by religious orders was slower.

In two cases, both in the same congregation, priests continued in ministry even though admissions of abuse were made.

In another order, cases against deceased brothers, former brothers and lay teachers were not always notified to the Gardaí, according to Teresa Devlin.

One of the trends to emerge was that some priests abused very quickly after ordination, which according to the NBSCCCI CEO raised questions about formation.

The reviews by NBSCCCI did not reiterate the findings of the National Commissions in Dublin and Cloyne, but reviewed practice since those reports and offered comment on cases not reviewed by those national inquiries.

Reporting to the civil authorities in relation to allegations against living priests/brothers is now very prompt but the delays in the past are acknowledged.

Management plans relating to accused priests and Brothers vary and monitoring needs to be improved, in terms of clarity review of restrictions and sharing of information

Support for complainants in some dioceses and orders is excellent, in others further improvements are required to ensure a systematic compassion response.

In comparison to the numbers of allegations, very few result in criminal investigation and fewer still result in criminal convictions

The offences largely took place between 1940-2000, with a decline in notified offending behaviour after 2000; however there is still a need for vigilance and constant oversight and prompt action as noted in the conviction of a priest who abused children up until 2011.

A number of the abusers were charismatic priests, who were popular among people. Some abusers had other addictive problems such as alcohol addiction.

Divine Word Missionaries (SVD):

Allegations were made against six members of the SVD. Of the six, one is deceased, one has served a prison sentence and four are out of ministry. Two deny the allegations made against them. Supervision arrangements and restrictions are in place for three men who currently live in accommodation belonging to the order.

The audit reviewers said they were “very concerned about the potential risks involving one member who has admitted to extensive abuse of children in mission countries over a 20 year period, but against whom there are no complaints or allegations.”

The reviewers said recent evidence indicated that the man abused children until he was returned to Ireland and that a bishop in one country in which he served had made it known to the order that he did not want him serving in his diocese. He was transferred to another country.

The reviewers were highly critical of the fact that no child safeguarding case management files existed in the SVD prior to 2013, describing that state of affairs as “of great concern” and indicating “a lack of any focus on child protection” within the order over the last 20 years.

It also highlighted that case files were constructed by the SVD in advance of the NBSCCCI review and so could only be traced back to the start of 2013.

“A lot of documentation was either never generated, or was removed or destroyed by parties unknown, or was kept in some file or files the existence of which has not yet been discovered,” the review said.

The reviewers said it was “ truly unfortunate and a great injustice that it is almost impossible to identify the victims of historical child sexual abuse who live in developing countries and whose abuse took place many years ago.

In a statement, SVD Provincial, Fr Pat Byrne, apologised to the victims of abuse and admitted, “We accept that we were slow to begin the process of implementing accepted and agreed Church Child safeguarding policies, procedures and practices.”

Columban Fathers:

The audit reviewed all the files relating to allegations made against 12 Columban priests, six of whom are deceased.

Of the remaining six, two currently reside outside the jurisdiction.

The vast majority of the allegations on file (24 in total) refer to P.M., who was a Columban priest from 1960 until his suspension from the Society in 2000.

He served as a priest in Ireland, Japan and the UK. He was reviewed by the Commission of Investigation into the Archdiocese of Dublin 2009 and he was also convicted in the UK in 1998.

The audit notes that P.M. is recorded as having admitted to abusing many more children/young people than are documented in the allegations made to date.

The case management records of the Columbans indicate that the timing of reporting of allegations by the Columbans to the civil authorities up to 2008 saw some significant delays. Of the 41 allegations made, 39 were reported to the Gardaí or PSNI.

One of the recommendations said the order must make it mandatory for all Columban missionaries returning to Ireland to undergo safeguarding awareness training.

Diocese of Meath:

In total, 11 priests in the diocese were accused of abuse and 23 allegations were made with one priest convicted. Seven priests who are now deceased had complaints examined, mostly relating to the 1940s-60s.

Of the four living priests, the audit highlighted that Fr A was convicted in 2012 of child sexual abuse against a total of 10 children in the 1960s and 1970s. The priest was sentenced to two years imprisonment and is due for release this year. Bishop Smith was praised for acting promptly in removing the priest.

The reviewers said the safeguarding children in Meath “is a responsibility taken with the utmost seriousness by diocesan personnel under the leadership and direction of Bishop Smith,” who they said had shown commitment and leadership.

Presentation Brothers:

The review revealed that 28 Presentation Brothers, 16 of whom were deceased at the time of the review, had 54 allegations of abuse made against them since 1975.

The most worrying finding was that the order had delayed in making information known to the civil authorities. Research turned up three new allegations which the civil authorities had never been notified about. Most of the allegations relate to abuse in schools.

The leader of the Presentation Brothers in Ireland, Bro Andrew Hickey said in a statement, “I take responsibility for the error and apologise for this reporting failure.”

Glenstal Abbey community:

The review found that 44 out of 48 safeguarding criteria were fully met in Glenstal Abbey, with the remaining 4 criteria partially met.

The review identified the co-existence of Glenstal’s boarding school on the same campus as a monastery, which houses 39 monks and a guest house which welcomes up to 14 adults at a time, as constituting the main child safeguarding challenge.

The number of Benedictine monks in Glenstal Abbey against whom allegations have been made since January 1975 is 6 and the total number of allegations is 10, and all allegations were reported to Gardaí and HSE. However, two monks against whom an allegation was made are still living in the community.

In general, the review said, the Benedictine Community had managed the concerns that have arisen well and there is no evidence that any child was placed at risk due to any inaction on the part of the various abbots involved.

Diocese of Killaloe:

The review looked at the files of 19 priests of Killaloe against whom 65 allegations of abuse were made and from which one conviction resulted.

Thirteen of the priests are now deceased, while two are still in ministry.

The reviewers said in the case of four priests, the diocese promptly removed them from ministry.

It was when Bishop Willie Walsh was at the helm that most victims came forward.

The most notorious abuser was ‘Father A’ against whom 26 known complaints are recorded and who died in 1997.

Bishop Kieran O’Reilly said that while the audit of his diocese was “complementary yet it still is a work in progress. Care, vigilance and monitoring are our approach to all aspects of child safeguarding – involving continual monitoring of all protocols and procedures ensuring that best practice is followed at all times.”

Patrician Brothers:

None of the 15 members of the Patrician Brothers accused of 22 incidents of abuse has been convicted the NBSCCCI review showed.

Most of these allegations referred to the period between the 1950s and 1980s. Of the 15 brothers subject of allegations, nine are deceased and five have left the congregation, while one brother remains in the congregation.

The reviewers recommended that the order develop a complaints process for adults and children in relation to unacceptable behaviour towards children.

Towards Healing:

Towards Healing has extended its opening hours in response to the publication of nine reviews by the National Board for Safeguarding Children.

The extended opening hours are: 8pm to 1am Tuesday 13 May 2014. Towards Healing Telephone Helpline operates normally on Mondays – Thursdays from 11am to 8pm, and on Fridays from 11am to 6pm.

Towards Healing can be contacted on Freephone 1800 303416 (Rep of Ireland) Freephone 0800 0963315 (Northern Ireland and UK). There is also mobile number for texting purposes for our hearing impaired service users only: 085-8022859


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