Contact Us

Absence of a compassionate response to survivors

By Sarah Mac Donald - 10 September, 2015

Teresa Devlin1“Our thoughts and concerns today are with all people who have been abused in any way by members of our Congregation here in Ireland or anyone affected. Such actions, crimes and sins are the antithesis of the spirit and vision of our founder, Don Bosco, who was committed to the total well-being of the young, especially the most vulnerable.”

The Salesians, who this year marked the bicentenary of the birth of their founder, St John Bosco, was one of 43 religious orders who issued statements on Wednesday in response of the safeguarding reviews carried out by the National Board for Safeguarding in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

The audits of eight male orders and 35 female orders, show that a total of 325 allegations of sexual abuse were made against 141 priests or brothers since 1941 resulting in 8 criminal convictions.

Two of the male orders, the Camillians and the Sacred Heart Fathers Dehonians, had no allegations made against members.

A large number of the congregations, mostly female, no longer have ministry with children, and have not received allegations of abuse against their members.

“Overall there is considerable improvement in safeguarding practice evidenced in these reports,” Teresa Devlin, CEO of the NBSCCCI, said but she added that “The history is undeniable, that once again a significant number of children were abused in the care of Religious.”

However, she said that what is strikingly different among the orders today as opposed to the past is a determination to respond pastorally, to report to the civil authorities promptly and to seek guidance in order to minimise risk to children.


The Capuchins had 72 allegations made against 21 members resulting in two convictions.

The reviewers viewed documentation given to them by the Capuchins indicating their policy of reporting allegations to the civil authorities as early as 1995.

Following the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation led by Judge Yvonne Murphy (2006-2009) in which the cases of five Capuchin friars were examined, the Capuchins were directed to make known all its child abuse allegations to a special office (Area 9 HSE).

The HSE carried out an audit of the Capuchins in January 2014 in respect of child sexual abuse complaints known to the Province. At the time all complaints (72) and respondents (21) were examined. This resulted in a reduction of the numbers since not all allegations met the HSE’s threshold of child abuse allegations.

There are seven men living who have had allegations of sexual abuse made against them. Of these seven men, one man has been convicted of sexual abuse charges in the criminal courts and received a prison sentence of three years.

The review dealt with the case of Friar A, who continues to live under supervision and out of ministry. He is advanced in years. The span of allegations against him covers a 20 year period and in that time period there have been varying responses according to the different approaches adopted by key personnel in place within the safeguarding structure in the Province at the time.

The Order indicated to the NBSCCCI reviewers that despite the best efforts of the Order to help Friar A come to terms with his harmful psychological tendencies, which constituted him a danger to children, his refusal to acknowledge his wrongdoing and to be remorseful have represented a challenge to the Order in their management of him in the twenty years since his removal from ministry.

The review also highlighted that in the case of Friar F, who was dealt with at length in the Dublin Commission Report, since the publication of the Murphy Report in 2009, three new allegations of sexual abuse were disclosed to the Order in respect of this friar.

The review also found that there has been inconsistency in the past in the Capuchins in its notifications to the civil authorities and in some cases there is evidence suggesting ambiguity in acknowledging the veracity of allegations.

This has in some instances led to complainants not being heard or believed in the first instance. There were cases where clearly no action was taken by the Order at the time of the allegation. The reviewers saw evidence in several cases of complainants repeating their allegations sometimes years later before they were heard. This was a notable feature in some allegations relating to the late 1980s/ mid 1990s.

As a consequence, pastoral support and outreach has often been inconsistent in that time frame the reviewers stated.


A total of 79 allegations were made against 36 members of the Jesuits, resulting in no convictions and the NBSCCCI criticised the Order’s failure to inform Gardaí of at least 20 allegations of child sexual abuse over the past 40 years.

In a statement, the Jesuits said “One allegation is one too many, and words of apology can sound so inadequate in face of the heinous crime of child abuse.”

Apologising unreservedly to anyone abused under their care, the order said it was “a cause of great sadness to us that anybody was ever abused by a Jesuit” and that they were “ashamed of our betrayal of your childhood and your trust”.


In its reviews of the Cistercians, the NBSCCCI said that overall the Order has been slow to implement all the child safeguarding standards to which it committed in 2009, but the safeguarding policies adopted in 2014 are quite comprehensive, addressing a majority of the criteria underpinning the standards.

Historically there had been gaps in safeguarding practice – in reporting to the civil authorities, in safety planning, in basic filing, in communication and in application of canonical processes – but the reviewers have seen evidence of improvements in most of these areas in recent years.

A total of 48 allegations of child sexual abuse were made against 21 Cistercian monks of which two were convicted on charges of child sexual abuse.

The majority of the monks subject of allegations are deceased (15), and is it noted that in 12 of these cases the monks were deceased at the time when the allegations were made.

Of the 6 men who are living, 3 have been laicised and/or have left the Order, and 3 continue to live in monasteries, 1 of whom is no longer active.

Monk A, who has been deceased for a number of years, was the subject of 14 allegations relating to 14 victims/survivors. Most of these allegations refer to abusive activity which took place in the 1970s in the monastery environment. Monk A was convicted of 5 charges of indecent assault of 3 children in the 1990s and given a suspended sentence of 4 years. Following his conviction a number of new allegations emerged. There is evidence that the Abbot reached out to victims, offered to meet with them, advised them to seek legal advice, and offered counselling services. Supervision of Monk A, in his later years was taken over directly by the Abbot. Monk A was not subjected to any canonical inquiry.

Monk B was convicted on child sexual abuse charges. According to the file he served a 2 year prison sentence, and a further 3 year suspended sentence for other sexual abuse offences.

Child abuse allegations were made against Monk E, concerning incidents which allegedly occurred between the 1950s and 1990s. The file records that there was a DPP decision in 1994 not to pursue prosecution in respect of the allegation made the previous year.

Restrictions on the monk were put in place over a period of 8 years, but were removed by an incoming Abbot.

It was explained to the reviewers that there were a number of temporary superiors in the monastery during this period, which had disrupted the safeguarding governance in the monastery

A supervision contract with Monk E containing restrictions has been in place since 2013, which is reviewed annually by the Abbot’s Council.


The Irish Province of Carmelites (OCarm) first published their child safeguarding document in 2006. It was revised in 2010 and 2013. It has received seventeen allegations against eleven friars since 1975. There have been no criminal convictions relating to the allegations against any friar of the Order of Carmelites.

The audit highlighted the significant difficulties which can arise in managing cases where there has not been a criminal conviction.

It documented the “extremely challenging” case of Fr D who has been in dispute with the authorities of the Order since he was accused of the sexual abuse of a minor thirteen years ago.

The complainant lived in close proximity to the family home of Fr D who had been residing there permanently for approximately six years at the time. He had the permission of the Provincial.

On receipt of the allegation Fr D was directed by the Provincial to take up permanent residence in a Carmelite community.

Fr D protested his innocence of the allegation, and in the criminal trial he was found not guilty. On the basis of this verdict he returned to the family home which caused great anxiety to the complainant.

Fr D continued to contravene restrictions placed on him by the authorities of the Order, and to act contrary to the expressed desires of the bishop in whose diocese he was residing.

Fr D’s failure to comply with the explicit directives of the Provincial on his place of residence and other matters have caused the complainant avoidable distress.

Concerns around Fr D were reinforced recently when, without faculties for any ministry, he presented a letter of good standing/celebret not issued by the current Provincial to allow him concelebrate at a wedding Mass.

A report on the case has been sent through the office of the Order’s Procurator General to the CDF in Rome.

Fr D continues to be out of public ministry and his permission to live outside of a Carmelite community is permanently revoked. The files show that he is defiant of the Order’s authority and, despite the sanctions imposed to date, shows no regard for the ongoing wellbeing of the complainant.


In Ireland the Rosminians ran a reformatory at Upton, Co Cork, which later became St Patrick’s Industrial School and St Joseph’s Industrial school in Ferryhouse, Clonmel, Co Tipperary.

The history of child safeguarding in the Rosminian Congregation in Ireland is dominated by the narrative of conditions in the two Industrial Schools at Upton and Ferryhouse described in the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse 2009 (Ryan Report).

The Ryan Report dedicated three chapters (Volume 2, chapters 1-3) to the Rosminan-managed Industrial Schools, based on evidence from 40 witnesses taken between 2004 – 2006.

Full details of the extent of the sexual abuse and the wider use of corporal punishment is described in the Report (Ryan), and the response of the Rosminian authorities was then described as wholly inadequate.

Abuse was not reported in writing to the Gardaí until 1995, and that the impact of sexual abuse on the boys was not considered by the Rosminians (Ryan 2; 3.325).

The Rosminians pointed out to the reviewers that, prior to an (initial) small number of allegations which emerged in the 1990s, there was no knowledge of abuse on the part of their members.

They had no established policies and had little knowledge of the correct procedures in relation to child safeguarding. There were profound societal changes taking place at this time, especially relating to the role of the Catholic Church and its institutions.

Four former Rosminans were convicted of child sexual abuse, and the overall number of child sexual abuse allegations seen by the reviewers totals 98 involving 43 members, former members, deceased members and deceased former members.

85% of the total number of allegations came in between 1998 – 2005, and the Rosminians were ill prepared to deal with the volume and intensity of the work that was generated (because of the small size of the congregation, the ageing profile of its population, and the distressing and ‘toxic’ nature of the allegations).

Their first written child safeguarding policy was agreed in 2007.

Overall the NBSCCCI reviewers criticised the absence of a compassionate response to survivors in some Orders.

The watchdog said there is now a recognition among the female religious orders that previous care of children was often harsh.

Teresa Devlin, CEO of the NBSCCCI told CatholicIreland.net that a number of female provincials had expressed regret and distress to her over the harshness of the regime their order’s had overseen.

“They all knew it was rough and dreadful, particularly in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, where kids were treated like objects not children,” she said.

Ms Devlin added, “I think it is important that we recognise that for the sake of those who were in those establishments – they were rough places to be and I’m glad my children around then to be very frank.”

The 43 Orders:

Large male congregations

  1. Camillians
  2. Capuchins
  3. Carmelites
  4. Cistercians
  5. Dehonians (Sacred Heart Fathers)
  6. Jesuits
  7. Rosminians
  8. Salesians

Female Religious – Small Congregations

  1. Benedictine Sisters
  2. Bon Sauveur Sisters
  3. Bon Secours Sisters
  4. Brigidines Sisters
  5. Christian Retreat Sisters
  6. Cistercian Sisters
  7. Congregation of the Sacred Hearts
  8. Cross and Passion Sisters
  9. Daughters of Charity St Vincent de Paul
  10. Daughters of Mary and Joseph
  11. Daughters of the Holy Spirit _Sr Regina
  12. Daughters of Wisdom
  13. Disciples of the Divine Master
  14. Franciscan Missionaries of Divine Motherhood
  15. Franciscan Missionaries of St Joseph
  16. Holy Cross Sisters
  17. Little Company of Mary
  18. Loreto Sisters
  19. Marie-Auxiliatrice   Sisters
  20. Marist Sisters
  21. Missionary Sisters of Assumption
  22. Our Lady of the Apostles (OLA)
  23. Poor Servants of the Mother of God
  24. Religious Sisters of Charity
  25. Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary
  26. Sisters of Charity of St. Paul the Apostle
  27. Sisters of Christian Instruction   St Gildas
  28. Society of the Sacred Heart
  29. St Joseph of Cluny
  30. St Joseph of the Sacred Heart
  31. St Joseph the Apparition
  32. St Paul of Chartres
  33. St. Joseph of Chambery
  34. St. John of God Sisters
  35. The Religious of Christian Education

Follow us on Twitter @CINetNews

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,