Wednesday 7 December 2016

Religious order covered up for paedophile priest who abused up to 100 children

Sarah MacDonald

Published 05/05/2016 | 02:30

Fr Patrick McDonagh was convicted in 2007 by the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on eight counts of sexual and indecent assault Stock photo: Getty Images/Ingram Publishing
Fr Patrick McDonagh was convicted in 2007 by the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on eight counts of sexual and indecent assault Stock photo: Getty Images/Ingram Publishing

A priest who abused up to 100 children was allowed to act "with impunity" and without any restrictions on his access to children by his religious order, which concealed his behaviour from the Archbishop of Dublin and the State authorities.

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Salvatorian priest Fr Patrick McDonagh was convicted in 2007 by the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on eight counts of sexual and indecent assault on four girls in Dublin, Limerick and Roscommon between 1965 and 1990, and was sentenced to four years in jail. He died in 2009.

The serious mismanagement and concealment of his crimes by his order was one of the findings published by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI), the Church's own safeguarding watchdog.

The audit of 30 religious orders revealed that the Salvatorians failed to monitor Fr A, as Fr Patrick McDonagh is referred to, from 2002 - when one of his own relatives accused him of having abused her as a child - to 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 watchdog's review reveals.

"We believe he possibly continued to abuse for those two years," NBSCCCI CEO Teresa Devlin said. Speaking to the Irish Independent, Ms Devlin stressed there were at least 90 more victims of Fr A - who the Irish Independent understands to be Fr Patrick McDonagh - who have yet to receive any support from the Salvatorian order, in addition to the nine of whom the order is aware.

She was critical of the order's "lack of shock or shame at the abuse perpetrated by this man" who targeted little girls between the ages of six and nine.

The Salvatorians did not tell Cardinal Desmond Connell, who was Archbishop of Dublin in 2002, the real reason they were withdrawing Fr Patrick McDonagh from parish ministry in Dublin. Instead they hinted that he was overstressed by his pastoral work.

Ms Devlin said: "I believe the reason they didn't tell Cardinal Connell is they didn't want him to know; the provincial was covering up the abuse by sending him away."

She said the Salvatorians needed to do more to find out if there are any other victims of Fr Patrick McDonagh and reach out to them.

"They have a responsibility to try and find people," she said, adding that religious superiors who fail to report and implement safeguarding procedures should face consequences under civil and canonical law.

She warned against complacency. "This is not over, unfortunately. In every organisation and in the Catholic Church there will be people who harm children and so there will still be children who are potentially at risk from priests."

The last audits show the most recent allegation of sexual abuse against a priest related to 2013.

Audits deal with 288 allegations that resulted in 'just' 10 convictions

The latest round of audits reviewed safeguarding practices of 30 orders. They deal with 288 allegations against 90 priests, brothers or sisters which resulted in "just" 10 criminal convictions.

The allegations relate to the period 1950-2002, although one incident was as recent as 2013. The more in-depth reviews assessed the Blessed Sacrament Fathers, the Brothers of Charity, the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God, the Marist Brothers and Opus Dei.

Among the findings are:

- Child safeguarding has not been given sufficient priority by some orders.

- Poor record-keeping in a number of orders, while poor monitoring of those accused of child abuse was also documented.

- Inconsistent or poor support for complainants.

- A small number of new orders who are developing ministries in Ireland need to increase their awareness of child safeguarding.

Irish Independent

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