A LITANY of failures in dealing with cases of abuse stretching back four decades have been uncovered at two religious orders.
In the Christian Brothers, the church watchdog said the level of abuse from members of the order was substantial. One brother was returned to ministry after an allegation was made and only 12 brothers were convicted of offences against children.
The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) warned: "The number of convictions by the courts, compared to the numbers accused of child abuse, is significantly small."
The Kiltegan Fathers, also known as the St Patrick's Missionary Society, was also inspected and criticised for inadequate recording of allegations, incidents and suspicions.
Concerns were raised as early as 1966 about a missionary's abuse of children in Kenya but he was only stood aside from ministry in 1986.
In a damning review, the NBSCCC revealed that the missionary's victims may number as many as 50. But despite concerns about the priest's behaviour, he was allowed to remain within the order until 2002.
The audit of religious orders was among eight new reports which also covered six Catholic dioceses in the fourth tranche of safeguarding reviews completed by the NBSCCC.
The most damning of the criticisms relate to the Kiltegan Fathers and the Christian Brothers. According to Theresa Devlin, interim CEO of the NBSCCC, the Kiltegan Fathers have "only lately" begun to recognise the need to safeguard children.
The NBSCCC strongly criticised the order, which serves mainly in Africa, saying the abuse of a child on the missions "did not always evoke an empathic response to the experiences of victims" from the leadership.
Fr Seamus O'Neill, leader of the St Patrick's Missionary Society, apologised to victims and said the order had "renewed its commitment to robust child protection standards".
In its audit of the Christian Brothers' day schools, the NBSCCC reported a massive 870 allegations of abuse against 325 brothers, of whom 50 are still alive. Despite the scale of the allegations, just 12 convictions have been secured between 1975 and today.
The files read by the safeguarding reviewers left them "in no doubt that a great number of children were seriously abused by brothers".
Ms Devlin said it was "very clear that the practices of the Christian Brothers in the past were bad. It was horrific. A lot of children were harmed in the care of the Christian Brothers".
But she also acknowledged that there had been "a seismic shift by anybody's standards" since 2008. The reviewers had now seen "total commitment from the Brothers to safeguarding children".
Nearly all the Catholic dioceses in Ireland have now been audited by the NBSCCC. According to Ms Devlin, the reviewers were "very impressed by what they found in Armagh", the diocese of Cardinal Sean Brady. She told RTE there was "a sense of humility with Cardinal Brady" and that he had gathered around him a body of expertise.
Cardinal Brady faced calls to resign in 2011 when a BBC documentary revealed that teenage victims of Fr Brendan Smyth had been sworn to secrecy in the mid-1970s. But that case was not reviewed in the audit of Armagh as it relates to the diocese of Kilmore.
Meanwhile, in the Diocese of Kerry, four new complaints of child abuse have been made against three priests since the review was completed in May. One of these refers to a retired priest living in Kerry who is the subject of an ongoing investigation in the UK.
The Bishop of Kerry was not aware of the allegations until recently, the designated person for safeguarding children in the diocese, Jim Sheehy, confirmed.
In Armagh, as in Down and Connor, Kerry, Achonry, Ossory and Cashel and Emly, safeguarding practices in the past were found not to be good and allegations weren't promptly reported to the civil authorities.