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Allegations of abuse against three more priests in ‘notorious’ Ferns diocese

A REVIEW of child safeguarding practices in a Catholic Diocese notorious for sex abuse by priests has found that it is now complying with standards required for the protection of children and procedures for reporting abuse.

However, the review also revealed that allegations of abuse have been made against three more priests in the Diocese, who weren’t included in the damning 2005 Ferns Report into child abuse at the Co Wexford-based Diocese.

Church-funded watchdog, The National Body for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI), found that the Diocese of Ferns was fully compliant with six out of seven standards for protecting children.

And it found that the Diocese was mostly compliant with guidelines for the management of child abuse allegations.

On this issue the report’s authors said that it was only partially compliant with guidelines relating to the storage of files; an issue Bishop Denis Brennan said was being resolved.

The 2005 Ferns Report report identified more than 100 allegations of child abuse against 21 priests made over four decades up to 2002.

It found that two bishops at the Diocese over that period had “placed the interests of individual priests ahead of those of the community in which they served”.

Bishop Brennan welcomed today’s  the publication of the NBSCCCI Review of Safeguarding Practice.

He said: “At the outset, I would like to acknowledge how the publication of the report may occasion the reawakening of pain and hurt among those who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of some priests of the Diocese of Ferns.”

“I again apologise unreservedly for the failings that led to such pain and hurt.

“As Bishop Eamon Walsh said in 2005 ‘There are no excuses for what happened in the past. However, the most effective response to what cannot be changed in the past is what we are doing today, and what we will do in the future.’”

“I accept the findings and recommendations of this Report and I welcome it as yet another step on our diocesan journey towards achieving best practice and healing.”

Today’s publication notes that allegations have been made against three more priests who weren’t included in the Ferns Report and that two of those priests are still alive though no longer in ministry.

The review states that the alleged abuse took place prior to 2002with a Diocesan spokesman confirming that it took place over the1970s, 80s and 90s.

He said that the allegations were “under investigation” and that Gardai and other statutory authorities were fully informed about the cases.

The review found the Diocese to be fully compliant in the following areas:

•         * A written policy on keeping children safe.

•         * Preventing harm to children.

•         * Training and education.

•         * Communicating the churches safeguarding message.

•        *  Access to advice and support.

•         * Implementing and monitoring of standards.

The NBSCCCI made four recommendations including the replacement of the retiring Child Safeguarding Coordinator and that the safeguarding committee develop a five year plan for implementing and monitoring standards.

Both of these recommendations have already been implemented according to Bishop Brennan.

He said that a other recommendation relating to the storage of files and training for the Diocesan Advisory Panel - which includes HSE officials and members of the legal profession - will also be implemented this year.

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