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Church scandals: a catalogue of shame

The Catholic Church once rule a faithful Ireland with a velvet fist ... but a litany of scandals has changed all that:

The Ferns Report:

In October 2005 the small Co Wexford diocese of Ferns was exposed for more than 100 allegations of sexual abuse on young boys and girls over 40 years.

The scandalous attacks and subsequent cover-ups focused on three clerics - Fr Sean Fortune, the most notorious abuser responsible for 26 assaults, Fr Donal Collins, a school principal, and Canon Martin Clancy, who fathered a child after raping a 14-year-old girl.

The inquiry revealed that bishops in the diocese failed to take precautions to protect children and gardai did not keep records of informal abuse complaints.

The Ryan Report:

Published in May 2009, it catalogued four decades of cover-ups by the Catholic Church and the Government. Thousands of children in Church and State-run schools, homes and institutions were subjected to years of torture by priests and nuns.

The damning investigation by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse found disturbing and chronic sexual, physical and emotional attacks inflicted on disadvantaged, neglected and abandoned youngsters by both religious and lay staff. Chaired by High Court judge Sean Ryan, it found paedophilia was endemic in boys' industrial schools, with young pupils suffering rapes and floggings.

Serial abusers were also moved between schools each time their behaviour was uncovered.

The Murphy Report:

Published in November 2009, the Commission of Investigation into the Dublin Archdiocese was as damning as any inquiry. Based on a sample 46 priests, it revealed a catalogue of paedophilia and subsequent cover-ups over three decades because the Catholic hierarchy was obsessed with secrecy and was effectively granted immunity by the police.

Four archbishops - John Charles McQuaid who died in 1973, Dermot Ryan who died in 1984, Kevin McNamara who died in 1987, and retired Cardinal Desmond Connell - did not hand over information on abusers and adopted a "protect at all costs" attitude.

The inquiry, headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy, uncovered a cosy relationship between the Church and State authorities, with senior gardai singled out for turning a blind eye and treating priests as untouchables. It sparked calls for senior church figures named in the report to resign.

Limerick Bishop Donal Murray, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin James Moriarty, Dublin Auxiliary Bishops Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field all offered to stand down - Pope Benedict XVI did not accept the resignations of Bishops Walsh and Field.

The Father Brendan Smyth scandal:

The notorious Northern Ireland-born cleric was at the centre of one of the first paedophile priest prosecutions to rock the Catholic Church in Ireland. He was convicted of more than 70 counts of sexually abusing 20 boys and girls over a 40-year period, before dying in prison in 1997.

The controversy led to the collapse of the Labour/Fianna Fail government in the 1990s under then-Taoiseach Albert Reynolds over extradition delays to Northern Ireland.

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