Diocese of Achonry: Priest 'allowed' to remain in ministry despite allegation
CONCERNS about a priest who was recently convicted of abusing 18 boys in five counties over two decades were not passed onto the civil authorities when it became known in the early 1980s.
A review of the Diocese of Achonry highlighted three cases of “problematic” management of priests and religious from outside the diocese.
In 1981 a priest arrived in the diocese to provide cover for a colleague, unbeknown to the bishop. Priest P spent five months in the diocese and returned the following year when he sexually abused a boy.
The review found evidence that information about Fr P's abuse of this young boy was made available to a priest of the diocese “at an early stage”, but had not been passed on by the diocese to the civil authorities.
Although there was further strong circumstantial evidence available to the diocese from 1997, the case was not passed to gardai until 2002, when a list of other victims was available.
The priest has recently been convicted of child abuse charges and is currently serving a ten year prison sentence for abusing eighteen boys in five counties between the 1960’s and the 1980’s.
Reviewers noted that this priest had been out of ministry since 1986 because of the levels of concern about his abuse of children and the reporting of the Achonry allegation was
undertaken by his own Society. Bishop Kelly published an apology for the manner in which the diocese managed the Fr P case in January 2012.
The review stated that there have been no further allegations from within Achonry relating to this man since the apology.
Concerns were also raised about the handling of two cases where priests had retired to the diocese from abroad.
Bishop Kelly wrote to check their credentials with the bishops of the respective dioceses and was
advised that neither priest was in good standing and that there were outstanding allegations against them, which had not yet been investigated. The bishop alerted garda of the presence of these men.
“While Bishop Kelly has no authority over other bishops, the reviewers recommend that he should contact the bishops of the two retired priests advising that they put in place precepts which include: no public ministry; no unsupervised contact with children and no priest’s clothing and ask them to forward a copy of the precept to the priests and Bishop Kelly for his records,” the report added.
Reviewers were assured that there have been no other allegations against living priests in the diocese.
Substantial delays in alerting gardai to child abuse allegations were discovered during a review of the Diocese of Achonry.
The review found numerous examples of “ long and unacceptable delays” in communicating information about possible child abusers to gardai and the HSE prior to the appointment of Bishop Brendan Kelly in 2007.
A total of 15 allegations of abuse were made against 11 priests in the diocese. However, only 13 of these were reported to gardai, with 12 reported to the HSE.
In the majority of these cases the abuse is alleged to have happened at least thirty years ago.
Only one priest against whom allegations were made remains in ministry while a second has left the priesthood. The nine remaining priests have since died.
The diocese did not have a safeguarding policy and procedures document prior to 2008. It was set up by Bishop Brendan Kelly who took office a year earlier. No new allegations have been made since late 2007.
Pointing to an “absence of appropriate response by the previous bishop to allegations of risk, or to victims”, the review pointed to a case were a priest was allowed to remain in ministry even after the previous bishop had received an allegation, which was not reported or addressed.
Six months later the priest retired, with still no evidence that the allegation had been put to him. He has since died. It is noted that Bishop Kelly passed information about all historical cases known to the diocese to gardai and the HSE in February 2012.
In a further instance which came to their attention in the course of the audit, the reviewers recommended that Bishop Kelly consult with the civil authorities about any action needed in respect of a physical abuse file which had not been entered into the safeguarding record. The reviewers have also noted that the diocese had to manage an allegation referring to a person who was not a priest or a member of a religious community and did so appropriately.
The review made 15 recommendations for the Diocese.
Bishop Kelly described the abuse of children as “entirely reprehensible, a serious crime and a grave sin”.
He apologised to anyone who had suffered from such abuse and extended an invitation to anyone who has suffered such abuse or had witnessed it in among their family to speak with him and the gardai.