Sunday 18 February 2018

Archbishop Martin 'appalled' at delays in tackling child abuse

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin

Sarah Mac Donald

Religious congregations' failure to implement child safeguards, and their mishandling of abuse allegations, point to the need for greater accountability in the Catholic Church, according to a senior Bishop.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin lashed out at religious orders, saying it was "appalling" to read about their delays in fully implementing long- established church guidelines.

His criticism followed the National Board's (NBSCCCI) revelation that opportunities to safeguard children were missed - and known abusers were allowed to remain in ministry into the 1990s.

The latest tranches of safeguarding audits covering 16 religious congregations also reveal that in some cases, congregations didn't start to improve practices until 2009 and didn't fully implement the Irish Church's safeguarding standards and guidelines until 2013.

Archbishop Martin said these revelations left him "seriously concerned". He intends to meet the superiors of all religious orders working in parishes in his diocese to verify their commitment to "scrupulously" applying child safeguarding norms.

Seven of the 16 religious congregations reviewed in this latest tranche are small female religious congregations, with no dealings with children, and whose membership is now mainly elderly.

The reviews concentrated on eight male and one female congregation, covering 285 allegations in the period 1940-1998.

These involved 98 priests, brothers or nuns and resulted in eight criminal convictions. The largest number of allegations were recorded between 1950 and the 1990s. But the NBSCCCI inspection process found it difficult to assess some religious orders because of their poor management of records.

Teresa Devlin, chief executive of the NBSCCCI, said only two of the nine religious orders audited, the Sacred Heart Fathers and the Dominican Sisters, demonstrated good compliance with safeguarding standards. NBSCCCI reviewers were very disappointed in the other congregations. "A huge amount of work still has to be done across the other seven in relation to a whole range of prevention measures." Ms Devlin underlined that safeguarding must be two-pronged, covering the management of allegations and the prevention of abuse.

She said the latter seems to have been neglected by some of the orders "because they were busy dealing with allegations".

"You have to do both. We do not want to be in this situation in a number of years so the prevention must be in place now," she told RTÉ Radio's News at One programme.

Responding to the review findings, the Franciscan friars expressed "regret that there were significant missed opportunities" to protect children from abusive behaviour.

In a statement, the Provincial Hugh McKenna OFM said the "report describes the stark reality of abuse perpetrated by members of the Irish Franciscans over a 45-year period from 1953 to 1998".

The NBSCCCI audit showed that allegations were made against 28 friars, three of whom were convicted. Allegations were also made against 20 Passionists, 14 Franciscan brothers, and seven Marist priests.

Irish Independent

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