Sunday 16 December 2018

Sexual abuse, exploitation of women and paedophile priests: the scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin rests his hands on his speech on clerical child abuse in the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin rests his hands on his speech on clerical child abuse in the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

When Pope John Paul II touched down in Ireland nearly forty years ago, the Catholic Church ruled the roost in this country.

The Ireland that awaits Pope Francis is a stark contrast, however.

BLOCKED ACCESS: Desmond Connell, when Archbishop of Dublin, went to the High Court to prevent the release of files on clerical sexual abusers. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
BLOCKED ACCESS: Desmond Connell, when Archbishop of Dublin, went to the High Court to prevent the release of files on clerical sexual abusers. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Victims are no longer suffering in silence, or afraid to speak out against an institution that became an expert in brushing scandals under the carpet.

Up to 100,000 people are expected to line the streets of Dublin this weekend to greet the Pontiff, but among them will be protesters and those who have long distanced themselves from catholicism.

Revelations of sexual abuse, exploitation of women in mother and baby homes and paedophile priests have rocked the Church to its core in recent years.

A number of criminal cases and Irish government inquiries exposed the extent of horrific crimes and uncovered details of how hundreds of priests abused thousands of children over decades.

Pope Francis has apologised for the 'evil' of child sex abuse committed by clerics
Pope Francis has apologised for the 'evil' of child sex abuse committed by clerics

Paedophile priest Brendan Smyth

One of the most infamous cases was Belfast-born paedophile Brendan Smyth who abused over 140 children over four decades.

Smyth was arrested in 1994 in Belfast but went on the run to the Republic of Ireland where he spent three years.

The mishandling of his extradition led to the collapse of the Irish government.

The revelations led to a number of inquiries set up in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

Commonly known as the Ryan Report, the inquiry looked into child abuse in institutions run by religious orders.

It was established in May 2000 and went on to detail horrific neglect by religious congregations who were left to look after children.

It documented the rape and sexual assault of children, who were kicked, physically assaulted, and forced to carry out labour.

More than 90pc of witnesses reportedly being physically abused.

The report, published in 2009 made a number of recommendations including those to help protect children.

The redress scheme cost more than 1.25 billion euro.

The Ferns Report

The report, published in October 2005, documented more than 100 allegations of child sexual abuse made between 1962 and 2002 against 21 priests in the Diocese of Ferns.

The report, which addressed how allegations were handled, and stated that between 1960 and 1980 it appeared that Bishop Donal Herlihy treated child sexual abuse by priests of his diocese exclusively as a moral problem.

The Murphy report

The 2009 Murphy report investigated allegations of child sexual abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin over the period 1975 to 2004.

Released by Judge Yvonne Murphy, the report examined complaints about the alleged sexual abuse of over 320 children.

The report consisted of three volumes and cost a total of 3.6 million euro.

It stated that the four archbishops, John Charles McQuaid, Dermot Ryan, Kevin McNamara, and Desmond Connell, who were serving during that period, handled complaints badly.

One of the priests who admitted abuse stated he did so more than 100 times.

Another did so fortnightly for 25 years.

Along with clergy, the Gardai were accused in the report of covering up the scandal.

The Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry

The HIA looked into historical allegations of abuse in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995.

The largest number of complaints stemmed from four different Catholic-run institutions.

Chaired by Sir Anthony Hart, it found found that priests and lay people sexually abused children.

Last year, Sir Anthony recommended compensation, a memorial and a public apology to abuse survivors.

However, the collapse of the Northern Ireland government has led to a delay in implementing his findings.

Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was set up following claims of mass burials of hundreds of children at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway.

There has also been evidence of illegal adoptions in Church-run institutions.

It is ongoing.

Pope apology

In March 2010, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a pastoral letter of apology for all of the abuse that had been carried out by Catholic clergy in Ireland.

In May 2010, Pope Benedict established a formal panel to investigate the sex abuse scandal, saying that it could serve as a healing mechanism for the country and its Catholics.

In August 2018, Pope Francis apologised in an open letter to victims of clerical abuse saying that "no effort will be spared to prevent abuse and its cover up" in the future.

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