Friday 17 November 2017

Prolific abuser of children in Diocese of Ossary ‘not reported’ to gardai for 11 years

Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

A “prolific abuser” who was later convicted of sexually abusing children was not reported to gardai for 11 years after a bishop received legal advice that he did not need to notify gardai of the allegation.

The case emerged in the Diocese of Ossary which was reviewed by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.

It found that the priest who has since been convicted and is now being monitored by State authorities was immediately removed from ministry by the then bishop Bishop Laurence Forristal.

However, after receiving legal advice in 1994 that he did not need to notify gardai of the allegation, the information was not passed on to the authorities until 2005.

A second priest also described as a “prolific abuser” was brought to the attention of Bishop Forristal by gardai in 1994 and the priest was immediately removed from ministry.

Both men were convicted and are now being monitored by the state authorities.

It also emerged that the priest may have abused more victims than is currently known as a HSE audit in 2012 discovered gardai had more names of alleged victims on their files. While some victims had informed gardai they had not notified the diocese of the claims.

The reviewers also note from the records that the offending priest himself suggested that there were more victims than known to any agency.

“As part of restructuring of old files into chronological order, Bishop Freeman should ask his designated person to detail all information relating to named victims and ensure that all these details are passed to the civil authorities for their investigations,” the report stated.

A total of 27 allegations were made against 14 priests in the Diocese of Ossary since 1975.

All of the allegations were eventually reported to the gardai and HSE.

Four priests remain members of the diocese with three remaining in ministry.

A further seven priests have since died. One priest has retired and a further three have left the priesthood.

The report stated prior to Bishop Seamus Freeman taking up office, most of the case files contained “handwritten illegible notes with significant gaps in recording, making the records difficult to follow”.

It recommended that Bishop Freeman now reorganise these old records.

Most of the complaints were received prior to Bishop Freeman taking up office in 2007. In the past six years he has dealt with two cases, one of which was withdrawn and the other considered not to be an allegation of child abuse.

Highlighting the need for good record keeping, the review pointed to the dealing of a third party allegation that a priest had abused two boys.

The case dealt with by Bishop Forristal in 2005, who stated that he had investigated the claim and carried out a psychological assessment for the priest. He stated he was convinced there was no substance to the allegations.

However, the review said it was written records whether the matter was notified to the civil authorities and reviewers were uncertain what Bishop Forristal was basing his judgement on that the allegations had been investigated.

Following concerns about the thoroughness of the management of this case, it was referred back to Bishop Freeman for review. It added that all appropriate steps had now been taken.

The review stated there was “limited evidence of a pastoral response to victims in the past” but in more recent cases an appropriate offer of counselling and support was made. Some victims have been awarded compensation which has been as a result of legal action pursued by the complainant.

It called for 12 recommendations to be implemented.

Rev. Michael Ryan, Vicar General, Diocese of Ossory expressed his heartfelt sorrow to all who have suffered as a result of abuse by Church personnel. He stated that the diocese fully accepts the findings of this Review and all 12 recommendations.

“I am glad to say that a number of these recommendations have already been implemented and all listed recommendations will form part of our revised Policy and Procedures,” he added.

Ossary has 42 parishes across Kilkenny Laois and Offaly.

 

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