Thursday 14 November 2019

Sharp rise in allegations of child sex abuse to church watchdog

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Sarah MacDonald

A significant increase in the number of allegations and suspicions concerning clerical child abuse have been reported by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.

New figures published in the National Board's (NBSCCCl) annual report reveal the safeguarding watchdog dealt with 135 allegations, suspicions and concerns during 2017-18, up from 86 the previous year.

This reverses the downward trend of the previous three years in allegations of abuse and alleged perpetrators.

One hundred and four of these new allegations relate to child sexual abuse.

This is a significant increase on 2016/17, when the number of new allegations of child sexual abuse was 72.

In its report, the child protection body hit out at the Church's care and support for victims warning that pastors and priests need to acquire some special knowledge about child abuse and its consequences in order "not to further damage a deeply wounded and suffering person".

Teresa Devlin revealed that some of the alleged victims of abuse had said their bad experience "created further distancing and fear".

In other cases, the National Board report said it was clear that drift has been occurring, leaving both complainants and respondents in a limbo situation without satisfactory resolution.

The 2012 Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act does not allow for confessional privilege, however the Church forbids priests from breaching the seal of confession, even when they learn of child sexual abuse.

All the new allegations allegedly took place between 1940 and 2000, except one more recent incident which occurred in 2012.

The alleged abuse involved 35 diocesan clerics and 63 members of religious orders or congregations, a 29pc increase on the 76 respondents in the previous year.

Responding to the findings, Teresa Devlin, CEO of the NBSCCCI said she believed the upturn in reporting of abuse was linked to the media reporting of high profile abuse cases.

"Often simply seeing and hearing people talk about what they went through gives victims the strength and resolve to report what was done to them. And the fact that they come forward is to be lauded as it allows them to access the support they need and organisations like ours to better understand the mistakes made and how to rectify them," Ms Devlin said.

Of the 98 individual respondents identified, 45 are deceased. Of the remaining 53, 21 are unknown, but 32 against whom allegations of physical, emotional or sexual abuse were made, are alive.

Irish Independent

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