By Michael Kelly Catholic News Service
DUBLIN (CNS) — The latest audits of the Irish church’s handling of abuse allegations show that, while substantial progress continues to be made, as recently as a year ago there were still areas of noncompliance with agreed-upon procedures.
The reviews — carried out by the independent watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church — showed that as recently as July 2011, one religious congregation was not reporting abuse allegations to the civil authorities. The reports also show that, as recently as 12 months ago, religious congregations were not following the Vatican’s procedure on reporting all allegations to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Ian Elliott, head of the national board, said the “reviews indicate that full compliance has not yet been achieved by all of those reviewed, although many examples of excellent practice were found.”
Four dioceses and three religious congregations published the results of their independent audits Sept. 5, looking at incidents back to 1975.
Elliott said that “all allegations that were examined with the review process have been reported to the appropriate statutory authorities,” but added, “Sadly, some of these had been very much delayed.”
In the audit of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, the report said: “it is difficult to express adequately the failure of this society to effectively protect vulnerable children.”
In August 2011, the national safeguarding board began assessing how the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart were complying with church safeguarding procedures they had signed onto in 2009. However, the board suspended its review within a day after uncovering “very worrying” evidence that allegations had not been passed on to police. A new provincial superior had just taken over and he said he had been unaware of the allegations, He immediately began passing information on to the authorities.
The report noted that significant progress has been made since that initial review.
The audit also found that allegations against the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Spiritans had routinely not been forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome as has been required since 2001.
Allegations were made against 17 members of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. One priest has been convicted and served a prison sentence. Forty-seven members of the Spiritans have been accused of abuse since 1975. Three have been convicted.
The report on the Dominican friars praised the way the current leaders have dealt with child protection responsibilities and the way they have shown determination to improve practices. It said the order has shown a real sense of accepting past failures and has offered remorse.
However, the report was also critical of the Dominicans for not implementing Canon Law procedures.
Meanwhile, Bishop John Kirby of Clonfert has apologized for moving two priests from one parish to another in the 1990s after they abused children. Bishop Kirby said he did not understand the “sinister and recidivist” nature of the child abuser and the lifelong damage that the destructive behavior can inflict on victims.
Allegations have been made against three priests in the diocese since 1975; one has been convicted.
A separate audit of the Cork and Ross Diocese uncovered concerns about priests — including three with convictions for child abuse — retiring to Cork from Britain. It warned that information from their British dioceses was “not as forthcoming as it should have been,” leading to a lack of awareness of potential risk.
However, the report also found that Cork and Ross now has one of Ireland’s best child-protection systems. The diocese has 26 priests against whom child abuse allegations have been made since 1975. Four priests have been convicted of offenses against children.
In the Limerick Diocese, the audits found that 44 out of 48 criteria had been fully met, with the remaining four partially met. In a now-familiar pattern, the audit revealed that cases prior to the mid-1990s were routinely mishandled and allegations were not reported to the civil authorities.
Allegations were made against 18 priests of the diocese; none were convicted.
The audit issued 12 recommendations to make safeguarding procedures “more robust” in the Kildare and Leighlin Diocese.
The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church has begun the next round of audits, which is expected to focus on religious congregations and missionary societies. Ten of the country’s 26 dioceses have been reviewed, while a further 159 religious orders, congregations and missionary societies will be audited. Elliott has pledged to complete the audits within the next two years.
The audit process was extended to all church institutions after a 2008 review of the Diocese of Cloyne found that procedures there were “inadequate and, in some respects, dangerous.”
Cloyne Bishop John Magee initially stepped aside in 2009 and later resigned in 2010. A 2011 judicial report was highly critical of his mishandling of abuse allegations.