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PATSY MCGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent
The Commission of Investigation into Dublin’s Catholic Archdiocese has concluded that there is “no doubt” that clerical child sexual abuse was covered up by the archdiocese and other Church authorities.
The commission’s report covers the period between January 1st 1975 and April 30th 2004. It said there cover-ups took place over much of this period.
In its report, published this afternoon, it has also found that “the structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated that cover-up.”
It also found that “the State authorities facilitated the cover-up by not fulfilling their responsibilities to ensure that the law was applied equally to all and allowing the Church institutions to be beyond the reach of the normal law enforcement processes.”
Over the period within its remit “the welfare of children, which should have been the first priority, was not even a factor to be considered in the early stages,” it said.
“Instead the focus was on the avoidance of scandal and the preservation of the good name, status and assets of the institution and of what the institution regarded as its most important members – the priests,” it said.
In making its main findings, the report it concluded that “it is the responsibility of the State to ensure that no similar institutional immunity is ever allowed to occur again. This can be ensured only if all institutions are open to scrutiny and not accorded an exempted status by any organs of the State.”
The Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation was set up on March 28th, 2006. It completed its report on July 21st last when it was presented to the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern.
Since then it has been sent twice to the High Court as there were concerns that publication of its contents in full might prejudice current proceedings against two men who face allegations of abuse and which it had investigated.
Following edits to the report, made by Mr Justice Paul Gilligan, the report was finally cleared for publication last Thursday.
The commission investigated allegations made against a sample of 46 priests, out of a total of 102 relevant to the period, and against whom 320 complaints had been made.
Where individual Archbishops of Dublin were concerned it found that Archbishop John Charles McQuaid – who held office from 1940 to 1972 – did not apply canon law where such allegations were concerned, though he was familiar with its requirements.
His dealings with Fr Edmondus in 1960 “were aimed at the avoidance of scandal and showed no concern for the welfare of children.”
Archbishop Dermot Ryan – who held office from 1972 to 1984 – “failed to properly investigate complaints” against any of the six priests dealt with by the Commission from his period in office. “He also ignored the advice given by a psychiatrist in the case of another priest (Fr Henry Moore) that he had placed in a parish setting.” It found that Fr Moore was subsequently convicted of a serious assault on a young teenager while working as a parish curate.
Archbishop Ryan also seemed to have adopted “a deliberate policy” to ensure that knowledge of problems involving accused priests “was as restricted as possible.” This resulted “in a disastrous lack of co-ordination in responding to problems.”
Archbishop Kevin McNamara – who held office from 1984 to 1987 – restored to ministry a priest, Fr Bill Carney, despite his having pleaded guilty to charges of child sex abuse in 1983 and despite suspicions about him where “numerous” other children were concerned. Fr Carney has since been laicized.
Archbishop McNamara also appointed Fr Ivan Payne, also since laicized, as Vice-Officialis of the Marriage Tribunal in Dublin even though Archbishop Ryan had previously refused to do so.
It was Archbishop McNamara who was first to take out insurance against possible claims for child abuse. He did so in March 1987 and all Catholic dioceses on the island of Ireland followed suit, excepting one.
Cardinal Desmond Connell, who held office as Archbishop from 1988 to April 2004, “was slow to recognise the seriousness of the situation” on assuming office. He was “over-reliant” on the advice of other people. While “clearly appalled by the abuse” it took him some time “to realize that it could not be dealt with by keeping it secret and protecting priests from normal civil processes.”
He showed “little understanding of the overall plight of victims” some of whom found him “remote and aloof” and some “sympathetic and kind.” However, and “on the other hand he did take an active interest in their civil litigation against the Archdiocese and personally approved the defences which were filed by the Archdiocese.”
Liability for injury and damage “was never admitted.” His strategies in civil cases, “while legally acceptable, often added to the hurt and grief of complainants.”
Where auxiliary bishops of Dublin over the period were concerned, the commission found that those who “dealt particularly badly with complaints” were Bishop Dermot O’Mahony (retired) and Bishop James Kavanagh (deceased). It found Bishop Donal Murray (currently Bishop of Limerick ) “also dealt badly with a number of complaints.”
Bishop Murray’s failure to reinvestigate earlier suspicions against Fr Thomas Naughton “was inexcusable.”
It also said the recently retired Bishop of Ossory, Dr Laurence Forristal, “was the only bishop to unequivocally admit in evidence to the commision that he may not have handled matters satisfactorily.”
It found that “there was a disturbing failure to accept responsibility on the part of the bishops who gave evidence. There was a tendency to blame the Archbishop and/or the chancellor” of the archdiocese.
Where the priests of the Dublin archdiocese were concerned, the commission found that “a few were courageous and brought complaints to the attention of their superiors.” However, it concluded that “the vast majority simply chose to turn a blind eye.”
The commission found that “there were a number of inappropriate contacts between the gardaí and the Archdiocese.” It cited the example of Garda Commissioner Costigan who handed over the case of Fr Edmondus to Archbishop McQuaid for investigation in 1960 This was “totally inappropriate”, it said.
“The relationship between some senior gardaí and some priests and bishops was also inappropriate,” it said. “A number of very senior members of the gardaí, including the Commissioner in 1960, clearly regarded priests as outside their remit. There are some examples of gardaí actually reporting complaints to the Archdiocese instead of investigating them.”
The report added, however, that “it is fortunate that some junior members of the force did not take the same view.” The commission was “impressed” with those gardaí involved in the prosecution of Fr Carney in the early 1980s. It “was not impressed” by the 20-year delay in reaching a decision to bring charges against a priest referred to only as Fr X.
Where the health authorities were concerned, it found they had “a very minor role in dealing with child sexual abuse by non family members.” It expressed concern that legislation covering the role of the HSE “is inadequate even for that limited role.”