Men who tried to keep crimes a secret


Men who tried to keep crimes a secret

Four archbishops colluded in cover-up of abuse

By Edel Kennedy
Friday November 27 2009

FOUR former archbishops of Dublin were heavily criticised for their failure to report child sexual abuse and their determination to keep the crimes secret.

The archbishops who colluded in the cover-up were: Cardinal Desmond Connell, 1988-2004; Kevin McNamara, 1985-87; Dermot Ryan, 1972-1984; and John Charles McQuaid, 1940-1972.

The report found that until the mid 1990s, the archbishops were more interested in the “maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets” than dealing with cases of abuse. “All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated,” the report found.

“The archdiocese did not implement its own canon law rules and did its best to avoid any application of the law of the State.”

The report pointed out that Archbishop Ryan and Archbishop Connell held high-ranking academic posts, but it was not until 1995 that Archbishop Connell referred the allegations to the civil authorities. “In this context, it is significant, in the commission’s view, that every bishop’s primary loyalty is to the Church itself.”

Archbishop McQuaid was familiar with the requirements of canon law but did not apply them fully.

“It is clear that his dealings with Fr Edmondus (pseudonym) in 1960 were aimed at the avoidance of scandal and showed no concern for the welfare of children,” the report states.


His successor, Archbishop Ryan, failed to properly investigate complaints against at least five priests. In the case of Fr Harry Moore, he ignored the advice given by a psychiatrist that he should not be placed in a parish. Fr Moore was subsequently convicted of a serious sexual assault on a teenager. “As problems emerged, Archbishop Ryan got different people to deal with them. This seems to have been a deliberate policy to ensure that knowledge of the problems was as restricted as possible.”

Archbishop McNamara was seriously ill when he was appointed in 1984, but made a number of decisions which put children at serious risk. This included the restoration of priestly faculties to Fr William Carney, despite his having pleaded guilty to charges of child sexual abuse in 1983 and despite the fact there were suspicions about him.

Archbishop McNamara also saw the need for insurance cover and started the process of getting it.

Archbishop Connell took over in 1988 and the commission found that he was “stunned, not by the fact, but by the extent of the clerical child sexual abuse”.

Bishop Dermot O’Mahony told the commission that, of the three archbishops he served, it seemed to him that Archbishop Connell was “the most deeply affected by the harm of clerical sex abuse. He was also the most proactive in seeking improvement in the church management of the issue”.

However, he was found to be slow to recognise the seriousness of the situation and was “over-reliant” on advice from others.


He was also criticised for allowing Fr Ivan Payne to continue in ministry when the complaint against him became known in 1991.

Archbishops saw few victims personally and while some found him sympathetic and kind, others say he was “remote and aloof”.

“The Archbishops’ strategies in the civil cases, while legally acceptable, often added to the hurt and grief of many complainants,” it added.

The report said it was clear the Church’s priority was to “ensure that as few people as possible knew of the individual priest’s problem”.

“There was little or no concern for the welfare of the abused child or for the welfare of other children who might come into contact with the priest. Complainants were often met with denial, arrogance and cover-up and with incompetence and incomprehension in some cases. Suspicions were rarely acted on.”

– Edel Kennedy

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