A Litany of Abuse, Abuse, Abuse – Part 1

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Update: Simon McGarr of the Tuppenceworth.ie blog has set up a Facebook group to argue for the diplomatic expulsion of the Papal Nuncio from Ireland. He also provides two sample letters to send to either Ministers or TDs about this affair. Here is a PDF copy of the sample letters which you can amend  yourself if you like. Once you are happy with what you want to say why not send them to your TD, all TDs or a Goverment Minister using Contact.ie?

This is part one of a two part report, based on the Report by The Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin. Part One deals with the generalities of the report – a damning indictment of the church in general for its handling of the reporting of clerical child sexual abuse, its cover up, and the complicity (or otherwise) of the Gardaí. Part Two will look at the abuse, abuse, and more abuse handed out by individuals. Prepare yourself for some pretty sickening reading.

It begins, the Report by The Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, like this: ‘the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation was established to report on the handling by Church and State authorities of a representative sample of allegations and suspicions of child sexual abuse against clerics’.

By page two, matters have gotten very serious indeed, as we are told that complaints were received about 172 named priests and 11 unnamed (though these may be part of the 172). One of these priests admitted to abusing over 100 children, whilst another admitted to abusing on ‘a fortnightly basis’ over 25 years. In total, there were over 70 complaints made against these two priests alone – and, remember, we’re still only on page 2.

On page three, the report states that it ‘examined’ 320 complaints against 46 priests as a ‘representative sample’. One wonders what would a full disclosure include. (It is important to note, that at least one priest – Fr Ricardus – was falsely accused.)

And so the report goes on, through a number of headings, becoming more and more harrowing as each paragraph is read. Allow me to present my own representative sample.

The Archdiocese and Church authorities
The report could not be more clear on the failures of the Archdiocese and the church authorities:

“The Dublin Archdiocese’s pre-occupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets. All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities.”

But did they really know what was going on?

Knowledge of Clerical Child Sexual Abuse
The report tells us that those men dealing with the complaints were all “very well educated”, many with degrees in canon law and some with degrees in civil law. That they might plead ignorance of the law, the authors “find very hard to accept”. It is claimed:

“All the Archbishops of Dublin in the period covered by the Commission were aware of some complaints. This is true of many of the auxiliary bishops also. At the time the Archdiocese took out insurance in 1987, Archbishop Kevin McNamara, Archbishop Dermot Ryan and Archbishop John Charles McQuaid had had, between them, available information on complaints against at least 17 priests operating under the aegis of the Dublin Archdiocese. The taking out of insurance was an act proving knowledge of child sexual abuse as a potential major cost to the Archdiocese.”

Responsibility for Clerical Child Sexual Abuse
There have been calls for the resignations of Bishops over this report, but it must be remembered that “Priests who abuse children are directly responsible for their actions. That responsibility cannot be transferred to their bishops or the heads of their orders or societies”, as the report states. However, the report also says that the church authorities have a duty of “ensuring that offending priests are not protected from the normal processes of the civil law”.

Cover Up
That there was a cover up is without doubt, with the church trying to ensure that “as few people as possible” knew. “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.”

Contact between the Abusers
There was no evidence discovered of a paedophile ring in the Archdiocese. “However, as can be seen from the chapters on the 46 priests, there were some worrying connections. Fr Carney and Fr McCarthy abused children during their visits to children’s homes. They also brought children on holidays and shared accommodation with two separate complainants. A boy who was initially abused by Fr McCarthy was subsequently abused by Fr Carney. Fr Carney abused children at swimming pools and was sometimes accompanied to swimming pools by Fr Maguire.” So, whilst there was not a “ring” there was certainly duplicity, it would seem, and networking.

State Authorities: The Gardaí
The reports remarks that there were “a number of inappropriate” contacts between the Gardaí and the church authorities. The handling of one particular case being deemed “totally inappropriate”. On top of that “A number of very senior members of the Gardaí, including the Commissioner in 1960, clearly regarded priests as being outside their remit. There are some examples of Gardaí actually reporting complaints to the Archdiocese instead of investigating them. It is fortunate that some junior members of the force did not take the same view.” One hopes that our young Gardaí of today are as moral.

The Complainants
The bravery and pain of those who came forward is, rightly, paid tribute to:

“The Commission would like to pay special tribute to the complainants who gave evidence before the Commission. Reliving their experiences was extremely painful, and the Commission was left in no doubt about the devastating effect child sexual abuse can have not just on victims but also on their families of origin and the families they create subsequently. Their evidence was also instrumental in helping the Commission to properly examine the catalogue of secrecy, cover-up and inaction which the Church authorities indulged in during the vast majority of the period covered by this investigation.”