For 36 years, leaders of six Roman Catholic dioceses in Ireland not only mishandled clergy sexual abuse and were not held accountable for abetting abuse, but also failed to establish reviews totally independent of Church influence, according to Voice of the Faithful’s reading of reports by Ireland’s National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church released Nov. 30.
Despite what auditors considered “marked improvement” of child protection practices in these diocese, they also turned up past significant errors in judgment by bishops; protection of priest perpetrators rather than child victims; lack of plans to safeguard children; mismanagement of allegations, including allegations not being referred promptly to state agencies; transfer of priests to cover-up abuse; and the use of clergy appointed by bishops as “designated officers” to whom abuse concerns are reported, which calls into question whether they can make judgements independent of Church hierarchy.
Bishop Dr. Philip Boyce of the Raphoe Diocese, for example, is reported as saying, “There were horrific acts of abuse of children by individual priests that should never have happened and if suspected should have been dealt with immediately in the appropriate manner.”
Dan Bartley, VOTF president, concluded, “The NBSCCC and its audits are similar to the U.S. bishops’ National Review Board and audits, which we find lack both the independence to review diocesan child safeguarding practices adequately and the authority to hold accountable bishops who have hidden and abetted abuse.”
“Based on our experience, we cannot assume that Ireland’s bishops will follow NBSCCC child protection guidelines any more than the U.S. bishops followed their own National Review Board standards. There must be independent monitors and consequences for bishops who fail to meet the standards. Thus, we make the same recommendations to the NBSCCC that we made earlier this year to the NRB and Office of Child and Youth Protection,” Bartley said.
Those recommendations included:
- Changing bishops’ child protection guidelines to mandate specific disciplinary action for violating those guidelines; and
- Making audits more effective by ensuring unrestricted access to personnel files and complete independence of auditing agencies.
NBSCCC audited six Irish dioceses: Raphoe, Tuam, Kilmore, Derry, Ardagh Clonmacnoise and Dromore. Ireland has 26 Catholic dioceses, and the NBSCCC reportedly plans to audit every diocese. The purpose of the audits, which covered January 1975 through August 2011, was to assess whether the dioceses current child safeguarding practices comply with Ireland’s national standards and to ensure that allegations of child abuse are handled appropriately.