The Dublin Report: Years of the Church covering up clerical child abuse
The Archdiocese of Dublin routinely covered up clerical child abuse over the course of 30 years, moving priests from parish to parish in order to preserve their reputations, a newly released report found.
The two part document which makes up the Dublin Report (over 500 pages) is the result of a three year investigation looking at the way in which the Archdiocese of Dublin dealt with clerical abuse during the period from 1975 and 2005.
The report found that members of the hierarchy had a clear understanding of the nature of the abuse and the abusers, but continued to move priests around, giving little information to the people in the places to which abuser priests were being moved. In one case, a priest against whom complaints were made asked to retire from his ministry, but was urged to stay on for another six months lest his departure look unduly hasty. There was a lack of communication between those in the upper echelons of power and those who were making the complaints.
Set up in 2006, the Dublin Commission read through countless reports, minutes, and documents from the Church, state and public authorities dealing with complaints and allegations about priests who were thought to have abused children as well as listening to the testimonies of victims. They at a sample of 46 priests of the archdiocese Dublin, against whom complaints had been made.
While Archbishop John Charles McQuaid started to follow up complaints with canonical proceedings about clerical child abuse, neither Archbishop Dermot Ryan nor Archbishop Kevin McNamara bothered to apply canon law to the allegations being made. According to the Dublin report, in 1981 Archbishop Ryan had ” clear understanding of both the recidivist nature of child sexual abusers and the effects of such abuse on children when he was referring Fr to Stroud (a therapeutic facility in the UK)”.
Only two canonical trials took place over the 30-year period. Both were at the instigation of Archbishop Desmond Connell and the Commission gave him credit for initiating the two penal processes which led to the dismissal of Fr Bill Carney in 1990, despite opposition from one of the area’s most powerful canon lawyers.
Secrecy: The report found that in the period covered there was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for clerical sex abuse. The archbishop and his auxiliaries did not seem to have discussed it openly until the 1990s and complainants were told as little as possible.
During the period under review, one of the four bishops reported his knowledge of child sexual abuse to the Gardaí throughout the 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s. It was not until November 1995 that Archbishop Connell allowed the names of 17 priests about whom the Archdiocese had received complaints to be given to the Gardaí.
Under Archbishop McNamara, who was appointed in 1984, a priest who had pleaded guilty to charges of child sexual abuse the year before, Fr Carney had his priestly faculties restored. At the same time, Archbishop McNamara took out insurance against possible compensation claims for clerical child abuse.
The Commission found that the auxiliary bishops had dealt badly with the complaints and other bishops refused to accept responsibility, laying the blame on others.
The report said: “The Commission has no doubt that clerical child sexual abuse was covered up by the Archdiocese of Dublin and other Church authorities over
much of the period covered by the Commission’s remit. The structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated that cover-up. 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.
“The welfare of children, which should have been the first priority, was not even a factor to be considered in the early stages. 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. In the mid 1990s, a light began to be shone on the scandal and the cover up. Gradually, the story has unfolded. 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”.
One interesting point made in the report: “Canon law provides the Church authorities with a means not only of dealing with offending clergy, but also with a means of doing justice to victims, including paying compensation to them. But the commission did not find a single case where canon law was invoked in order to do justice to the victims”.
“The Commission heard evidence from canon law experts that the status of canon law as an instrument of Church governance declined hugely during Vatican II and in the decades immediately after it”.
Dublin’s current Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said yesterday: “One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the Report is that while Church leaders –Bishops and religious superiors – failed, almost every parent who came to the diocese to report abuse clearly understood the awfulness of what has involved.
“Almost exclusively their primary motivation was to try to ensure that what happened to their child, or in some case to themselves, did not happen to other children. Their motivation was not about money or revenge; it was quite simply about that most basic human sense of right and wrong and that basic Christian motivation of concern for others. The survivors of abuse who courageously remained determined to have the full truth heard by all deserve our recognition and admiration….”
Sancta mater Maria, ora pro nobis.