Sunday, November 22, 2009

Archbishops’ cover-up of child sex abuse revealed

Archbishops’ cover-up of child sex abuse revealed
Desire to protect Church meant crimes not reported: Dublin Diocese Inquiry

Irish Independent
Sunday November 22 2009

THE four Catholic archbishops of Dublin who preceded Dr Diarmuid Martin, were aware of complaints against priests for sexually abusing children — a practice that went on for over 35 years.

But the most senior figures in the Irish hierarchy did not report these crimes to the gardai because of an obsessive culture of secrecy and a desire to preserve the power and aura of the Church and to avoid giving scandal to their congregations.

The report of the Commission set up to investigate how the Dublin Archdiocese dealt with sex abuse scandals from 1975 to 2004 will find that there was little or no concern for the welfare of the abused children or other children who might come into contact with deviant and even paedophile priests.

While the Commission will find that there was no evidence of a paedophile ring operating among priests in the Dublin Archdiocese, there were distressing connections between more than 40 priests serving in parishes and religious orders in the diocese.

Some boys who were abused by one priest were later passed on to their friends and abused again. In another case, the notorious sex abuser Fr Sean Fortune, who committed suicide, gave the key of a holiday cottage to another priest who abused a girl there.

The Commission, which has trawled through thousands of files over more than nine years, will find that the powerful bishops of Dublin were more concerned with the power and pomp of their Church than they were with the children in their care.

Some of those who complained were met with denial, arrogance and even cover-up, the shocking report will reveal. The report will say that not one of the four archbishops who presided over the Dublin diocese from the 1960s revealed their knowledge of widespread sexual abuse by the clergy to the gardai until late 1995.

The Commission will find that while Cardinal Desmond Connell was shocked at the extent of child sexual abuse among the Dublin diocesan clergy and religious orders, he was slow to recognise the seriousness of the situation, took bad counsel from legal and medical advisers and failed to realise that clerical sex abusers could not be dealt with in secret.

It also says that while he was kind and sympathetic to some of those who complained to him, he appeared not to comprehend the suffering of victims. The Commission will also report that Archbishop Connell's strategies, while legally acceptable, added to the trauma and grief of abused children.

The Commission is expected to be scathing in its criticism of the bishops, who, it says, were all highly educated men who should have known that criminal acts should have been reported to the gardai as a matter of course.

In one of its most damning findings, the Commission will say that the Archdiocese of Dublin was aware from 1987 of the seriousness of allegations against its priests and that it took out specific insurance against sexual misconduct by the clergy.

The Commission is also expected to express its deep concern that in some cases professionals, such as psychiatrists and counsellors, who were asked to deal with clerical sex abusers, were not given the full facts of the priest's history of abuse. As a result, priests were sometimes allowed back into parishes unsupervised.

Despite the trenchant criticism of the Catholic Church in Dublin since the era of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, the Commission, which was headed by High Court judge Yvonne Murphy, will thank the current Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, and his legal team, who gave unrestricted access to its files.

The report is also expected to be critical of the State and some gardai for not intervening much earlier to challenge the authority and power of the Church. It will say that while some members of the force investigated sex-abusing clergy, others in the Garda Siochana seem to have regarded the clergy as being above the law.

The report was presented to Justice Minister Dermot Ahern but has since been modified because a number of those named in the original document are still facing prosecution. It is believed that a copy of the report, which has since been edited for legal reasons, will be presented to the Cabinet on Tuesday and is expected to be published in full later in the week.

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