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Catholic Church audits show progress in child protection

The third tranche of reviews have been welcomed by survivor advocacy group One in Four.

Image: PA/PA Wire/Press Association Images

THE THIRD TRANCHE of reviews of safeguarding practice across the Catholic Church in Ireland were released today, showing steady progress has been made in the area of child protection.

The audits covered six dioceses – Clogher, Elphin, Ferns, Galway, Kimacduagh and Kilfenora, Killala and Waterford – as well as the Society of African Missions.

A total of 248 allegations, relating to 106 priests were examined.

So far, 20 Church authorities have been reviewed by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI).

CEO Ian Elliot said it was gratifying to report “clear evidence of steady progress in developing robust safeguarding structures”. He noted that there was “significant improvement” on past performance.

He thanked the “army of volunteers” who give their time to support child protection practices across Church authorities.

“There efforts have been nothing short of heroic,” he said.

Survivor advocacy group One in Four welcomed today’s publications, stating the audits “tell a positive story”.

“A new culture of prioritising the safety of children is apparent,” the group said in a statement. “While the Dioceses of  Clogher was severely criticised for past practices, it was noted that the new bishop has actively  implemented many positive changes.  It is also heartening to see that the one congregation audited, the Society of Missionaries in Africa, have a model system in place.”

However, executive director Maeve Lewis asked for a “clearer explanation” as to why priests against whom allegations have been made are still in ministry in some dioceses.

She also called for the fast-tracking of Children First legislation and the establishment of the new Child and Family Support Agency.

Lewis was also critical of the board for not giving advance warning to support agencies about the publication of the audits and they “retrigger painful memories” for survivors.

“The needs of the survivors have been completely overlooked,” she said.

Audits are due to be carried out by 188 church authorities in ministry in Ireland. However, some of the authorities are small and membership skewed towards older people and not children. The NBSCCCI hopes to finish the overall task in within two years. The focus of the reports is not to provide a detailed analysis of what happened in the past but to scrutinise the child protection policies as they are today.

The first tranche of reviews, released in November 2011 detailed more than 160 allegations of abuse by about 85 different priests. The second tranche, which included three religious orders, dealt with 378 allegations relating to 146 individuals.

More: ‘Unacceptable delays and unsatisfactory responses’ to abuse concerns in Clogher

Read: Abuse allegations against three active priests in Galway diocese

More: ‘Significant developments’ in child safeguarding in Diocese of Ferns

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