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Archbishop says he is 'seriously concerned' about latest reports into child protection

The Franciscan friars have apologised to survivors who were abused while under their care.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated 3.22pm

ARCHBISHOP DIARMUID MARTIN has said he is ‘seriously concerned’ by the latest reports into how the Catholic Church in Ireland has safeguarded children.

Archbishop Martin, who is the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, said it was “appalling” to read about the delays by some major religious congregations in implementing guidelines to look after children.

He made the comments as the Franciscan friars apologised to survivors who were abused while under their care.

In a statement, released today with a report into their current safeguarding policies, the Order said it regretted the “significant missed opportunities” to protect children from abusive behaviour.

Provincial Hugh McKenna said he apologises “unreservedly to each and every survivor for the pain and harm inflicted on those who suffered abuse while under our care”.

“I apologise for the breach of trust, and the suffering victims and their families endured,” he continued.

I also know that no apology can ever be sufficient, and acknowledge with deep shame and sadness that the Franciscan Order failed you.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland released its review report into the order today. The Order admitted that it described the “stark reality of abuse perpetrated by members of the Irish Franciscans over a 45-year period from 1953 to 1998″.

“It relates that three friars were convicted by the courts during this period, and also highlights failure on the part of the Franciscan Order to deal adequately with complaints brought to their attention at that time.”

Since 1975, 28 priests and brothers have had 109 allegations made against them. Of those, 78 were reported to gardaí or the PSNI. The HSE and Health Boards were made aware of 60 of them.

Of the 28 priests and brothers, just eight are still alive and members of the congregation.

The report said that the three convicted friars were “prolific abusers”.

Jailed

“Friar A, carried out most of his sexual abuse of children while he was living on site at a second-level college. According to records viewed by the reviewers he resided on site from 1963 to 1993 and the earliest recorded allegation of abuse related to the school in 1968 and the latest in 1989,” the report states.

Complaints were made to fellow friars by pupils and their families in respect of alleged abusive behaviour to pupils and local altar boys in 1973, 1978, 1988 and 1989.

Reviewers said “it is a cause for concern that the school records do not apparently have on file any of these allegations”.

He was removed from duties in the 1980s but remained on site until 1993. In 1998, he was out of ministry and began receiving therapy. However, supervision arrangements were not in place until 2002 and he was not subject to a formal risk assessment until 2006.

He was sentenced to five years in prison in 2007, with half the sentence suspended. He was released in 2009 and now lives under a strict supervisory regime.

Another friar, who was not convicted but admitted to inappropriate sexual activity with a child, is being allowed to return to a limited form of supervised ministry.

He has attended a treatment programme but was removed from ministry for a second time in 2009 following a NBSCCCI recommendation.

Since that time, he has been subject to two independent risk assessments — neither of which supported the friar remaining out of ministry.

One assessment was of the view that he had a very low risk of reoffending and the most recent, in 2013, stated that the possibility of him reoffending was minimal.

In 2014, an agreement could see him take up a limited form of supervised ministry where there is no public access and no direct contact with children.

On the advice of the NBSCCCI, further checks will be carried out with the civil authorities before any return to limited ministry is confirmed.

The Franciscans said they were encouraged that the report noted a change in safeguarding practice from 2009 onwards.

Augustinians

The NBSCCCI also released reports into 15 other orders – both male and female.

Between 1975 and 2015, complaints were made against 11 friars in the Augustinian order with 17 allegations reported to gardaí or the PSNI. The HSE (or appropriate health boards) were made aware of 12 allegations. Of the 11 friars, seven are still alive. One is still in ministry, while three are ‘out of ministry’ but still members of the congregation. Three others are retired. None were convicted and none left the congregation.

Carmelite Friars

Eleven allegations were made against the Discalced Carmelite Friars since the beginning of 1975.

Eight had been reported to the gardaí and six to the HSE or other agencies. Two of the friars are still in the order, four are deceased, one is in private ministry and one is in public ministry.

Two of the allegations were not reported for a number of years.

Passionist Priests

Over 40 allegations were made against members of the Passionist Priests order, but none were substantiated after all but two were passed to the authorities. Most relate to the the 1950s.

The two that were not reported had incomplete information from accusers.

Sixteen of the 20 men accused are dead, two are out of the ministry, one is still in ministry and one has left the congregation.

The Passionists say that they apologise for the pain of those who experienced abuse at the hands of their members. They say that they are striving to ensure that past failings are not repeated.

Sacred Hearts of Mary and Jesus (SSCC)

The SSCC saw five allegations made against three priests since 1975, but no convictions have come.

Just one of those accused is still alive. The order has no direct ministry with children.

Additional reporting by Paul Hosford and Christine Bohan 

More: Cork man ejected from priesthood over abuse claims has appeal rejected by Rome

Read: Judge tells religious order to hand over priests’ files to abuse victim

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