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Safeguarding board has "no remit" to deal with abuse by Irish priests abroad

As further reviews of child protection measures across Catholic Church in Ireland published, “anomaly” emerges.

Image: crucifix bible via Shutterstock

THE BOARD SET up to oversee the improvement of child safeguarding measures within the Catholic Church in Ireland has noted that it has no power in reviewing cases where Irish priest are accused of abusing children abroad.

The National Board of Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church of Ireland (NBSCCCI) said today that there was an “anomaly” in how safeguarding standards could be applied when a religious organisation is based in Ireland – but carries out its work outside the country.

The NBSCCCI was speaking in relation to the audit of St Patrick’s Missionary Society – also known as the Kiltegan Fathers. There have been 50 allegations made about 14 members of the Society since 1975 but three allegations were not reported in Ireland as they occurred in “other jurisdictions”.

The reviewers of the Society’s efforts were concerned that abuse allegations made outside Ireland “has not in every case given rise to an appropriate and robust response” from the Kiltegan Fathers HQ in Wicklow. In one case, several reports made in the mid to late 1960s of sexual activity between a Kiltegan Father and a number of young Goan boys in Kenya were not looked into until 1997, and the priest in questions remained part of the Kiltegan Fathers until 2002.

Civil action

The issue of children abroad being abused by Irish priests whose commanding organisation is located here has already provoked a civil action in the Irish courts. TheJournal.ie reported in February of this year that an African man has brought a case to the Irish High Court, seeking damages from the Spiritan congregation (formerly the Holy Ghost Fathers) for abuse he claims he suffered at the hands of an Irish Spiritan while in Sierra Leone.

The NBSCCCI review of the Spiritan congregation’s child safeguarding attempts was dismal – “Provincials maintained men in ministry after being informed of abuse and that some of these men went on to abuse again.”

And most pertinently: “In some instances, priests and brothers were moved either out of the country or to other ministries, where they continued to abuse children.”

Reviews of the safeguarding practices across eight different Church authorities were published this morning. This is the fourth tranche of such reports – there have now been 27 completed.

The acting CEO of the NBSCCCI, Teresa Devlin, said that:

In the majority of cases the progress that has been made has been heartening.

However, this was not universally the case and we have undertaken to work closely with those that have not met the required standards to ensure that children are properly safeguuarded.

The next tranche of reviews will be released next year, dealing with “the larger religious congregations and missionary orders”.

Click on each link below to view analysis of the reports released today:

Helplines:

  • Rape Crisis Centre 1800 778 888
  • Towards Healing 1800 303 416
  • Connect 1800 477 477
  • One in Four 01-6624070
  • The Samaritans 1850 60 9090

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