The Catholic Church has published a review of its handling of more than 52 allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the Diocese of Raphoe in Northern Ireland.
This includes the case of Fr Eugene Greene who was a serial paedophile priest who was charged and convicted of abusing up to 26 boys over 20 years.
In the review the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church admits that the Diocese of Raphoe had experienced a significant level of clerical abuse and “it is clear that significant errors of judgement were made by successive bishops when responding to child abuse allegations that emerged”.
“Too much emphasis was placed on the situation of the accused priest and too little on the needs of their complainants. Judgements were clouded due to the presenting problem, for example, being about alcohol abuse.”
The report criticises past actions of the current Bishop Boyce but commends his efforts to improve safeguarding and offering support and counselling to victims.
“It is a matter of great regret to Bishop Boyce that his focus on victims’ needs was not greater in the past, and he now acknowledges that he has a very different appreciation of his safeguarding responsibilities as to when he first came into office. The reviewers would accept that this is the case and would wish to commend Bishop Boyce on his willingness to learn the painful lessons of the past and to apply them to the current practice in the diocese.”
The report shows that since January 1975 15 priests in the diocese had abuse allegations made against them with a total of 52 separate allegations. Of those, eight have since left the priesthood, six have retired and four have been convicted.
The review recommended Bishop Boyce record all allegations and referrals in writing and suggested that the “designated person” for safeguarding no longer be a priest but a lay person.
The report acknowledged that a priest could not be compelled to undergo a risk assessment and there had been a number of examples where the offer was made and not accepted. “This leaves Bishop Boyce in a very difficult position with regard to progressing the appropriate management of the case.” The Health Service Executive was now providing advice to the church on this matter.
The report also highlighted that there was now a large degree of fear amongst priests in the Catholic Church around being accused of sexual abuse. Some were refusing to take training for fear of what it might imply and others were choosing not to involve children in the life of the church as a result.
“They need to be freed from this fear in order to move forward,” the report stated.
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