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Europe

Catholic Church concealed decades of child abuse, says report

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-11-26

The Catholic Church in Ireland covered up widespread allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests for four decades, a damning official report released on Thursday said.

REUTERS - The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Dublin obsessively covered up widespread sexual abuse of children by priests until the mid-1990s in a misuse of the Church's central role in Irish society, an official report said on Thursday.
 
The government-commissioned inquiry into abuse in the Irish capital from 1975 to 2004, which came six months after a similarly damning report about Church-run industrial and reform schools, also accused state officials of abetting the cover-up.
 
The report, designed to show how church and state responded to charges of abusing children, said a representative sample of 46 priests made "abundantly clear" that it was widespread.
 
"The Dublin Archdiocese's pre-occupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid-1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets," the report said.
 
"All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities," added the report, which was published by the justice ministry.
 
Similar abuse cover-up charges have dogged the Catholic Church in other countries, especially the United States. Seven dioceses there have filed for bankruptcy protection to shield themselves from law suits by abuse victims.
 
Pope Benedict has condemned sexual abuse by clergy and said wayward priests should be brought to justice. He met abuse victims during his 2008 visit to the United States.
 
Abuse cases have also been reported elsewhere, notably in Australia, Austria, Britain, Canada, France and Poland.
 
‘Sordid events’
 
The Irish report said the Church was "obsessively" concerned with secrecy and operated a policy of "don't ask, don't tell" about abuse, though the situation improved after 1996.
 
"Unfortunately, it may be that the very prominent role which the Church has played in Irish life is the very reason why abuses by a minority of its members were allowed to go unchecked," it said.
 
The government acknowledged the errors of state agencies mentioned in the report.
 
"Whatever the historical and societal reasons for this, the government, on behalf of the state, apologises without reservation or equivocation for failures ... in dealing with this issue," the justice ministry said in a statement.
 
The Church in Ireland has been plagued by sex scandals for at least two decades. The country was shocked in 1992 when the popular Bishop Eamonn Casey of Galway resigned after an American woman revealed they had a child from a passionate affair.
 
Disclosures in May of decades of floggings, slave labour and gang rape in much of Ireland's now defunct system of industrial and reform schools earlier in the 20th century shamed Ireland and further eroded the Catholic Church's moral authority.
 
Work on the latest report, begun in 2006, finished months ago but publication was delayed until the High Court cleared it last week with some details removed because they could jeopardise criminal proceedings.
 
It said some priests had denied the charges against them, but one admitted abusing over 100 children while another said he had abused on a fortnightly basis for over 25 years.
 
The report said state authorities facilitated the cover up of abuse. "The welfare of children ... was not even a factor to be considered in the early stages," it said.
 

 

Date created : 2009-11-26

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