October 25, 2005

Ferns Report - An appalling litany of abuse and cover-up

Irish Examiner

The damning report on sexual abuse of young people by priests in the diocese of Ferns is a scathing indictment of failure by the Catholic Church on both a national and international level to prevent the predatory activities of paedophile priests.

The findings of the landmark investigation into this scandal prove beyond doubt that the Church authorities covered up clerical sex abuse. Arguably, the Ferns case, involving a pattern of clerical sexual abuse spanning 40 years, is one of the worst scandals anywhere in the world. Looking back over four decades between 1962 and 2002, former Supreme Court Judge Frank Murphy identifies more than 100 allegations against 26 priests accused of child sexual abuse.

According to the report the varied response of church authorities reflected the personalities and management style of successive bishops and a growing sense of understanding among doctors and society of its consequences.

Despite indisputable evidence of abuse of a most evil kind, the response of the authorities, including the gardaí is strongly criticised, particularly in cases involving eight priests where garda action was “wholly inadequate”. Significantly, the report highlights an institutional failure on the part of the Church reaching right up to the Vatican, reflecting a pattern of uninvestigated abuse by Church authorities.

Former Bishop Donal Herlihy is criticised for allowing unsuitable candidates with a propensity for abuse to be ordained and for transferring known abusers to parishes where they continued preying on their victims. In one rural parish, the priest systematically abused 10 young girls but under the shadow of the crozier they were not believed. Bishop Herlihy saw the issue as a moral problem. And when the file was sent to the Chief Superintendent it vanished, never to be seen again.

Posted by kshaw at October 25, 2005 07:08 PM