October 30, 2005

Church failed Wexford children

Irish Emigrant

Since it was published on Tuesday evening the report on child sex abuse by certain priests in the Diocese of Ferns has totally dominated the news. It was known that the diocese had a particular problem and it was suspected that bishops did not act decisively to ensure that children were protected from known and suspected abusers, but the full extent of the scandal came as something of a surprise. More than 100 victims made credible allegations against 21 priests; allegations against a further five priests surfaced too late to be investigated fully. The inquiry, initiated in 2003 by the then Minister for Health Mícheál Martin and conducted by retired Supreme Court Judge Frank Murphy, covered a period of 40 years. It was presented to Cabinet on Tuesday morning and published later in the day. Prior to that, leaked reports gave some idea of the extent of the problem.

The report took to task Bishop Dónal Herlihy, who led the diocese from 1964 until his death in 1983, and his successor Dr Brendan Comiskey who resigned in 2002. Neither man seemed to grasp the seriousness of the problem and the propensity for abusers to continue their activities even if moved to another location. It was stated that Bishop Herlihy viewed priests who abused children as "guilty of moral misconduct" but failed to recognise their behaviour as "a serious criminal offence". Bishop Éamonn Walsh was lauded for his efforts to bring about major reform in the diocese since his appointment in 2002 as apostolic administrator of the Ferns diocese. The gardaí and the South Eastern Health Board were also found wanting in their response. Garda investigations into complaints were inadequate and in one case the related file disappeared.

Posted by kshaw at October 30, 2005 07:19 PM