An audit of how the Catholic order the Christian Brothers dealt with abuse allegations has found only 12 brothers were convicted of crimes between 1975 and today.
A review of the congregation's files found that its initial response
to the need to report abuse to the authorities was not systematic and
It revealed allegations were made against 325 brothers - only 50 of
whom are still alive - with 870 complaints of abuse in the 38 year
period, all of which have been reported to authorities.
The audit, carried out by the church's own watchdog the National
Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, is one of eight
being released today.
The latest and largest tranche of reviews by the oversight body
scrutinise both current practice in two religious orders and six
dioceses and the handling of all allegations received since January
In the Christian Brothers, the inspection board said one brother was
returned to ministry after an allegation and only 12 brothers were
convicted of offences against children.
It described the level of abuse from members of the order as substantial.
And it warned: "The number of convictions by the courts, compared to
the numbers accused of child abuse, is significantly small."
In the 66 years between 1931 and 1997, the Christian Brothers
received 92 allegations of abuse but in the subsequent 15 years, from
1998 to this year, they received 794 allegations.
Since internal reviews in 2007 and 2009, the safeguarding board said it is now satisfied that reports are made promptly.
The Christian Brothers said they accepted that a safeguarding deficit existed in the past.
"We want to learn from the mistakes of the past and to create a safe environment for all children and young adults," it said.
The Kiltegan Fathers, also known as the St Patrick's Missionary
Society, were also inspected and criticised for inadequate recording of
allegations, incidents and suspicions.
According to the watchdog, a total of 50 allegations were made about members of the order in the 38 year period.
The allegations involved 14 individuals - nine of whom were still
alive when the review was taking place - while five have left the order.
One member of the order has been convicted of an offence against a child or young person over the last four decades.
The watchdog said "too much tolerance" was given to priests accused
of abuse and also cited instances of children who claimed to have been
abused by missionaries.
The watchdog said abuse outside the Irish region was not always met
with appropriate and robust action and that children outside of Ireland
were not given the same level of priority.
"Accused priests were afforded too much tolerance and so found it too
easy to avoid being held accountable for their actions," the report
"It also appeared to the reviewers that the identification of abuse
of a child on the missions did not always evoke the actions that
evidence an empathic response to the experiences of victims."
Kiltegan society leader Father Seamus O'Neill apologised unreservedly to victims of abuse and their families.
"We remain committed to attaining best practice in safeguarding children as soon as possible," he said.
Elsewhere, the watchdog found the organisation had completely failed
to meet requirements of having a written plan in place on what steps
should be taken to keep children safe.
A series of reports on dioceses around Ireland, north and south, were also released.
In the Kerry Diocese, the safeguarding board found 21 priests faced a total of 67 allegations.
Only one priest was convicted.
One priest was still in ministry and another five have left the priesthood.
The audit noted that one priest dismissed from ministry at his own
request but who was later found in another part of the country with a
job which gave him access to children.
Four complaints of serious sex abuse have been made against the man
when he was working in a children's home in Co Kerry in the 1970s but he
was not prosecuted.
In a second alarming case, a dead priest has 25 allegations against
him dating back to schools in the diocese in the 1950s and '60s and more
A third case involves a priest who was jailed after a trial in 1997
and a suggestion that one of his victims complained to a previous Bishop
of Kerry, but no record of of it can be found in church files.
The review board praised the diocese for imporvements in managing
abuse and suspected abusers and said the Garda and health chiefs have
been told of allegations in all of the reported cases between 1975 and
The audit noted that gardai and health staff were very satisfied with the level of openness and co-operation in the diocese.
Bishop of Kerry Ray Brownes apologised to anyone abused in the diocese.
the Diocese of Down and Connor, which includes Belfast and is the
second largest in Ireland, the reviewers found 46 out of 48 criteria
which make up the safeguarding standards had been met.
outstanding criteria refer to support for and monitoring of priests who
have abused and a written plan of action on implementing and monitoring
The report said 14 concerns or allegations raised since
the appointment of Bishop Noel Treanor to the diocese in June 2008 had
been properly managed.
Of those 14, seven had insufficient evidence. Of
the other seven, all are currently out of ministry, one is the subject
of a criminal investigation and one is in prison.
There are 19
living priests of the Down and Connor Diocese who are subjects of child
safeguarding concerns. Of these, seven were known about before Bishop
Treanor was appointed.
Two of these seven men had further
historical allegations made against them after June 2008; and a further
12 diocesan priests also had historical allegations made against them
since that time.
The report recommended that the bishop, with the
staff of the Safeguarding Office, analyse the results of a 2009 internal
diocesan review of case management files to ensure that those living
priests of the diocese of Down and Connor who need to be risk assessed
because of child safeguarding concerns, have been so assessed and that
written risk management plans have been developed and are being
The 33-page document, written by the National Board
for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, said the
diocese considers that restrictions have been put on cases which are
processed jointly with non-church authorities and that this has been
communicated in writing to the priest in question.
In today's report, the reviewers did not find written evidence of this in every case file that they examined.
unrelated historical cases across Ireland priests were allowed to move
around with few controls, despite high-level concerns about their
The experts said a small amount of file documentation
on canonical processes in pre-2008 cases was incomplete and advised that
any missing documentation be searched for and appropriately inserted in
the relevant files.
Their report made six recommendations
including that the bishop initiates a process whereby the pre-2009 child
safeguarding case management files that are still open are brought up
to the highest possible standards.
the bishop should request a training needs assessment of members of an
advisory panel established to deal with safeguarding matters.
That the bishop brings all the priest advisers together on a regular
basis to receive support in their role and to develop thinking and
planning for the development of safeguarding work.
:: That the
bishop requests the development of systems for the regular monitoring of
compliance with all diocesan child safeguarding policy and procedures.
Treanor said: "The National Board review, published today, clearly
illustrates 'the very successful and effective investment of time and
resources by the Diocese of Down and Connor in its child safeguarding
services over the past five years' and reports that the 'review of the
case material indicates that current practice places emphasis on a
timely reporting of the concerning information to the PSNI (Police
Service of Northern Ireland) and to the relevant HSC (Health and Social
He noted the report finds that all concerns/allegations reviewed have been properly managed by the diocese.
overriding concern as Bishop of Down and Connor is and will continue to
be the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults in the diocese.
church and society the hurt and destruction wrought by the abuse of
children and vulnerable adults continues to cry out for unflinching
commitment to the pursuit of safeguarding and the growth of a culture of
vigilance," he added.