A review of child protection in the Kiltegan Fathers, a missionary order based in Co Wicklow, has found that the congregation “has been challenged by a relatively high incidence of serious and ongoing abuse amongst its members”.
The report, one of eight published yesterday by the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) looking at practices in a number of Irish dioceses and religious congregations, is damning of the St Patrick’s Missionary Society for its handling of child sex abuse allegations both in Ireland and overseas.
It pointed out that how it dealt with abuse allegations differed in Ireland and Africa, with its actions here more robust than overseas.
The report from the Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog found 50 child abuse allegations have been made against 14 of the congregation’s priests with one convicted in the courts.
All these allegations were received by the order after January 1st, 1975.
‘Too much tolerance’
The reviewers also found that “accused priests were afforded too much tolerance and so found it too easy to avoid being held accountable for their actions”.
The report found evidence of delay by the congregation in “clearly adhering to church safeguarding policies and practice guidelines as these were being introduced in the Irish church”.
It was “not as robust as it might otherwise have been in dealing decisively with child protection concerns about some of its members”.
The review found that “abuse that has been identified outside the Irish region has not in every case given rise to an appropriate and robust response” and emphasised it was “important to emphasise that all children deserve the same respect and attention regardless of where they are geographically located, or of their ethnicity”.
The NBSC pointed to a letter “on file in which a society leader expresses regret to a member at the fact that he has decided to leave and to seek laicisation”. This priest, the review noted, was “a self-confessed abuser of young boys while serving on the missions”.
The reviewers “were not satisfied that canonical sanctions against many of the priests who are known to have abused children were being sought as a matter of course”.
It said about one of the congregations priests, jailed for 12 years because of his later abuse of children in Ireland, “it is not known whether he abused children while involved in missionary work”.
It recalled how in 1966 there were minuted reports of abuse of boys by one of its priest in Kenya but that he did not stand aside from ministry for a further 20 years.