Sunday, November 29, 2009

Inquiry uncovers 80 new cases of abuse

EIGHTY files are to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) by a garda team investigating fresh complaints of clerical child abuse.

The complaints were made after publication in May of the Ryan report, which detailed horrific physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by members of religious orders.

The revelation comes as gardai turn their attention to investigating priests in the Dublin Archdiocese who are the subject of the Murphy report, which was published this week.

Bishops who served in the Dublin Archdiocese while children were being sexually abused were desperately resisting calls for their resignations last night.

Pope Benedict XVI remained silent over the devastating abuse report, which accused the Church of "denial, arrogance and cover-up", with survivors saying there was no regard within the Catholic Church for child welfare.

The Pope's representative in Ireland gave an assurance to the Irish public that Pope Benedict was committed to rooting paedophile priests from the ranks of the Irish clergy.

Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, said Pope Benedict had told all the Irish bishops during their meeting with him in Rome after the Ferns report of his abhorrence of child sexual abuse.

A number of bishops yesterday issued apologies for their handling of complaints -- but none went so far as to say they would resign.

Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray, was found by the Murphy inquiry to have handled a number of complaints and suspicions "badly". But he insisted he would not resign.

"I certainly was never involved in a cover-up. I was not involved in covering up," he said. "I don't think I was aware of the scale of it. I am horrified at the scale of it (the report)."

Both Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and prominent priest Fr Brian D'Arcy said the Limerick bishop should resign following the shocking revelations.

"In my view, from the point of view of personal leadership, of Church integrity, to have any semblance of moral authority to lead, people who were in positions and are still in positions should not continue in those positions," said Mr Kenny.

Fr D'Arcy said the findings of the report were "absolutely sickening". And he pointed out that although he served on the Council of Priests in Dublin during the 1990s, he never even "heard a hint" of accusations of abuse.

"This is not just in the diocese, this goes right to the top in Rome," he said, adding that the policy of cover-up was the same in Ferns and in Boston, where a similar investigation was carried out.

Meanwhile, publication of the Ryan report in May resulted in around 150 calls to a special phoneline and led to new lines of inquiry being opened.

The flood of complaints was lodged with the gardai following the publication of the report into horrific levels of physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by religious orders.


A group of clerics accused of abuse offences have since died and those inquiries have been ended by the gardai, while other callers wanted details of progress on allegations that had already been made.

But the Irish Independent learned last night that 80 individual allegations are being actively pursued, with inquiries being carried out here and in the UK.

Each one will result in a file to the DPP, who will determine if criminal charges should be brought against the suspects.

Around 60pc of the fresh complaints involved sexual abuse of children by members of religious orders, while the rest referred to physical assaults.

Meanwhile, a separate hotline, established by the gardai this week for victims in the wake of the publication of the report on abuse in the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, has so far received about a dozen calls.

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy said he had ordered an examination of the findings of the report on the handling of complaints and investigations by the Church and state authorities.

He said he had asked Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahony to carry out the investigation and make inquiries as he deemed appropriate and to issue a report to him with recommendations.

Mr Murphy said he would then consult with the DPP as to what issues arose in the context of criminal liability.

He stressed that garda investigations could never be influenced by the profession or background of a suspect and must concentrate on dealing sensitively with victims, applying the best investigative methods, and placing a case before the courts to secure a just outcome.

"The commission has identified failings on the part of both Church and state authorities in their response to complaints of child sexual abuse. The focus of this examination will be to establish whether those failings amounted to criminal behaviour."

Mr Murphy appealed to victims or anybody with information about criminal offences in the context of the report to contact the gardai.

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