Sex-Abuse Clerics Harboured in 38 Dublin Parishes

By Maeve Sheehan
Irish Independent
August 6, 2006

Thirty-Eight Dublin parishes harboured paedophile priests who preyed on children, according to figures collated by the victim support group, One in Four.

The figures show that paedophile priests operated right across the capital. The map of paedophilia is by no meansexhaustive, as it is based on testimonies provided to the One in Four organisation by victims of paedophile priests, who came forward in their hundreds since the publication of the Ferns inquiry report last year.

However, the figures give a startling indication of the extent of clerical sex abuse in Dublin, which is now being investigated by the Government-appointed Commission of Inquiry into clerical sex abuse in the capital, and into the hierarchy's handling of complaints.

The Commission, which started informal interviews with clerics, expert witnesses and victims a fortnight ago, is expected to reveal abuse on a scale that greatly surpasses the shocking findings of the Ferns inquiry.

Colm O'Gorman, director of One in Four, said the number of cases that come before the inquiry could run to 1,000, on the basis that the Dublin diocese is 10 times the size of Ferns, where 100 allegations of child abuse were identified in Ferns against 21 priests.

Earlier this year, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin disclosed that an independent diocesan audit found 102 priests in Dublin had been accused or suspected of sexually abusing 390 child victims since 1940.

Mr O'Gorman said his organisation has dealt with more than 570 cases of clerical sex abuse since the beginning of this year, most coming to light for the first time and many of which relate to the Dublin archdiocese.

"There are 38 parishes in the archdiocese so far where we have been made aware of abuse. There are many other parishes where we suspect abuse happened but where people are not coming forward," said Mr O'Gorman.

He said the testimonies of the victims suggest appalling patterns of abuse, including in some cases evidence of collusion between priests who were abusing the same victims. He cited a disturbing number of priests who routinely exploited their positions in schools to get access to children. Testimonies show how some priests regularly plucked children from their classrooms in Dublin schools from under the noses of their teachers. Adults too have also come forward with complaints of sexual assault and improper behaviour by priests, including three women who had babies with Dublin clerics.

"The one thing that is becoming clear in the diocese, and it is still an issue, is where under the guise of a pastoral response, pressure was put on victims not to come forward," said Mr O'Gorman.

The Catholic hierarchy's response to complaints will be a key focus of the Commission's investigations. The retired Archbishop, Cardinal Desmond Connell, who is expected to be interviewed by the Commission, has been criticised in the past for failing to act on complaints.

In 1996, Cardinal Connell refused to confirm to gardai a priest's admission to a diocesan official that he had abused Dublin woman, Marie Collins.

Cardinal Connell since apologised for the hurt caused by paedophile priests and his successor, Archbishop Martin, has pledged his full co-operation with the inquiry.

The Commission, chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy was approved by the Government in March to investigate abuse cases in the diocese. Her work is expected to take at least 18 months and will span 24 years to 2004. The process of informal interviews will continue over the coming months, and Judge Murphy will then select a representative sample of clerical abuse cases which will be investigated in detail.

The Dublin Archdiocese declined to comment on the Commission's work.


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