Connect to share and comment

Report: Police and clergy protected pedophile priests

A New report on clerical abuse from 1975 to 2004 details the cover-up of abuse allegations.

Ireland's Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern pauses as he addresses the media after the publication of a report into child abuse in Roman Catholic institutions in the Archdiocese of Dublin during 1975 to 2004, in Dublin Nov. 26, 2009. (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)

DUBLIN, Ireland — Police officers, government officials and bishops of the Catholic church in Ireland have been harshly censured in a report on clerical child abuse over three decades in the Archdiocese of Dublin. Coming just a few months after an equally harsh report on the ill-treatment of children in Church-run industrial schools, the latest revelations have shocked Catholics and non-Catholics alike throughout the island.

An official commission investigated 320 allegations against a sample of 46 out of 183 priests from 1975 to 2004. It found that several cardinals and bishops protected criminal priests while taking no action to protect children.

Responding to the report, Ireland’s Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said that “the era where evil people could do so under the cover of the cloth, facilitated and shielded from the consequences by their authorities, while the lives of children were ruined with such cruelty, is over for good.” He added: “The bottom line is this: A collar will protect no criminal.”

In one of the most telling comments, the religious affairs correspondent of Irish national broadcaster RTE said on the main evening news that the report “represents the failure of civil Ireland, in the independent republic of Ireland, to stand up to the royalty of Ireland, the Catholic Church.” Deference to the clergy in this once devoutly Catholic country caused the police to conclude that the crimes of the Catholic Church were outside their remit.

The driving force behind the report is Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who came from Rome in 2003 to take over the archdiocese and handle the growing scandal.

Yesterday, at a news conference, holding his hand over his heart, and with tears in his eyes, Martin apologized as a man and a bishop. “How do I feel when I have to unveil here before you the revolting stories of the sexual assault and rape of many young children and teenagers by priests of the archdiocese?” he said. “To each and every survivor my apology, my sorrow and shame for what happened.”

The report of the commission found that the protection of pedophile priests was facilitated by “the structures and rules of the Catholic Church.” Government prosecutors and police facilitated the cover-up by allowing the church institutions to be beyond the reach of the normal law enforcement processes. Over the period the welfare of children was not even a factor to be considered. “Instead the focus was on the avoidance of scandal and the preservation of the good name, status and assets of the institution and of what the institution regarded as its most important members — the priests.”