Audits show Irish orders slow to move on child safety

Audits have shown that several religious congregations in Ireland have been tardy in implementing the Church’s child protection guidelines.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland published reviews on the implementation of policies in 16 religious congregations.

Only two orders – the Congregation of the Sacred Heart and the Dominican Sisters – were found to have had good compliance.

Teresa Devlin, the board’s chief executive, said she was “disappointed that for the majority of orders, the whole area of safeguarding is only being embraced in the last couple of years”.

There is considerable work still to be done in seven male congregations, she said.

These are the Franciscan Friars, Franciscan Brothers, the Servites, Passionists, Augustinians, Discalced Carmelites and the Marist Fathers.

During the audits carried out last year, inspectors found poor record management in many cases, making an assessment of child protection practice difficult.

The Irish Independent reported that the audits showed opportunities to safeguard children were missed.

Known abusers were allowed to remain in ministry in the 1990s, the board reported.

Management of accused priests and nuns has improved significantly, it noted.

But it warned there is still room for improvement including in the sharing of information.

It also stated that support for survivors is good in many cases.

But the reports warned of delays in reporting allegations to the authorities up until 2009, and that some practices did not improve until 2013.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin called the slow speed of implementation of guidelines “appalling”.

While he acknowledged recent improvements, especially by current leadership of religious orders, he believed the audits point to the need for greater systems of accountability.

The archbishop said the findings cast doubt on the credibility of the Church’s entire safeguarding efforts.

He said he intends to “meet with the superiors of all the religious congregations working in parishes” in Dublin archdiocese.

“Failure of any church organisation to implement fully and robustly the agreed clear norms is a direct affront to the desire of Pope Francis,” he said.

Archbishop Martin said he was particularly concerned that rules on child protection may be interpreted differently by some orders.


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