Sunday, July 26, 2009

Suspect priests were shielded

Independent.ie
Suspect priests were shielded, report reveals
By MAEVE SHEEHAN
Sunday July 26 2009

THE long-awaited report on how Cardinal Desmond Connell and other members of the Catholic hierarchy in Dublin handled child sex abuse allegations has shocked senior officials in the Department of Justice.

Officials who have seen it say it is "damning" and "doesn't pull punches" as it documents how suspect priests were moved from one parish to the next, shielded from the rigours of the law, according to sources.

The report on child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese was submitted to the Minister for Justice last week but a publication date is uncertain. The Government has asked the Attorney General for legal advice on publishing the report because it names at least two priests who face prosecution on child abuse offences.

There are fears their trials may be prejudiced.

"The report is pretty damning of the Catholic hierarchy," said the source.

Dermot Ahern, the Minister for Justice, is believed to be studying the report this weekend, now that his controversial Criminal Justice Amendment Act has been signed into law.

"The minister wants the report to be published as soon as possible. There is a legal process in place and the last thing the minister wants to see is a trial being prejudiced because of premature publication of the report," said a spokesman for Mr Ahern.

The Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin archdiocese examined the responses of 19 bishops to the alleged sexual abuse of 450 children by Catholic priests.

There were so many cases of alleged child abuse that the commission focussed on a representative sample of 46 priests, investigating in detail how they were handled by church superiors.

Dr Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, has warned that the report will shock and horrify the public once the contents become known. He has said that since 1940 more than 400 children had been abused by at least 152 priests in the Dublin area.

"It is likely that thousands of young people across Ireland were abused by priests in the period under investigation and the horror of that abuse was not recognised for what it is," he said.

The commission of inquiry was established in 2006 and was chaired by Circuit Court Judge Yvonne Murphy. The overall cost of the Commission of Investigation to date is €3.6m, a figure which covers administration, staffing costs and legal fees.

- MAEVE SHEEHAN

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