Diocese ‘disgraced’ by church abuse

The Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Derry said the shortcomings highlighted in a report into how it handled allegations of clerical sex abuse “disgraced” the Church.

Monsignor Eamon Martin made the remark following the publication of the Review of Safeguarding Practice in the Diocese of Derry carried out by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC).

The report found that the Diocese has dealt with allegations against 23 priests made since 1975 and that 33 allegations had been referred to social services on both sides of the border. It also found that no priest of the Derry Diocese has been convicted of child abuse.

It also found that the Diocese has improved its reporting and handling of allegations of clerical sex abuse and that adequate procedures are now in place to deal with any allegations.

The report makes eight recommendations, including improving written policies and how such policies are communicated to priests, diocesan staff and volunteers. It also recommends that Diocesan authorities address concerns raised by parish representatives on the attitude and behaviour of two priests.

Speaking at St Eugene’s Cathedral this afternoon, Monsignor Eamon Martin, who was appointed as Diocesan Administrator five days ago following the resignation of Bishop Seamus Hegarty on health grounds, said the Diocese will reflect on the report’s contents and act on its recommendations.

Mons. Martin said he could understand if victims of abuse could not acceot that the Church is serious about addressing abuse. “I am truly sorry at what happened to you and ashamed at the way you were treated,” he said.

The Diocesan Administrator also described some of the report’s conclusions as “disturbing.”

He said: “In examining historical case files the National Board Review Team points to poor practice, stating that the avoidance of scandal, the preservation of the reputation of individuals and of the Church, sometimes took precedence over the safety and welfare of children. This has disgraced us.”

He also vowed that Church policings on safeguarding children have changed. “There can be no going back to a time when the welfare of children and young people was not paramount,” he said.

Speaking to reporters, Mons. Martin said that decisions taken in the past not to refer allegations of abuse to the authorities were taken by bishops.