Co Kerry priest accused of sex abuse left church to work with children

A priest facing several sex abuse allegations asked to be dismissed and went on to work in a job which gave him access to children, the church watchdog has found.

The ex-cleric was the subject of four serious complaints relating to his time working in a children’s home in Co Kerry in the 1970s.

But the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church found he was never prosecuted.

Furthermore, he was dismissed from the priesthood at his own request and was allowed to move to another part of the country and take a job involving access to children.

Overall, it was found that 21 priests faced a total of 67 allegations in the Kerry diocese. Only one priest was convicted.

One of the clerics was still in ministry and another five have left the priesthood.

In one case, a dead priest has 25 allegations against him dating back to schools in the diocese in the 1950s and 1960s and more are expected.

Another case involves a priest who was jailed after a trial in 1997 and a suggestion that one of his victims complained to a previous Bishop of Kerry, but no record of it can be found in church files.

Bishop of Kerry Ray Brownes has apologised to anyone abused in the diocese.

In the Diocese of Down and Connor, which includes Belfast and is the second largest in Ireland, 14 concerns or allegations were raised since the appointment of Bishop Noel Treanor in June 2008.

Of those, seven had insufficient evidence. Of the other seven, all are currently out of ministry, one is the subject of a criminal investigation and one is in prison.

There are 19 living priests of the Down and Connor Diocese who are subjects of child safeguarding concerns.

Of these, seven were known about before Bishop Treanor was appointed.

Two of these seven men had further historical allegations made against them after June 2008; and a further 12 diocesan priests also had historical allegations made against them since that time.

Bishop Treanor said the report found that all concerns/allegations reviewed have been properly managed by the diocese.

“My overriding concern as Bishop of Down and Connor is and will continue to be the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults in the diocese,” he added.

“In church and society the hurt and destruction wrought by the abuse of children and vulnerable adults continues to cry out for unflinching commitment to the pursuit of safeguarding and the growth of a culture of vigilance.”

The Diocese of Ossory was found to have shortcomings dealing with complaints about unacceptable behaviour towards children and the timescales involved.

Twenty-seven allegations have been made against priests of the diocese since 1975 – most of which occurred under the tenure of Bishop Peter Birch and then Bishop Laurence Forristal.

The charges, all of which were reported to gardai and the Health Service Executive, related to 14 priests.

According to the report, current Bishop Seamus Freeman, who was ordained in 2007, has dealt with allegations against two living priests since then – his management of which has been deemed appropriate.

Of the 14 priests at the centre of the allegations, three have been defrocked, four are still living and seven have died.

Two priests have been convicted of child abuse.

Monsignor Michael Ryan, vicar general at the Diocese of Ossory, expressed his “heartfelt sorrow” to victims of clerical abuse.

“I am deeply sorry for what has happened to you and to your families and I pray that the Lord Jesus will give you healing and peace,” he said.

In the Armagh Archdiocese, run by Cardinal Sean Brady, the audit warned that it found little information on the receipt and management of allegations before 1995.

It said there was “inconsistent filing leading to a lack of clarity about how decisions were made”.

The report found Cardinal Brady, on taking up his role as Primate of All-Ireland in 1996, made a “commendable decision to gather and document whatever information was available.”

“However the reviewers cannot be confident that the records of allegations made prior to 1995 are complete,” it added.

Sixteen priests in the archdiocese have faced 36 allegations and four of them are still in ministry.

Only one priest has been convicted and the audit said no allegations have been made since 2000.

Cardinal Brady, who has been heavily criticised for swearing two victims of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth to secrecy during an internal church inquiry in 1975, said his first thoughts today are with abuse survivors.

“I know that for you, survivors of abuse and your families, days such as today are especially difficult. You have suffered terribly and I am truly sorry,” he said.

Elsewhere, in the Diocese of Achonry, Bishop Brendan Kelly told the internal watchdog that the diocese did not have a safeguarding policy and procedures document in place before 2008.

There had also been little evidence of a systematic process for filing or managing information about abuse allegations before then.

There have been no fresh allegations against the diocese since Bishop Kelly was appointed in 2007.

Before that, a total 15 allegations had been made against it, relating to 11 priests.

Thirteen of those charges were reported to gardai, and 12 of them to the HSE. No priest was convicted of any offence.

Only two of the 11 priests accused are still living.

Bishop Kelly apologised to anyone who has suffered clerical abuse, which he said causes “incalculable damage”.

“Vigilance will be maintained as an absolute priority in this critical area. That is our assurance to all parents and children,” he added.

“It is entirely reprehensible, a serious crime and a grave sin.

“It is all the more grievous when the perpetrator is a person in a position of trust, such as a priest, who is called to be a minister of the good news of love, compassion and justice.”

The report found there were abuse allegations against 13 priests in the Cashel and Emly diocese from 1975.

Seven of the accused priests are still alive.

Archbishop Dermot Clifford said most of the recommendations had been fully implemented and the others would be put in place as soon as possible.

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