Clerical child sex abuse audit can’t trace 67 accused

By Noel Baker and Catherine Shanahan

An audit looking at almost 2,000 allegations of clerical child sex abuse has found that 67 former Christian Brothers accused of abuse were “not traceable”, while others were visiting families with children where parents might have been unaware of any allegations.

The Audit of Religious Orders, Congregations and Missionary Societies Safeguarding Arrangements and Management of Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse — Volume II was carried out for the Child and Family Agency (Tusla), with the audit team informed of 1,882 allegations of child sexual abuse via a questionnaire completed by all 135 religious orders.

Of those allegations, 57% related to living members and allegations of abuse in this country.

Orders identified as having “significant safeguarding weaknesses” included the Christian Brothers, the De La Salle Brothers, and the Irish Norbertine Canonry.

There were 626 allegations regarding the Christian Brothers, with 133 allegations reported to Tusla from April 2010 to January 2014.

However, prior to 2011, and due in large part to an “undue delay in the reporting of allegations by the congregation prior to 2009”, some 67 members, against whom there were 177 allegations, were “not traceable”.

It prompted the audit team to alert Tusla senior management, who in turn directed that “every effort should be made to identify the then current location of these former members”.

“Further, the audit team was charged with, as an additional task for this audit, to examine the safety/care plans and monitoring arrangements for those alleged accused still in the care of the congregation and by so doing, identify and address outstanding potential child protection issues.”

The team noted at that time that some accused clerics were visiting families with children, advising “further liaison” between Tusla and the congregation to ensure any potential child protection concerns were identified and managed.

It also recommended that computers of accused members of orders should, where appropriate, be monitored. It said a new reporting process to help the congregation deal with reporting allegations has been in place since 2011.

The report found 523 allegations overall where the reporting duration could be categorised, from initial concern to being reported to the civil authorities. However, just 12% were “promptly reported” to the civil authorities over the three reporting periods, beginning in 1996. In the most recent reporting period, the ‘safeguarding’ period running from February 2009 to the end of 2013, 49% of these 523 allegations were reported by religious orders, including 19% “promptly” reported.

According to the audit, 19% of the allegations were promptly reported to one or both civil authorities during this time, which was in compliance with guidance. The other 81% of claims were not reported with immediacy.

The report said there was “significant progress” made by congregations in confronting the past and improving their safeguarding frameworks, but it also noted a disparity in the number of allegations known to religious orders and those known to statutory authorities. There were also anomalies between the reporting of claims to Tusla and the gardaí.

In order to rectify this, the report said a national system of monitoring allegations notified to Tusla by religious orders, the Church, and the gardaí is required.

It said Tusla should manage this system, which would also monitor the outcomes of allegations received and implement a retrospective child abuse allegation management policy nationally.

The audit was requested following the Ferns Report of 2005 and volume one was published in 2012.

The audit team warns against complacency, claiming religious orders are now beginning to endorse a perspective that clerical child sex abuse was “a historical blight”, but added there is “no evidence to suggest a further audit is necessary”.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.


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