22 November 2022, The Tablet

Archbishop says revulsion over scale of child sex abuse is 'justified'

Archbishop says revulsion over scale of child sex abuse is 'justified'

The Archbishop of Dublin made his comments at Blackrock parish in the wake of new revelations of child sexual abuse.
John McElroy

The anger and revulsion over recent revelations of “horrendous sexual abuse of children” by members of the clergy or religious communities and the “whitewashing of those crimes” is understandable and entirely justified, Archbishop Dermot Farrell has said.

The Archbishop of Dublin made his comments at Blackrock parish in the wake of revelations of child sexual abuse at a number of Catholic schools run by the Spiritan order in Ireland.

“Too often those in leadership in dioceses and religious orders failed to safeguard those entrusted to their care, whether through ignorance, misplaced loyalty or a sense of self-preservation,” Archbishop Farrell said.

He said it was right that the truth of these crimes comes to light so that the abuse itself can be named, the pain, injustice, and offence to the integrity and dignity of the person accepted, and the long journey of healing undertaken and supported.

The total number of Spiritans and staff members against whom allegations have been made now stands at 78. Four of those alleged to have abused are still alive. Almost 300 people have contacted the congregation which has spent more than €5m (£4.4m) in settlements since 2004.

Spiritan Provincial, Fr Martin Kelly, told RTE News that a number of people had come forward with fresh allegations following an RTE Radio 1 documentary “Blackrock Boys” which aired on 7 November and told the story of two siblings, Mark and David Ryan and their abuse by Fr Tom O’Byrne at Blackrock College in the 1970s and 1980s.

“What was done to you as innocent children was cruel and indefensible. We, as Spiritans, are ashamed,” Fr Kelly told a press conference in Dublin.

Mark Vincent Healy, who was abused by two priests during his time at St Mary’s College in Dublin between 1969 and 1973 when he was aged between nine and 12, has called for an independent inquiry to determine the scale of abuse suffered by pupils in Spiritan schools. 

Some of the abusers were sent overseas on mission. Mr Healy said: “Only an inquiry can determine the numbers affected.”

More than 5,000 students today attend schools linked to the Spiritan Congregation, formerly known as the Holy Ghost Fathers, including Blackrock College in Dublin, St Michael’s College in Dublin, St Mary’s College in Dublin and Rockwell College in Co Tipperary.

Minister for Education, Norma Foley, said the Government is looking at a “survivor-led” inquiry. Meanwhile police inquiries into allegations made since the documentary was broadcast are ongoing.  

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