12 December 2013, The Tablet

Audit highlights historic abuse by religious orders in Ireland

A safeguarding audit by the Irish Church’s watchdog has found 870 allegations of abuse against 325 Christian Brothers.

Reviewers who examined the files were left “in no doubt that a great number of children were seriously abused by the Christian Brothers,” said the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI). The board reported that of the 325 brothers accused, 50 are still alive and just 12 convictions have been secured between 1975 and today.

The NBSCCCI’s interim CEO, Theresa Devlin, said that while in the past the safeguarding practices of the Christian Brothers were “bad”, there has been “a seismic shift” since 2008 in the congregation’s approach to the issue. The Christian Brothers said they had developed a robust safeguarding ethos and culture in Ireland.

The board also expressed concern after an audit of St Patrick’s Missionary Society, also known as the Kiltegan Fathers, which according to Ms Devlin had only in the last 18 months begun to recognise the need to safeguard children.

The Missionary Society, whose members serve mainly in Africa, was criticised for operating to a lower standard of concern for clerical abuse victims on the missions compared to what happened in Ireland. In one case, concerns were raised as early as 1966 about one Irish missionary’s abuse of local children in Kenya but the priest was only stood aside from ministry in 1986. The NBSCCCI believes he may have abused as many as 50 children.

In a statement, Fr Seamus O’Neill, leader of St Patrick’s Missionary Society, said it accepted the findings of the audit and “renewed its commitment to robust child protection standards”.

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