A new report on child abuse has revealed that clerical abuse makes up a statistically negligible proportion of abuse in Ireland.
The Garda Inspectorate’s Responding to Child Sexual Abuse states that although clerical and institutional cases are reported and investigated every year, they form “a small proportion” of the overall number of cases investigated.
The report considered a representative sample of 170 cases of reported abuse, with 84 reports relating to alleged offences committed between 2010 and 2014. Clerical abuse was reported in three of the 170 cases, with the complainants being adults in all three cases.
“In two cases, the accused was deceased at the time that the allegation was made,” the report says. “The other case involved an already convicted child abuser but it was not possible to get corroborating evidence to pursue a prosecution.”
The figures are in stark contrast to popular perceptions as revealed in a 2011 Amárach Research poll for the Iona Institute which found that 42% of Irish people believed that over one in five Irish priests were guilty of child abuse, but such perceptions may be fading, according to psychiatrist Prof. Patricia Casey.
“I think a few years ago there might have been a distraction, where people would have assumed of clerical abuse that this was the only situation in which abuse occurred, and this was the only group involved in abuse,” she told The Irish Catholic, adding, “I think that that’s probably less true now than it would have been a few years ago.”
High profile cases regarding media and sporting figures will have gone some way to correcting public perception, she said, with this helping the cause of child protection.
“People should be somewhat reassured that the public at large are more au fait with the different groups that potentially can abuse children rather than assuming clerics are the only people,” she said. “In fact, I think clerical abuse has diminished significantly recently because the Church has managed to get its house in order.”