Report reveals “a high level of compliance with the Church’s safeguarding standards”
An analysis of diocesan child protection reviews has revealed high levels of compliance with national safeguarding standards, according to 2015’s annual report from the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI).
Bearing in mind the old adage ‘who watches the watchmen’, NBSCCCI head Teresa Devlin explained to The Irish Catholic that the board commissioned Trinity College Dublin’s Dr Ann Marie Nolan to examine if diocesan reviews had been conducted in a consistent and accurate fashion, and to establish whether any recurring issues need attention.
Dr Nolan’s review, according to Ms Devlin, is but one of several forms of external oversight the board has in place to ensure the thoroughness and impartiality of its work. “There’s quite a lot of watching going on”, she said.
The comparative analysis revealed “a high level of compliance with the Church’s safeguarding standards”, with all allegations being promptly reported to statutory authorities, according to Dr Nolan, who emphasised the importance of staff and volunteers to the safeguarding process and complimented them on their commitment and dedication.
The annual report details work done by the board and its national office in the year ending March 31, 2015, in which period the office learned of 184 new allegations, suspicions or concerns relating to physical, emotional and sexual abuse, with 81 allegations of physical and emotional abuse, previously reported to the civil authorities by one religious congregation, being reported to the Board.
While one allegation involving members of religious orders dates to 1999, all other such allegations date to between 1950 and 1990, and 57 of the 58 abuse allegations against Diocesan clergy relate to the period between 1950 and 1997, the sole case outside this timeframe having allegedly happened in 2006. While less access, greater vigilance, and better recruitment might make it seem that abuse has been halted Ms Devlin stressed that “there is no room for complacency”, adding, “it hasn't gone away, and we need to remain ever vigilant”.
On the 81 hitherto unknown allegations, Ms Devlin says “it’s not unusual for a bishop or religious leader to point out that something already passed on to civil authorities, hadn't been passed on the board”, even though they should know by now that all relevant data on abuse should be so submitted.
Excluding the 81, Ms Devlin says, the 184 new allegations are in line with recent years, when typically about 200 cases have been annually reported, showing “there’s still a need for this work”.
“The reviews do ignite in people a memory and an opportunity to raise their concerns,” she says, adding, “At some point the allegations will disappear, but we're not there yet”.
With 71 reviews published so far, field work complete on another 40, and the majority of the congregations remaining to be reviewed being small orders of women against whom no allegations have been made, the board is confident it will have substantively completed the review programme by the end of this year.
Ms Devlin anticipates three more tranches of reports, the last coming before the introduction of streamlined new standards incorporating care for those making allegations of abuse and for those accused of abuse.