Safeguarding reports reveal real progress

Definite progress is clear in the safeguarding of children in Ireland’s Church, according to the head of the national safeguarding board.

Speaking in connection with the publication of 43 reports of orders whose safeguarding procedures have been audited by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCCI), Teresa Devlin, NBSCCCI CEO said “Overall there is considerable improvement in safeguarding practice evidenced in these reports”.

“The history is undeniable, that once again a significant number of children were abused in the care of Religious,” she said, adding, “What is strikingly different from the past in relation to the reports is a determination to respond pastorally, to report to the civil authorities promptly and to seek guidance in order to minimize risk to children.”

The 43 audit reports, bringing to a total of 114 the number of reports completed by the board, include 8 orders of male religious including the Jesuits, the Rosminians, the Cistercians, the Capuchins, and the Salesians.

Since 1941, 325 allegations have been made against 141 priests or brothers from these congregations, resulting in 8 criminal convictions. Barring one allegation of abuse in 2003, all allegations and instances of abuse took place before 1996.

The board found that since the adoption of the Church’s current safeguarding standards there has been significant improvement in all aspects of child safeguarding. While some orders had previously responded to survivors in ways lacking in compassion, others made consistent and genuine attempts to reach out to survivors, demonstrating evidence of best practice in doing so.

“Overall there is evidence of strong leadership and commitment to child safeguarding,” said Ms Devlin, explaining that “this was exemplified through good policies, structures, prompt reporting and in particular where the leader personally has engaged with the complainants.”

35 orders of female religious with small congregations and with limited or no ongoing contact with children were also reviewed, showing a firm commitment to safeguarding procedures, with historical allegations of abuse having been appropriately dealt.

The board expects to have completed reviews under the current standards by the end of the year, but encourages abuse survivors to continue to come forward to the appropriate diocese or order and to the civil authorities if any allegations of abuse remain unreported. It also advises survivors to contact Towards Healing, a Church-funded but independent counselling and support service for survivors of clerical and religious congregations’ abuse.