Irish Report Unambiguous: Catholic Church Covered Up Sexual Abuse of Children

The report concerning the alleged sexual abuse of children by clergy released today by the Department of Justice, Equality and Reform in Ireland is unequivocal in its conclusions: the Roman Catholic Church engaged in widespread cover-up.

From paragraph 1.10 of the report (emphasis added):

The Commission examined complaints in respect of over 320 children against the 46 priests in the representative sample. Substantially more of the complaints relate to boys – the ratio is 2.3 boys to 1 girl.

From paragraph 1.15 of the report:

The Dublin Archdiocese’s pre-occupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets. All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities. The Archdiocese did not implement its own canon law rules and did its best to avoid any application of the law of the State.

Regarding the alleged ignorance of child sexual abuse, paragraph 1.17:

The authorities in the Archdiocese of Dublin and the religious orders who were dealing with complaints of child sexual abuse were all very well educated people. Many had qualifications in canon law and quite a few also had qualifications in civil law. This makes their claims of ignorance very difficult to accept. Child sexual abuse did not start in the 20th century. Since time immemorial it has been a “delict” under canon law, a sin in ordinary religious terms and a crime in the law of the State. Ignorance of the law is not a defence under the law of the State. It is difficult for the Commission to accept that ignorance of either the canon law or the civil law can be a defence for officials of the Church.

Regarding the alleged failure by the Church to implement its own rules:

The Church authorities failed to implement most of their own canon law rules on dealing with clerical child sexual abuse. This was in spite of the fact that a number of them were qualified canon and civil lawyers. As is shown in Chapter 4, canon law appears to have fallen into disuse and disrespect during the mid 20th century. In particular, there was little or no experience of operating the penal (that is, the criminal) provisions of that law. The collapse of respect for the canon law in Archdiocesan circles is covered in some detail in Chapter 4. For many years offenders were neither prosecuted nor made accountable within the Church. Archbishop McQuaid was well aware of the canon law requirements and even set the processes in motion but did not complete them. Archbishops Ryan and McNamara do not seem to have ever applied the canon law.

Catholic Church policy is ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’:

The American phrase, “don’t ask, don’t tell” is appropriate to describe the attitude of the Dublin Archdiocese to clerical sex abuse for most of the period covered by the report. The problem as a whole never seems to have been discussed openly by the Archbishop and his auxiliaries, at least until the 1990s. Complainants were told as little as possible. The note “Gain his knowledge, tell him nothing” for dealing with complainants and witnesses, discussed in Chapter 4, typifies the attitudes of the Archdiocese.

The existence of a cover-up is clear, according to the report:

As can be seen clearly from the case histories, there is no doubt that the reaction of Church authorities to reports of clerical child sexual abuse in the early years of the Commission’s remit was to ensure that as few people as possible knew of the individual priest’s problem. There was little or no concern for the welfare of the abused child or for the welfare of other children who might come into contact with the priest. Complainants were often met with denial, arrogance and cover-up and with incompetence and incomprehension in some cases. Suspicions were rarely acted on. Typically complainants were not told that other instances of child sexual abuse by their abuser had been proved or admitted. The attitude to individual complainants was overbearing and in some cases underhand (see Chapter 58).

The report, released to the government in July but publicly released today, covers each case in detal.

How many other countries are doing similar investigations right now? This behavior is beyond damnable.