Church's Awareness of Sex Abuse Examined

By Patsy McGarry
Irish Times [Ireland]
July 22, 2004

The investigation committee of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was asked yesterday to investigate when the Catholic Church first became aware of child sex abuse involving members in the current module of its hearings. The committee is now inquiring into how abuse emerged as an issue.

Mr Colm O'Gorman of the One in Four agency, which supports people sexually abused as children, said international research indicated the church had such awareness, and had structures in place to deal with it, long before secular institutions.

He later said evidence by the Christian Brothers to the committee indicated they were aware of the issue at least since the 1930s, and that already then Canon Law structures were in place to deal with it. He recalled that evidence to the committee by Government officials indicated the State first became aware of child sex abuse in institutions, in 1977. Mr Justice Ryan said the committee would be happy to conduct such an inquiry if it came within its terms of reference.

Earlier, Mr Michael O'Brien of Right to Peace said the group was founded at a meeting in Clonmel in September 1999. Thirteen of those present had been in the Ferrybank institution, near Clonmel, run by the Rosminian congregation. He "didn't come along to say every brother, nun and priest was bad. There were many very good ones. But there were very, very bad ones," he said.

His group wanted apologies from "the perpetrators of the crimes" as well as judges and garda? who put children into the institutions "to make up the numbers so the institution would get the full whack from the State." The group had more than 300 members and was funded by the Department of Education, "very mildly, if I may say."

Mr Mick Waters of SOCA (UK) said this started as a social group in London in the 1960s and became known as the Artane Old Boys group. Then there was the Dear Daughter programme in 1996. It was "ground-breaking stuff, the flagship of it all. It brought it all into the mainstream," he said.

SOCA was set up in London in June 1999. He described the Taoiseach's 1999 apology to former residents as "a momentous step, something unbelievable, a benchmark for all people in the institutes". SOCA (UK) had contact with 2,100 people and was funded by the Department of Education and Science. The figures were in the public domain, he said.

Mr O'Gorman said One in Four was set up in London in 1999. After the Suing the Pope programme - about child sex abuse in Ferns diocese - was broadcast in March 2002 as many as 75 per cent of the agency's contacts were Irish. A website for Ireland was set up in April 2002. It had 6,000 hits in a 24-hour period.


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