Over 300 abuse allegations to date against Spiritan priests

Irish Times [Dublin, Ireland]

December 13, 2022

By Patsy McGarry

Catholic bishops believe a ‘reckoning’ has yet to take place regarding sexual abuse in the church in Ireland

Over 300 people have made abuse allegations against at least 78 Spiritan priests, a spokesman for the religious congregation has said. He also said the latter figure may increase slightly when all recent contacts have been fully processed.

Some people making allegations have done so directly to the Spiritans, while others may have gone to the gardaí, “and we know that a number have gone initially to the independent expert on Restorative Justice, Mr Tim Chapman”, the spokesman said.

Allegations have not been broken down by the school or College where the alleged abuse took place, whether in Ireland or abroad, but the majority are understood to relate to Blackrock College /Willow Park in Dublin, he said.

No allegation about abuse abroad involving Spiritans had been made to the congregation in recent weeks but “this does not preclude the possibility that such allegations have been made [only] to An Garda Siochana”, he said.

Meanwhile, at their winter meeting in Maynooth, Ireland’s Catholic bishops committed themselves to engage with abuse survivors “in developing a process of dialogue which will be helpful and supportive of healing”.

They also said they would contact the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland (Amri) to take this process forward in 2023. Amri represents Irish religious congregations who have served mainly abroad.

The bishops noted that in the ongoing synodal process, in which Catholics worldwide are being consulted about the Church, “the importance of addressing the ‘open wound’ associated with abuse has been emphasised”.

The work “of fostering atonement, healing and reconciliation is made even more urgent by the shocking testimonies of abuse survivors recently highlighted in the media”, they said.

The Bishops noted that in the national synthesis document that followed the consultation in Ireland, published last August and sent to Rome, it was stated “there was a palpable sense that despite many efforts by the Church, a ‘reckoning’ had not yet taken place, and the synodal process generated a clear imperative to place this issue at the heart of any Church renewal and reform”.

At their meeting last week it was recalled how one submission to the synodal process in Ireland said the Church must pledge itself “to journey with survivors, to meet them, preferably in small groups where dialogue is possible and open us to the presence of the Spirit”.

Retired High Court judge and former Justice of the Court of Appeal Garrett Sheehan, now chair of the Irish Catholic Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC), advised the Bishops on its current work. He and NBSC chief executive Teresa Devlin reported that all 26 Catholic dioceses on the island had completed or applied for a further review by the NBSC of their safeguarding practices, with a majority of reviews now completed.

Judge Sheehan, Ms Devlin, and the Bishops agreed on the priority of reaching out to victims and survivors of abuse and of hearing the voice of survivors in policymaking.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times