Culture of secrecy benefited abusers

Mentioned today in the Irish Times in relation to the Nation Board for Safeguarding Children review of “deeply flaw” child protect policies of the Sacred Heart Missionaries

Culture of secrecy benefited abusers

SACRED HEART: THE NATIONAL Board for Safeguarding Children review of the Sacred Heart Missionaries (MSC) found the congregation’s child protection policies were “deeply flawed”.

It said it was “difficult to express adequately the failure of this society to effectively protect vulnerable children”.

The congregation “failed to take account of admissions by perpetrators by passing them on to the appropriate authorities. It even failed to alert other church authorities of the risks posed by identified individuals.”

Leaders at the congregation “failed to discharge their responsibilities to protect vulnerable young people who would come in contact with members against whom credible allegations had been made or who had admitted to abuse”.

They appeared to “maintain a culture of secrecy which allowed known abusers to continue to live within the community without the full extent of the suffering that they had caused to vulnerable young people being known by their fellow members”.

Child-protection guidance within the church and the Sacred Heart Missionaries’ own policies “were not adhered to or complied with except in a nominal way”, the review found. It concluded that as a result of “abuse that should have been prevented, it is reasonable to speculate that a great deal of suffering has occurred”.

Those “who should have taken action to prevent it either chose not to do so or were effectively blocked from doing so by a wall of secrecy which did not permit child protection information to be shared”, it added. This approach “worked very much in the favour of those who had caused harm to children and wanted to continue to prey upon them”.

The Sacred Heart Missionaries files revealed that 17 of its priests faced 61 allegations of child abuse. Eleven of these priests are still living. One has been convicted in the courts, while seven were out of ministry. Three had left the congregation, while there was one priest against whom allegations had not been substantiated.

Six of the accused had worked at the Sacred Heart College in Carrignavar Co Cork. The main alleged abuse there involved three priests who were staff for several years, the review said.

Also in the records was “reference . . . to the need to respond robustly to any allegation and communicate a willingness to resist any claims made by victims”, which “was experienced by victims as uncaring and aggressive”.

The Sacred Heart Missionaries Irish province includes England, Russia, parts of the US, Venezuela, South Africa and Namibia.

The NBSC review also noted that “on the 26th July, 2011, a Senator [Mark Daly] named a priest whilst participating in a debate in the Oireachtas as having allegedly been involved in the abuse of children. At the time, he was speaking within the Senate and was therefore subject to Oireachtas privilege”.

It said: “the matter received considerable media attention and the following day the Society issued a press release in which they stated that all allegations known to them had been reported to the statutory authorities. Although those issuing the release state that they believed that this was true, it is now regretted and understood to not be the case.”

The review of Sacred Heart Missionaries files began in August 2011. It “quickly brought to light a number of very worrying situations involving the alleged abuse of children. It further appeared that some of these had not been reported to the appropriate [civil] authorities”.

The then new MSC leadership team confirmed it was unaware of allegations in the files. The Garda and HSE were immediately informed of what was found and it was agreed that the scale and nature of the inquiries to be undertaken could best be progressed under the leadership of the HSE while gardaí took possession of all of the relevant case records.

UNRESERVED APOLOGY ‘SINCERE SORROW’

IN A statement yesterday, Sacred Heart Missionaries provincial Fr Joseph McGee apologised unreservedly to all who were abused by members of the congregation.

“We express our deep and sincere sorrow to all those who did not receive a proper response from us after they had shown the courage to report abuse or to express concerns about the possibility of abuse occurring,” said Fr McGee.

“While efforts were made in recent years to provide counselling, to meet with victims and report allegations to the authorities, it is abundantly clear that we failed in our attempts to reach out to many people who reported allegations to us.”

The congregation also deeply regretted its failures to comply with church guidelines on child protection.

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