Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said the cover-up by the Catholic hierarchy in Dublin of child abuse by priests was shocking and disturbing, this in the wake of a highly-anticipated report that revealed decades of abuse was concealed by the church in an attempt to save its reputation.
The Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, 1975 to 2004, also found that gardai had colluded in the cover-ups.
Headed up by Judge Yvonne Murphy, the report found that pedophile priests got away with decades of horrific abuse partly because the Catholic hierarchy in Dublin enjoyed what amounted to immunity provided by the police.
Four archbishops, obsessed with secrecy and avoiding scandal, protected abusers and reputations at all costs, in some cases with the blessing of senior gardai.
Among the report’s disturbing findings were details of how one priest admitted sexually abusing more than 100 children. Another abused on a fortnightly basis during his 25-year ministry. It took gardai 20 years to decide on a prosecution of one priest and, in 1960, the Garda Commissioner Daniel Costigan passed evidence of a pedophile priest to Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid rather than seek a prosecution.
The Murphy Report has sent shock waves through the state, six months after the Ryan Report into child abuse in Church-run institutions repulsed the nation.
Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said no words of apology would ever be sufficient for the “revolting” abuse committed against children by priests while Taoiseach Cowen said it was up to religious organizations and their members to determine the “appropriateness” of individuals to hold ecclesiastical office.
“It is a crushing verdict that the good name and standing of the church as an institution was placed above the basic safety of children and where this was facilitated by servants of the state, it was a betrayal of trust and a complete abandoning of duty”, Cowen said.
The Republic’s justice minister, Dermot Ahern, who published the report last Thursday, vowed to bring pedophile priests to justice, branding their reign of terror a systemic, calculated perversion of power and trust.
“The persons who committed these dreadful crimes, no matter when they happened, will continue to be pursued,” he said.
Pressure on the five bishops who still hold office and whose handling of clerical child sex abuse was addressed by the report has been mounting.
Elsewhere, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said all bishops implicated in the report should resign immediately.
He said those who were in positions of authority in Dublin archdiocese, and who knew what was going on, should no longer continue in such positions.
In a separate development, Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy ordered assistant commissioner, John O’Mahoney, to commence an investigation into the findings of the report.
The relevant bishops are the Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray, whose handling of a particular allegation was described as “inexcusable” in the report; Bishop Jim Moriarty of Kildare Leighlin diocese; Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway diocese, and the two Dublin auxiliary bishops, Bishop Ray Field and Bishop