30 OCTOBER 2005
ARCHBISHOP MICHAEL NEARY’S
CATHEDRAL HOMILY IN TUAM
This has been a difficult week for the Catholic Church. It has been
difficult for those who have suffered abuse, for you the laity, my
fellow priests and bishops and for all those with a love for the mission
of the Church.
In our own Diocese of Tuam we have had an extra challenge to deal with
As you are already aware, this week, I requested a priest of the diocese
to stand aside from his ministry pending the outcome of investigations.
This is one of the most significant decisions a bishop has to make, but
I would now like to explain to you, insofar as I am able to at this time,
the reasons behind this decision:
I first became aware in late summer, through the Gardai, that a priest
of the diocese was subject to an allegation of criminal misconduct towards
an adult and that it was under investigation. The vital consideration
which first required to be addressed was public safety and whether it
was prudent to allow the priest to continue in ministry. Following
consultation with various sources, including the Garda Síochána, I was
satisfied that a public safety issue had not been shown to exist.
Therefore I did not request the priest to stand aside.
However, the balancing exercise that led to this decision was altered when,
on Thursday last, the confidentiality of the Garda investigation was breeched
in a newspaper article. It was apparent then that all serving priests of
the diocese could now come under suspicion.
I therefore made this difficult decision in the interests of fairness for
those immediately involved in the investigation and all who were potentially
affected through the newspaper report. I believe that this decision was
also in the best interests of the Parish concerned.
It is again important to emphasise that what is being investigated is an
allegation which has not been established as either true or false. The
priest’s agreement to stand aside does not connote guilt on his part.
The publication of the Ferns Report on Tuesday last has been an important
milestone in the evolution of child protection in this country and particularly
in the context of our Church.
I would like to apologise again to all those people, and their families,
who have suffered lasting hurt through abuse by priests. As priests they
should have been protecting and nurturing the talents of these young people.
The betrayal of trust is horrendous. Today the Church is ashamed of its
past failings regarding child protection.
I pray for those who have suffered abuse, that they will be able to achieve
healing and peace in their lives.
I pray also that those who have abused will realise the terrible harm they
have done and will seek pardon for their sins.
In relation to the Diocese of Tuam, I feel that it is important for me to
assure you of the following. The procedures that are in place in our diocese
to protect children are of a very high standard. This standard is acknowledged
as such by both the Garda Síochána and the local health authorities. This
is not to say that there is not more work to be done in this area.
Since its publication in 1996, the diocese has implemented the guidelines
on responding to child sexual abuse as set out in Child Sexual Abuse:
Framework for a Church Response. These guidelines recognise the paramount
need to safeguard the welfare of children and they emphasise the need for
a strong commitment to prevention through a range of measures to reduce
the risk of such abuse in the future.
In 2004, I commissioned an independent review of the quality of our responses
to all complaints and allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the diocese.
This review was undertaken by Dr Kevin McCoy who is an independent social
care consultant and was formerly the Chief Inspector of Social Services
Inspectorate in Northern Ireland. Dr McCoy’s review went back to 1940.
The outcome of this review was that sexual abuse complaints are being
managed very well and in accordance with best practice.
In keeping with my record as Archbishop, and as an expression of my
determination to protect children, I welcome, without hesitation, the
suggested State audit into the Church’s handling of complaints of this
The Garda Síochána and the health authorities will continue to be made
aware of all allegations received in this diocese. In the light of the
recommendations contained in the report of the Ferns Inquiry, I intend to
provide a copy of Dr McCoy’s report on the management of sexual complaints
in the diocese, to the Garda Síochána and the health authorities, in order
that it may inform an Inter-Agency Approach when dealing with these most
I wish to avail of this opportunity to invite anyone with a concern regarding
sexual abuse to contact:
– our diocesan office at Archbishop’s House;
– the Bishops’ child protection website at: www.cpo.ie;
– An Garda Síochána or the health authorities.
In all of this I am guided by the example of Jesus, who said: “Let the little
children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the
Kingdom of God belongs”. [Mark 10:14]
Statistics regarding allegations of child sexual abuse
in the Archdiocese of Tuam
The following is a summary of statistical information regarding child sexual
abuse allegations in the Archdiocese of Tuam:
For the purposes of this exercise the term “allegation” is used in a broad
manner so as to include information, from whomsoever received, which suggested
that a child may have been sexually abused or at risk of such abuse. It does
not necessarily mean that a reasonable suspicion ultimately emerged that
child sexual abuse had occurred. Every allegation which has been made
against a living priest is known also to the Gardai.
No priest is currently in ministry who is the subject of an investigation
involving child sexual abuse or about whom there has been reasonable
suspicion that child sexual abuse may have occurred.
Number of priests of the Archdiocese of Tuam against whom allegations
have been made: 19 (of whom 6 are now deceased). The earliest date of
alleged abuse is 1940.
Number of priests of other dioceses against whom allegations have been made
and who held appointments or did supply (i.e. occasional ministry) in
the Archdiocese of Tuam: 7 (of whom one is deceased).
One allegation has been made against a priest whom it has not been possible to identify.
Of the forgoing:
* Eight priests (living at the time the complaint was received) have stood
aside from ministry following a reasonable suspicion that child sexual abuse
may have occurred.
* Two priests about whom, following a Garda investigation, a decision not
to prosecute has been taken by the DPP.
* Four priests have been the subject of criminal charges in respect of
offences within the realm of child sexual abuse.
* Three priests have been convicted of charges within the realm of child
Eight civil actions involving child sexual abuse have been brought, of
which 7 have been settled involving compensation payments amounting to
€327,000. The total sum paid in related legal fees to date is
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)