TUAM, Ireland, OCT. 30, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A report revealing decades of sexual abuse by 21 priests in the Diocese of Ferns sent shock waves through the Church in Ireland last week.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam today explained his decision to ask a priest to stand aside from his ministry pending the outcome of investigations.
“I first became aware in late summer, through the Gardai [police], that a priest of the diocese was subject to an allegation of criminal misconduct towards an adult and that it was under investigation,” the archbishop said during his homily in the cathedral.
“Following consultation with various sources, including the Garda Siochana,” he said, “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.”
Archbishop Neary alluded to the report that came out last Tuesday.
“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,” he said. “I would like to apologize again to all those people, and their families, who have suffered lasting hurt through abuse by priests.”
Last week, the Catholic primate of all Ireland said he was “deeply shocked and saddened” by the report revealing the sexual abuse in the Diocese of Ferns.
Archbishop Sean Brady issued a statement regarding a 270-page report that identified 100 complaints dating back as far as 1966.
The archbishop welcomed the report, saying that he hopes it will be “an important step in helping all of those who have suffered so terribly to heal the pain they have experienced and to get the strength to put this awful chapter of their lives behind them.”
He also apologized to the victims “who have suffered lasting hurt at the hands of abusers in the Church.”
“As priests,” he said, “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.”
The primate said the Church in Ireland is committed to setting the bar for best practices in this area, and highlighted the new national Church policy, “Our Children: Our Church.”
The policy provides for the establishment of a National Board for Child Protection that will implement up-to-date policies and procedures in the area of child protection.
“Our Children: Our Church” was approved unanimously by the Irish bishops’ conference last June, and the document was then sent to the Holy See for approval.
In the United States, recent reports in the archdioceses of Philadelphia and Los Angeles told of dozens of purported cases of sexual abuse by priests over the course of decades.