Catholic Child Abuse Scandal in Ireland Gets Worse

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A newly released 700-page report on child sex abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland tells a disgusting story of collusion between the Church and Irish police, to cover up these monstrous crimes for more than 60 years: Report Says Police and Catholic Church Hid Abuse in Dublin.

The report is the latest in a series of damning revelations about the church. In May, a report chronicled the sexual, emotional and physical abuse of orphans and foster children over 60 years in a network of church-run residential schools meant to care for the vulnerable and the disadvantaged.

Although that report portrayed a church that seemed institutionally broken, with guilt spread among many, the new one attaches particular blame to those at the top. It reserved particular criticism for the police and for four archbishops of Dublin: John Charles McQuaid, who died in 1973; Dermot Ryan, who died in 1984; Kevin McNamara, who died in 1987; and Cardinal Desmond Connell, who retired in 2004. The report said those four knew of the abuse, but did little about it.

The report, which took three years to prepare, focused on the way complaints about abuse by priests had been handled. It looked into the cases of 46 priests who had been the subject of scores of complaints from about 320 children from 1975 to 2004. Of the 46 priests, 11 have pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting children or have been convicted of that crime. The rest are dead or have not been prosecuted.

The report said the Irish police allowed the church to act with impunity and often referred abuse complaints back to the archdiocese for internal investigations. …

The report details examples of priests who were blatant, notorious abusers, but who were allowed to continue without punishment or censure. One priest admitted to abusing more than 100 children. Another said he had abused, on average, a child every two weeks for 25 years.

One parish priest whose case was examined in the report, the Rev. James McNamee, was locally infamous for his behavior over more than 30 years. Early in Father McNamee’s career, an altar boy said he had seen the priest “bathing with naked adolescent boys and placing the boys on his shoulders”; a parishioner said he had seen the priest exercising in the nude with boys in his backyard.

Numerous complaints against Father McNamee were looked into at various times, and various officials expressed concern, but no action was taken, by either the priests or the nuns who worked with him, the Catholic officials who fielded dozens of allegations, or the police. Father McNamee died in 2002, professing that he had done nothing wrong.

The 60-year span of this report makes another thing clear: the abuse of children has been endemic in the Catholic Church for a long, long time. Countless generations of children were subjected to this nightmare. If this much criminal behavior is found in the last 60 years, what horrors might be discovered if it were possible to investigate even further back in time?

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