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The church “undoubtedly has more to do” in the fight against abuse in the face of 250 new allegations

After more than 250 new allegations of abuse were made in the past 12 months, the chairwoman of the Catholic Church’s child protection board said “there is definitely more to do.”

Last year, up to the end of March, another 252 charges were brought against Church members, the national council revealed in its annual report.

Most of them concerned harassment that occurred in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, but four cases dated back to 2000.

Two of them involve sexual abuse that allegedly occurred in the 2000s, and one involves sexual abuse that allegedly occurred just last year.

The chairman of the board tasked with protecting children in the Catholic Church said there was “definitely more work to be done.” Photo: Shutterstock

Teresa Devlin, who is stepping down as chief executive of the National Council for the Protection of Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCI) after ten years in the role, said: “We cannot afford to think that we have finished working in this area in Ireland.

We definitely have more to do. I believe there are still gaps in our practices towards complainants and their families. We must accept the need to “shift” to a more compassionate response.”

She praised the work of the NBSCCI and Church security teams, noting the progress made.

However, she also stated that the damage caused by the harassment continues. The report covers the period from April 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024. Compared to the previous year, the number of charges brought against Church members increased by one.

Teresa Devlin, who is stepping down as chief executive of the National Council for the Protection of Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCI) after ten years in the role.

Of these allegations, 43 were directed against dioceses and 209 against individual Church employees.

Most of the allegations were for sexual abuse, another 26 were for physical abuse, 17 for emotional abuse, one for neglect and one for boundary violations. A further 24 types of violence were not described in detail.

For the first time, data was published showing that complaints were filed 65 times against diocesan staff and 187 times against members of religious congregations.

Of the 209 Church employees, 153 were members of male religious congregations, 14 were male diocesan clergy, and 41 were nuns – one unknown. The board said that because the information must be anonymous to comply with data protection laws, it could not cross-check to ensure whether some complaints were counted more than once.

Last year, up to the end of March, another 252 charges were brought against Church members, the national council revealed in its annual report. Photo: Shutterstock

It said the number of requests for protection advice had increased from 282 to 306.

A total of 11 security reviews were carried out during the reporting period. This means that all 26 dioceses have now completed their reviews. 26 dioceses also carried out annual self-inspection, as did 50 orders and congregations.

The remaining ten orders and religious congregations were in the process of carrying out a self-audit at the time the annual report went to press. A spokesman for the NBSCCI explained: “The annual self-audit process does not replace audits conducted by the National Council, but allows each diocese or congregation to identify any deficiencies or emerging issues at an early stage so that they can be addressed appropriately.”

Aidan Gordon, the newly appointed chief executive of the NBSCCI, said the report reflected the wide range of actions taken on Thursday to ensure the safety of children in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

This includes a revised version of the Safeguarding Policy which came into force this week.

It also includes an evaluation of the Head to Heart program which, over the last three years, has introduced child protection into the formation of seminarians at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome, St Patrick’s College in Maynooth and Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Dundalk.