Abuse of children by clergy from 1975 to 2004. The Pope has been urged to aplogise for clergy’s behaviour.

Ireland’s police force colluded with the Catholic church in covering up clerical child abuse in Dublin on a huge scale, according to a damning report on decades of sex crimes committed by the country’s priests.

The devastating three-volume report on the sexual and physical abuse of children by the clergy in Ireland’s capital from 1975 to 2004 accuses four former archbishops, a host of clergy and senior members of the Garda Siochana (Ireland’s police force) of covering up the scandal.

It found that the “maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church and the preservation of its assets” was more important than justice for the victims of sexual and physical abuse.

Four former Archbishops in Dublin - John Charles McQuaid, who died in 1973, Dermot Ryan, who died in 1984, Kevin McNamara, who died in 1987, and retired Cardinal Desmond Connell - were found to have failed to report their knowledge of child sexual abuse to the Garda from the 1960s to the 1980s. But the report added that all the archbishops of the diocese in the period covered by the inquiry were aware of some complaints.

The report, published on Thursday by Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern also concluded that the vast majority of priests turned a “blind eye” to abuse, though some individuals did bring complaints to their superiors, which were not acted upon.

The report, commissioned by the government, strongly criticises the Garda and says senior members of the force regarded priests as being outside their investigative remit. The relationship between some senior gardai and priests and bishops in Dublin was described as “inappropriate”.

Rather than investigate complaints from children, gardai (police officers) simply reported the matter to the Dublin Catholic diocese, the report says. The Garda is accused of connivance with the church in stifling at least one complaint of abuse, and letting the alleged perpetrator flee the country.

Mr. Ahern said there should be no hiding place for the abusers even if they wore a clerical collar. “The persons who committed these dreadful crimes - no matter when they happened - will continue to be pursued.”

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre welcomed the report, saying it was “another acknowledgment of the abject failure of our society to take care of our children”.

The report states senior clerical figures covered up the abuse over nearly three decades and that the structures and rules of the church facilitated that cover-up. It also says that state authorities facilitated the cover-up by allowing the church to be beyond the reach of the law.

The Murphy Commission of Inquiry into the abuse of children in Dublin identified 320 people who complained of child sexual abuse between 1975 and 2004. It also states that since May 2004, 130 complaints against priests operating in the Dublin archdiocese have been made.

The report details the cases of 46 priests guilty of abuse, as a representative sample of 102 priests within its remit. But it concludes that there was no direct evidence of an organised paedophile ring among priests in the Dublin archdiocese, though it says there were some worrying connections. One priest admitted abusing more than 100 children. Another said he had committed abuse every two weeks for more than 25 years, it said.

The report states that it was not until 1995 that the archdiocese began to notify the civil authorities of complaints of clerical abuse. The commission concludes that in the light of this and other facts, every bishop’s primary loyalty was to the church itself.

The Garda current commissioner, Fachtna Murphy, said the report made for “difficult and disturbing reading, detailing as it does many instances of sexual abuse and failure on the part of both church and state authorities to protect victims.”

Mr. Murphy apologised to victims who did not receive the response and protection they were entitled to.

Pope Benedict was challenged on Friday to go to Ireland and apologise for his clergy’s behaviour. A victims’ rights campaigner called on the Pope to visit and say sorry for “the betrayal of children” by those who were meant to show them love. John Kelly, of Irish Survivors of Child Abuse, said only a papal visit would exonerate the worldwide church of culpability in the abuse scandals. - © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

Keywords: Sexual abusechurchDublin

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