The Bishop of Raphoe, Philip Boyce, has again described claims that hundreds of children were victims of abuse by twenty Catholic clergy in the Diocese while the Church actively prevented investigations as “false and exaggerated”.
In a reference to a report in the ‘Irish Independent’ last Thursday, which claimed that a “shocking new report” would reveal how up to 20 paedophile priests abused hundreds of children in the Raphoe Diocese over a forty year period, Bishop Boyce highlighted the subject at the weekend by insisting the claims were exaggerated.
Briefly commenting on the report during his homily at mass in St. Eunan’s Cathedral, Letterkenny, on Sunday, he maintained the allegations were “false”.
Reacting to the ‘Independent’ story, which quoted one source as claiming there had been “hundreds and hundreds of victims” who had abused by clergy in the Diocese “again and again”, the Bishop issued a statement in which he described the claims in the “alarmist article” as “inaccurate and misleading” and, as such, not in the public interest.
Stating that he intended formally to complain about the matter, he went on: “I am shocked to read a sentence in the article stating that ‘there were hundreds and hundreds of victims, and they were abused again and again while the church actively prevented investigations by the civil authorities.’
Commented Bishop Boyce: “I wish to assure the people of the Diocese of Raphoe that this assertion is simply not true. Furthermore it is seriously damaging to the good work of the many trained volunteers who are actively committed to safeguarding children in all of the parishes of the diocese.”
All allegations of abuse made known to the Diocese of Raphoe were reported to An Garda Siochana and the Health Service Executive, he insisted.
“As I have stated on many occasions, I invited Ian Elliot and his team from the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church to conduct a review of the diocesan files relating to child abuse allegations. I gave them my full co-operation and they examined all files.
The Bishop said he is “committed” to publishing the review when the final report is received from the National Board, probably next month. The ‘Irish Independent’ article claimed the contents of the report were said to be “horrific” and would outline a “catalogue of allegations against priests who abused young children and senior colleagues who failed their victims”.
The newspaper said it had learned about a priest who raped young boys in one of Raphoe’s 33 parishes and had been “sent away” for less than a month after the parents of a young boy had made a complaint to the church.
“The incident, in 1977, left the family devastated when they realised the priest was returning to the parish. The family were assured that the church had “dealt with” the matter and that no more incidents would take place.
“The priest in question was moved through several other parishes over a 30-year period as the diocese failed again and again to deal with him. He continued to target young boys and abuse them. Gardai were never informed of the allegations.
“When gardai did become involved in a number of investigations, the church was uncooperative, obstructive and misled detectives,” the ‘Independent’ article claimed.
The report from the National Board, is due to be published within the next few weeks.