DUBLIN (Reuters) - Pope Francis travels to Ireland this week for the first papal visit in almost 40 years and since a series of clerical sex abuse scandals rocked the church’s standing in a once staunchly Roman Catholic country.
There have been a series of reports into allegations of abuse by priests and members of religious orders. Here are some details of their findings:
- A 270-page report into the diocese of Ferns in County Wexford - the first official inquiry into the activities of abusive priests - detailed the Church’s handling of 100 allegations against 21 priests dating back to the mid-1960s. Among the allegations were accusations of rape.
- The Ferns probe found that for 20 years the bishop in charge of the rural diocese did not expel priests against whom abuse allegations were made, but simply transferred them to a different post or diocese temporarily.
- The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse issued a five-volume report which found that priests abused children between the 1930s and the 1970s in Catholic-run institutions. The harrowing report, which took nine years to complete, said orphanages and industrial schools in 20th century Ireland were places of fear, neglect and endemic sexual abuse.
The Commission, chaired by a High Court judge, blasted successive generations of priests, nuns and Christian Brothers - a Catholic religious order - for beating, starving and, in some cases raping, children.
The Commission interviewed 1,090 men and women who were housed in 216 institutions including children’s homes, hospitals and schools. They told of children scavenging for food from waste bins. Youngsters were flogged, scalded and held under water, they said.
- The Murphy report, another judge-led commission of inquiry that began in 2006, reported on widespread child abuse by priests in the Dublin archdiocese between 1975 and 2004 that the Church in Ireland had “obsessively” concealed.
All archbishops in charge at that time were aware of some complaints and the archdiocese was preoccupied with protecting the reputation of the Church over and above protecting children’s welfare, the report said. It said the Church was “obsessively” concerned with secrecy and operated a policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” about abuse.
The report, designed to show how the Church and state responded to charges of abusing children, said a representative sample of 46 priests against whom complaints were levelled made it “abundantly clear” that abuse was widespread.
- The report into the handling of sex abuse claims in the diocese of Cloyne in County Cork showed that senior-ranking clergy were still trying to cover up abuse allegations almost until the present day, a decade after it introduced rules to protect minors, and that the Vatican was complicit in the cover-up.
Then Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny accused the Holy See of obstructing investigations into sexual abuse by priests and the Irish parliament passed a motion deploring its role in undermining child protection frameworks. The Vatican responded by recalling its ambassador to Ireland.
- An official report compiled by an inter-departmental government committee into Ireland’s notorious Magdalene Laundries found that 10,000 women and girls, some as young as nine, were put through an uncompromising regime of unpaid work from the foundation of the Irish state in 1922 until 1996.
The report found that many of the women - some of whom were subjected to the harsh discipline of the institutions for simply becoming pregnant outside wedlock - were sent there by the Irish state. Kenny apologised on behalf of the state, calling it a “national shame” and promised compensation for survivors.
- Following the discovery of an unmarked grave with the remains of hundreds of babies on the grounds of a former so-called “mother-and-baby home”, the Irish government ordered an investigation into the treatment of children at the church homes for unmarried mothers, including accusations of forced adoptions and unusually high mortality rates among children housed there.
In an interim report three years later, investigators said significant quantities of human remains, ranging from 35-week-old foetuses to 3-year-olds, had been excavated from underground chambers at the site. Research by a local historian has shown that there were 796 recorded deaths of children at the County Galway home with no indication of their burial places.
Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Giles Elgood